Banyan Nation – a case study for startups in plastic waste recycling

Mapping micro waste collection points at the local level

L – R: Manu Vajipey and Rajkiran Madangopal, the founders of Banyan Nation

When two Indian professionals from Silicon Valley in California, United States, decided to return home to set up an enterprise of their own, it was not the usual tech firm offering solutions to megabuck B2B enterprises that they had in mind. Instead, they launched Banyan Nation in 2013, an organization dedicated to recycling plastic waste and churning out top grade and more durable plastic pallets. Selling top grade recycled plastic pallets wasn’t their only objective; rather, setting up a sustainable waste plastic recycling system was what they wanted to do and they succeeded in doing so with a lot of value for the
Indian plastic recycling industry.

An initiative propelled by solid groundwork

It’s not surprising to see the smart strategy they envisaged and the meticulous planning that went into the making of Banyan Nation a reality and not just an interesting initiative that managed to survive. Their groundwork was deep and opened up the entire plastic waste supply chain in the city of Hyderabad, where they managed to map most of the kabadiwalas, who are the micro waste collection points at the local level. They eventually formalized the process of collection, segregation, and supply of plastic waste with the kabadiwalas as the focal point.

In the city of Hyderabad, there are around 3,000 kabadiwalas who form the critical network of micro-hubs for the approximately 30,000 rag-pickers who collect the plastic waste from the streets and garbage dump-yards and deposit them at the kabadiwalas’ outlets. Manu Vajipey and Rajkiran Madangopal, the founders of Banyan Nation, managed to get as many as half of all the kabadiwalas of Hyderabad in their loop and today they form the vital supply chain of plastic waste for Banyan Nation.

A sustainable model for plastic waste recycling

The Banyan Nation method of plastic waste recycling has a sound revenue model for entrepreneurs willing to replicate the model albeit, after factoring the situational differences in the local environment. The success of this initiative has brought in the much-needed equity funding of around US$ 800,000 for the enterprise even as Vajipey and Madangopal were already bankrolling it with their savings. It is noteworthy that the wages they pay to their employees are as per government norms complete with the standard benefits.

With the Swachh Bharat campaign gaining steam in different towns and cities of the country along with the rising chorus of protest against indiscriminate dumping of plastic waste that has been choking up drainage systems in urban areas, a sustainable plastic recycling model is the need of the hour. Banyan Nation has shown that with deep and focussed groundwork along with sound strategy and planning the plastic peril can not just be tackled but can actually be harnessed to create wealth and opportunities.

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