Chennai-based startup Kabadiwalla Connect has been awarded $200,000 (approximately Rs. 1.3 crore) by the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, which includes the World Bank, to help create a framework for cities to use to manage waste more effectively by collaborating with the informal recycling sector - the kabadiwallas.
The Chennai-based startup began by bringing the local kabadiwallas online, and its journey started with a grant from the World Economic Forum. In the 12 months since Gadgets 360 first profiled the company, founder and CEO Siddharth Hande says it has been able to prevent 80,000kgs of PET bottles from ending up in landfills. But that's just phase one for the company, and it's going to use the money it's been granted by the World Bank to build out its platform, which can then be offered to third-parties as a data analytics tool, or to enable waste management in a number of ways.
"We wanted to look at ways to bring together technology and the informal sector," explains Hande, "to help cut out the middle-men, and simplify the logistics of recycling. Right now, there is a lot that falls through the cracks, and that's where we come in."
The company's app brings the kabadiwallas online - you can find the ones near you, see what scrap they deal in, and even call them to collect your waste. Kabadiwalla Connect has also built a material recovery facility in Chennai, which can currently handle PET bottles, and the company wants to raise more money to expand this to cover all kinds of plastic. A materials recovery facility is a destination where the kabadiwallas can deliver the waste they gathered and sorted. This is then cleaned and processed, to prepare it for use by a recycling plant, and if Kabadiwalla Connect can build out the facility to cover more types of plastics, it will be able to increase the amount of solid waste reclamation significantly.
Bringing these parts together, the company also has a lot of data on informal recycling - who gathers what, from here, and where it goes after being collected is all part of this data.
And this is something that Kabadiwalla Connect is trying to turn into an SaaS product that can be given to municipalities for smart cities, corporations, apartment complexes, and even recyclers. Getting this up and running is going to take more capital though, and to that end, the company is now looking to raise a further $500,000 (approximately Rs. 3.3 crore) from investors, beyond the CHF 50,000 (approximately Rs. 33 lakh) from the World Economic Forum that kickstarted the whole project, and the latest amount received from the World Bank.
"We are essentially a technology company," says Hande, "and we've been talking to others about how they can use our software. So we've gotten interest from some people in Nepal, and in the Ivory Coast. Ideally we want to offer it as an SaaS platform."
Explaining this concept further, Sonaal Bangera, co-founder Kabadiwalla Connect, who is responsible for product and design, says that the dashboard that the company has created could be used by third parties to power their efforts of waste management. "For example, a recycler could use our technology to build their offering, so they can get proper intelligence about the functioning, and get all the data at a glance," he says.
"Municipalities for smart cities are also looking to use this, and apartment complexes," adds Hande. "Another area is corporates, who can use it for their CSR work. For example, we've been talking to companies like Tetra Pak, what they want to do is collect used packs and recycle them, but the cost of doing this is pretty high. We can come in and help with that. Danone is another possible company to work with like this."
The system is built as a series of modules that can be customised to suit the needs of different clients, Bangera explains. "So for example, a recycler might not need logistics, but only the reporting and survey modules to generate reports and intelligence data," he says. "While someone like a municipality might need to get the logistics as well to track the waste management right from people's homes."
Hande adds that the services being talked about now, and the app that it already offers to consumers go hand in hand. These initiatives will help offset the costs of the consumer-facing side of the business, Bangera adds. "We are very excited about the consumer side, but the revenues there are less," he explains. "It's more a marketing and informational channel for now."