Raddi Connect

#Waste management

Concept

Mumbai’s first recycling based fundraising platform for NGOs

Internship/Volunteering

Possibility of hosting a motivated intern

On March 12, we met Rahul Nainani, co-founder of Raddi Connect, in a coffee in North Mumbai, to discuss with him the current situation of waste management in Mumbai and how his company is making a change.

Rahul grew up in Mumbai. He studied and graduated in finance and then decided to start a business with his university friend, Gurashish Sahni. After long brainstorming sessions, they agreed on an idea and presented it during a startup weekend. They won the first place which encouraged them to start the company. The idea then evolved during 9 months of research and in August 2015, satisfied by the results, Raddi Connect was born.

Mumbai’s way to handle waste

Mumbai has more than 132 hectares of dumping grounds. Waste management exists in the city thanks to the waste pickers : people who collect recyclable waste from open bins or buy waste from citizens in order to sell them to wholesalers. Unlike in Western countries, where people pay taxes and fines to be forced to recycle, recyclable waste (plastic, paper, glass, metal) is considered useful, it is a commodity, so citizens are paid to recycle it. Waste pickers store this waste in their little shops before selling it to wholesalers. The latter are gathering huge volumes of waste and then sell it to recycling factories.

A typical day for a waste picker :

  • Buying waste from citizens
  • Storing it by category in their shops
  • Selling it to the wholesalers – with this money they can start another day

With this procedure, waste pickers are very dependent on wholesalers, who take advantage of the situation to buy waste at a low price. Why is that? There are several reasons :

  • There is very little space in the shops (5 to 15m2) to store the recyclable waste, so they need to sell it by the end of the day to restart their business the next morning and store more waste.
  • To be able to pay customers the next morning, they need to earn money by selling commodities at the end of the day
  • Wholesalers have the upper hand

Raddi Connect, a company who wants to empower waste pickers and encourage people to recycle

 

Raddi Connect wants to empower waste pickers, who earn the least. For that, they standardized prices and margins for waste sale. They also gave ID cards and bill books to Raddi collectors. The aim was to lift waste pickers out of poverty, give them credit and help them earn good money. With this system, they hope to create a balance between customers, wholesalers and waste pickers.

Recycle for a cause

Citizens typically receive around 2 to 3 dollars in exchange of their waste, which doesn’t represent much for comfortable families. Therefore, rather than giving them this money, Raddi Connect offers to donate it to NGOs and various charity. In this way, they provide citizens with an opportunity to support social causes. Citizens can also choose to recycle for discount coupons if they don’t want to be involved in a good deed.

Similarly to a Uber platforme, they work with scrap vendors across the city of Mumbai and connect them to consumers who order pick-ups on their website to collect their waste.

Their activity has also been extended to Business to Government (BtoG) and Business to Business (BtoB), to help small and large institutions (Corporate Offices, Schools, Hotels, Banks, Shopping Malls, Gymkhanas, Smaller Businesses, Retail/Wholesale Stores, … ) recycle their waste, by providing them a free doorstep pick-up service, and other specialized services such as audits, recycling plans, workshop with employees, impact reports, …

In the same way as for citizens, organizations can choose to recycle for a cause (donating to NGOs), or to recycle for goods made of recycled materials (printed bags, pens, enveloppes, …).

The four pillars of Raddi Connect :

  1. Raise awareness. This is the biggest challenge because Indians are not very concerned about waste management,  “out of sight, out of mind”. Raddi connect wants to make people responsible for their waste and make them informed consumer by giving them the basic knowledge.
  2. Incorporate informal economy. This implies including waste pickers in the waste management loop. 50% of waste are recycled in Mumbai. From this 50%, 90% is informal. It’s a necessity to incorporate informal economy to value their contribution : without them, there is no infrastructure to recycle.
  3. Build infrastructures. Physical infrastructures, intellectual infrastructures but also policy changes.
  4. From linear to circular economy.  For Raddi Connect, it’s a long-term vision and a reflection to be taken at the beginning of each product, by thinking from the end of life of other products. Standards must be created for everything that needs to be recycled. Policies need to change to increase recycling and make it easy for each product. Big companies need to take responsibility for their waste and create an ecosystem of recyclers. All stakeholders must be mobilized and work together for long-term change.

Impacts and future of the company

 

Today, the company counts 9 full time people working for it, 17 contracted labourers/waste pickers, some interns and 150 raddiwallas (scrap vendors). Each year, about 900 tons of waste is collected. For the future, they plan to expand their activity in at least 3 other cities, and collect 4000 tons of waste per year.

Initiatives like Raddi Connect make waste management easier in India. Even if there are already a few, more are needed to improve the country’s waste situation.