The coming of a “Made in India” revolution

It's the end of another month and 2015 seems to be rushing by! Independence Day, celebrated on August 15th gives us cause to remember the struggles of the past to make India free. It’s also a good time to gaze into the future and see what India could be like for the generations to come. The Prime Minister’s annual speech from the Red Fort in New Delhi is a good starting point.

The Prime Minister mentioned his two pet projects – Jan Dhan Yojana and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, both aimed at improving the lifestyle of future generations. Swachh Bharat, launched last year, has frequently been in the news and resulted in corporates and individuals alike taking up the cause of sanitation with great enthusiasm. The consequences of this programme are far-reaching. A World Bank study recently estimated that poor sanitation costs India about $53.8 billion, or 2.3% of GDP!

Relatively less attention has gone to the subject of waste management and disposal. We can’t have clean streets without efficient waste management procedures. This is a revolution that many in the non-profit and social enterprise sector have been working towards for a while now, and it seems like their time to be in the limelight has come.

Waste to Wealth

It’s little wonder that Bangalore has stolen a march over others in a survey of India’s cleanest cities. It has in fact a strong network of non-profits and citizens groups that are working to improve the waste management processes. Much of the exciting work in the country is being developed by organisations like Hasiru Dala, a waste workers collective working with over 6,000 workers that recycles over 800 tonnes of garbage a month. There are social enterprises and startups like BinBag, Daily Dump and Green Power Systems. IT company Mindtree has supported the development of an online marketplace for waste management and recycling services called I Got Garbage. Is it the Silicon Valley spirit of the city? We can’t say!

A spate of recent announcements in this space indicates a rapid maturing of the sector elsewhere also. Early on in August, Indian Angel Network invested in Saahas Waste Management, the for-profit wing of waste recycling non-profit Saahas. Ah! Ventures and Intellecap Impact Investment Network recently invested in Sampurna(e)arth, an end-to-end waste management services company that works in collaboration with NGO Stree Mukti Sanghatana’s workers.  Last year, Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group was awarded the Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award for its pioneering work in recycling waste materials.

This is a development we should all be looking forward to. Most initiatives in this sector are by start-ups and nonprofits who want to ensure a better livelihood for Indians whose work goes unacknowledged (I Got Garbage estimated that waste workers’ income could double after joining their platform). As the sector burgeons, it will create more jobs, earnings and opportunities for waste workers, increasing the dignity of their work. The services provided by these organizations reduce the expense involved in collecting and recycling garbage, make our surroundings cleaner and reduce health risks due to polluted surroundings.

It’ll be a revolutionary Made-in-India that benefits a large number of our citizens and creates a cleaner and greener future for us all. Isn’t that an India we want to celebrate on August 15th, 2025? We can’t wait to see it happen!

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