Anand Abbad, Founder of Green Soldiers Recycling Private Limited, a startup that works in dry waste management in Pune city. This startup collects the dry waste from the societies and corporates and further segregate it and give it for recycling. Anand is an environment enthusiast has been setting the vision and direction for the company since inception. He is an accomplished engineering professional with 16+ years of exceptional track record in driving business growth with multi-national companies. In a conversation with TEV, he shares the journey of the startup and also the challenges of the post-COVID-19 world.

Q.) How did you get the idea of a startup that works for waste management and disposal?

Anand: I was working in Canada a couple of years back and observed a great deal of discipline and organised disposal of waste which is very rare in India. While discussing with my colleague, I shared about the unplanned structure of waste disposal in India and how trash is not considered as a resource. It was my colleague over there who planted the seed of starting a startup that works for waste disposal and waste management. Soon after that, in March 2018, I started this startup 'Green Soldiers' that works for dry waste management. At present, we are connected with more than 100 societies in Pune and also few corporates and helping them in solving the problem of dry waste management.

Q.) What is the platform 'Green Soldiers' is all about and how it works in providing waste management solution to the masses?

Anand: Green Soldiers work on the principle of 4R's- Reduced, Reuse, Recycle and Recover. As a startup in waste management, it is extremely challenging to sustain until there are a community and people's participation as well. Our aim is not only to solve the problem of waste management but also to create awareness about sustainable living. Therefore, we connected with people at society levels, college-level to create awareness about waste management and how can we reduced the waste at the source level. We keep on conducting sessions with people and corporates and educate them about it. We are connected with the societies and we collect the dry- waste every fifteen days from the society to our collection centre where the segregation is done. The objects segregated are later classified if it needed to reuse, recycle or recover. Since we work on reuse principle, with the help of community support, we have started a library with old books. Even the clothes collected which are in good condition are given to NGO's so that can be used by others. Whatever we can recycle, we give them to recyclers and to recover. In this way, we help people to solve the problem of waste management and also focus to create awareness among people to understand that trash can be used resourcefully.

The members of Green Soldiers during the collection drive and awareness session.

Q.) How difficult is to sustain a startup for a longer time and what are the challenges that are often faced by the startup founders?

Anand: It is difficult to run a startup and especially in the waste management sector. Firstly the concept that trash can be resources in something very alien for people. Even the domain expert of this sector are mostly from the unorganised sector and therefore skill up-gradation is also important. There is a problem of cash flow as well. Mere technological backing and investment won't sustain anyone in the market, therefore it is important to connect at the community level. A big level of participation from people is required for such startups to sustain. Every startup has its journey and with green soldiers, community connect played an important role to sustain. We also completed on various legal compliances like recently we were certified by Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB).

Q.) With lockdown and the ongoing slowdown in the economy what will be the new set of challenges and what are your plans for the startup?

Anand: During the lockdown, we had to suspend our services due to the permission issues. However, with lockdown has eased down, we will be starting once again in somedays. However, it will be challenging as our work is labour intensive. With all migrant crisis, it will be difficult to retain our people because of restricted cash flow. Although, we have communicated to the societies that are connected with us as we will be starting our drive soon. We will make sure that we shall follow all social distancing norms and precautions as we resume services.

Since we have been completed the legal compliances and certified by MPCB, we will soon be approaching corporates as one of the plans. We also plan to increase the number of centres in the city from one to four and also start using of electric vehicles to collect the waste so that our carbon footprint also reduces which will help in better sustainable development.