Abhi Deshpande, a Hyderabad-based serial entrepreneur, likes to say that he always ventures into sectors before they become the next hot thing.
In the year In 1998, Deshpande launched India’s first e-commerce site, Malamalall.com, which was essentially an online marketplace for ethnic wear brands. Deshpande said proudly. CASIA, the market was not ready for the site. Although Malamal is not good, he has learned a lot from running the business.
The next startup founded in 2007 was Martjack, a software-as-a-service company, which again claimed to be one of the first SaaS companies in India. Deshpande Martjak has worked with companies like Pizza Hut, Walmart and Future Group. Eight years later, he sold it to Capillary Technologies.
After that, Deshpande ventured into venture capital investment. This time the tech startup was the talk of the town. VC firms from the United States and China have been investing in the country. However, the entrepreneur-investor as V.C. Deshpande still had at least one more start in him and he didn’t want to hang up his boots as someone who had started and led.
Deshpande did some research and decided that with India’s $14 billion waste management by 2025, waste management could be his next big thing.
Deshpande, along with former partners Abhishek Deshpande and Anirudha Jalan, started Recykal, a waste collection company in 2017, that works with ragpickers who collect waste from homes and deposit the waste at recycling centers. To streamline the process, Recycle has released an app called UZ, where individuals can schedule garbage pickups.
However, the economics of the UZ class were not sound. “Homes are not giant generators of waste every day and the amount of waste we collect is not enough for recyclers,” said Deshpande, founder and CEO of Recycle.
Waste recycling involves many parties: ragpickers, waste collection centers, municipalities, recyclers, and mass waste generators that include schools, hotels, restaurants, factories, and shopping malls.
Deshpande understands that no single product or app can cover everyone’s needs and unique situations. As Recykal upgraded its operations, Deshpande realized that it had to approach bulk waste generators that produced at least 10 kilos of waste per day. In this way, it is economically beneficial for the company and maintains a constant supply for the recyclers.
In the year In 2019, Recykal brought to the B2B model, which built products for everyone who recycles.
Recykal created a new app for companies to send trash pick-up requests that include details like the amount and types of trash. The company sends ragpickers who transport this waste to different collection centers.
Then Recycle created a marketplace to connect waste collection centers and recyclers. Deshpande says this diverts six to 20 tonnes of waste to recyclers every month, providing a steady stream of raw material for their business. The company says it works with 160 recyclers in 25 states and has facilitated the recycling of more than 30,000 metric tons of plastic waste.
Promoting the recycling pillar, the Indian government’s legislation on plastic waste management introduced Extended Producer Responsibility or EPR in 2016. This mandates companies that generate plastic waste to collect and recycle a certain percentage of it.
“These brands didn’t know who to contact to take care of EPR, and because we already had a marketplace, we created an EPR tool for brands. They create their target on the platform, we ensure that it is done within the stipulated time and when it is done, they can submit the details to the government through our EPR tool,” said Deshpande.
Recykal works with over 75 brands including Coke, Pepsi, Unilever, LG and Panasonic.
In addition to marketplaces, the company has also developed a cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) tool for solid waste collection centers. It is used by more than 2,000 customers.
Currently, Resical only collects paper, plastic and electronic waste. This year, it is looking to expand its business into two new categories – tires and batteries. “These are the two categories where the government wants to bring EPR,” Deshpande said.
In the year In late 2020, the company raised an undisclosed amount from Singapore-based Circulate Capital. Recykal is looking to raise $10-14 million in its Series A round.
Deshpande said, “I started this company because I had made good money from my previous business, so I wanted to get into a space that would bring me a lot of money and create value for society.”
This article is part of KrASIA’s “Startup Stories” series, where KrASIA writers talk to founders of tech companies in South and Southeast Asia.