Correct know-how and technology is essential for the treatment of the waste generated from unwanted and end-of-life electronic and electrical equipments, also known as Waste from Electronic and Electrical Equipments (WEEE).
Maharashtra-based EcoCentric is a firm that helps firms and individuals deal with the e-waste generated by them, thus providing a service of great value to the environment. With a presence in Mumbai, Pune and Khopoli in Maharashtra, EcoCentric’s pan-India tie-ups and logistics team caters to their client base that is spread country-wide.
SupportBiz had an exclusive conversation with Karan Thakkar, founder of Eco Centric about dealing with e-waste and more. Edited excerpts from the interview:
Tell us in detail about the amount of e-waste that is produced in India, specifically by corporates, and the methods that are being used to dispose of it.
India generates approximately 1 million tonnes of e-waste annually, of which 90-95% is forwarded to the unorganized sector. The unorganized sector primarily includes scrap dealers who collect old electronic gadgets from individuals and big companies. These scrap dealers largely use manual methods to dismantle electronic products, employing women and children. It is important to educate them about the impact it has on the environment. This is the core idea of EcoCentric.
How does EcoCentric help in dealing with e-waste?
EcoCentric works towards bridging the gap between the generation of e-waste and its effective disposal by offering solutions to responsible companies who want to discard their e-waste in an eco-friendly manner. We have set up a recycling unit in Maharashtra, which processes the e-waste generated by our client firms and households in an environment-friendly manner. We also have tie-ups with leading recyclers in the country. We help people manage their e-waste by building an e-waste management framework.
What is your background?
After completing his Bachelor’s in Management Studies from Narsee Monjee, Mumbai, Karan Thakkar worked with KPMG as a consultant in the Advisory vertical, advising companies on risk and strategy, for three years. In January 2011, he founded EcoCentric to enter the largely unknown e-waste recycling industry in India.
How did the idea of starting EcoCentric come about?
Once, while sitting in office, I was reading about the influx of e-book readers. Some time in early 2010, the popularity of the Kindle had started rising. That led me to wonder what happened to these electronic gadgets once they became obsolete. I started reading about the life cycle of electronics, which later gave birth to EcoCentric.
What was the initial investment that was required to start Eco Centric? How did you arrange for the same?
The venture started from a small office in BMC Colony, Mumbai, with an initial investment of Rs. 50,000 in hand. In 2012, the company received financing from banks to expand operations.
What are the major challenges that you faced while starting up? How did you deal with them?
We faced many challenges, right from hiring talent in this new space to convincing people about the opportunities in waste recycling. Besides, India being a very price-sensitive market, companies expect monetary returns for e-waste. More so, the e-waste domain is still very nascent in India.
The most important thing while starting up is to have a clear vision. By now, there are many who are ready with a plan or preparing to enter this industry. Since I did not have an IT background, he had difficulty in creating a clear roadmap for the company. Once I was clear, though, I started getting people on board, who have helped us reach where we are today.
What are the biggest challenges you face at present?
Lack of awareness is the biggest challenge in a space like e-waste.
We have a dedicated focusing-on-awareness campaigns in schools and colleges throughout the city, to deal with this. We also have tie-ups with NGOs, thereby taking our services to the rural market. One of the services we offer is repairing old electronics and forwarding it to NGOs as per client requirements. This ensures that children and others get access to technology before it becomes obsolete. Our vision is to create a chain of computer libraries from the e-waste that is forwarded by companies.
Please suggest some tips for Indian SMEs to deal with e-waste.
It’s a simple thing - either you consume virgin materials from the environment or recycle existing things. The crisis we are living in will, sooner or later, make recycling the only way out. Various e-waste recyclers in the country have already started activities on this front. However, companies need to also make an effort at their end to discard e-waste responsibly. The next time you decide to discard your e-waste, look for an authorized recycler. You will be surprised to learn that your efforts benefit the environment in a tremendous way!
What are your expansion plans?
We plan to set up operations in few other cities, in a bid to expand our direct presence across all regions of the country. By the end of 2013, we would also like to expand our presence to international markets.