The idea of Shoonya first struck us when Kabir, Ishaan (my brother) and I were travelling and we crossed Ghazipur landfill. We had a small conversation around waste and what can be done but then we left it. Few days later I met an old friend and told him in general that my brother has graduated and is looking to start a venture, he suggested I take a closer look into the waste industry so we did some research, made some site visits and in return we decided to do it.. We were later joined by another friend of ours, Vishal.
Kabir ran his own Marketing company for more than five years. He is majorly responsible for client handling and sales. He is also our internal quality officer since he has a very keen eye for details.
Ishaan is the youngest one but has great experience of managing things on the ground since he has been managing the family mom and pop store since he was 14 years old and worked in event management during college.
Vishal comes from a rural background and he walked the length of Yamuna to understand the impact of pollution on rural life. He also has experience in running a food startup. He is the one responsible for building our ground partnerships and managing operations.
Manik is responsible for sales, business development and finances.
Shoonya Environmental Solutions Pvt. Ltd. is a solid waste management company that aims to create zero waste human settlements by enabling the creation of waste segregation infrastructure with the inclusion of the local community of waste collectors. We started off in April 2019.
The waste we generate, if not processed properly ends up in landfills, sea or is simply burnt. If we take only landfills, they alone contribute to more than 11 percent to global emissions.
India is producing far less waste than countries like the U.S., 10 times less in fact. Thanks to the informal ragpickers we are also doing better work when it comes to processing the waste for each dollar spent. If you go to an Indian landfill you will find barely any recyclable plastic. What you will find is non-recyclable plastic such as packets of chips or biscuits mixed with a lot of cloth and organic matter. To tackle non-recyclable (Multi Layered Plastic) fraction of waste, the government introduced PWM rules 2016 particularly the Extended Producer Responsibility under it. As the name suggests EPR puts the responsibility of tackling the waste on the ones who produced it, the brands. The brands started partnering up with the local EPR service providers who would collect, segregate and dispose of the non-recyclable plastic on behalf of the brands. However, with passage of time each stakeholder started to know that what is being disposed in the name of plastic is actually mixed waste. This has started to wane trust of each stakeholder involved. But no-one is at fault as the real problem is the fact that India lacks infrastructure where mixed waste can be segregated. This is what we realized after working for 1 year in the waste industry. And this is what we aim to work on. Unless we develop infrastructure the emissions from landfill will keep on rising along with the emissions caused by disposing mixed waste and all of our collective work will be good for nothing.
Shoonya aims to contribute to the sustainable development of India, through the implementation of integrated waste (material) management practices to foster environmental and human well-being.
We take pride in the fact that we worked around the challenges that COVID created and despite being the fact that we are working on the ground, always moving across the borders and are doing so in the most susceptible industry we still continued segregating and disposing the waste, not letting it end up at the landfill, in areas where we were working. During COVID we disposed of 400 MT of non-recyclable plastic waste alone.
We found out about the Young Social Entrepreneurs (YSE) program by the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) from a program alumnus who happened to be a close friend. It is an eight-month programme that inspires, equips, and enables youths to start or scale up their social enterprises. Based on his experience we learnt about the support that YSE provides throughout the entire social entrepreneurial journey and decided to apply to join the program.
We were hoping to join the program in person, but we were not able to do so this year due to the travel restrictions. We joined the program virtually via various digital platforms and I think the spirit of the facilitators was great. I think it would have been slightly disheartening as it was all going to happen online. And it would have been a novel experience for most facilitators conducting workshops online for such a big group of over 100 participants from 19 nationalities. It would have been challenging, but they carried out the task at hand with grace. The overall conduct of the facilitators during Covid times and the pace at which they have adapted to the online medium is my biggest take away.
We are happy to get the full support from the entire YSE team, and especially our mentor Ayushi Bainwala, who was generous in sharing advice and experience. Ayushi was extremely clear and articulate with her feedback. It was extremely useful for us and she helped us preempt the questions we could expect based on our presentation. She also shared lists of relevant impact funders with us. She was very up to date with the impact investment world and understood in great depth the expectations of various impact investors. She has also kindly offered to share time with us as and when we might need her support.
It is wonderful to see that there are young people across the world making persistent efforts even when the odds are stacked against them. As an entrepreneur we face an uphill task where many times we begin to doubt ourselves, it is at such times that stories of likeminded people help us a lot.
We were truly ecstatic to be one of the shortlisted teams. Over the next six months, we will be working with our mentor towards a pitching session next year for a chance to get funding of up to SGD 20,000.
The Shoonya Core Team🔥161
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