The wildlife of plastic bottles: Muniraju’s Plastico bags a contract to clean up Bannerghatta National Park in Bangalore

Muniraju, Founder, Plastico

Just 10 months after launching his waste recycling plastic business, Muniraju has successfully signed an agreement with Bannerghatta National Park and the Nature & Wildlife Conservation Committee to collect 500 kg of plastic bottles every two months. These plastic bottles, which are left by tourists in the forest reserve present great danger to the wildlife in the park, and are now the fuel for Muniraju’s growing business. The deal will also increase Plastico’s profits by 30% and comes as a huge boost to Muniraju and his employees who have recycled more than 50 tons of plastic bottles to date.

But it was not always this way…

Working for Fedex, Muniraju noticed the huge amount of plastic waste tossed everywhere but in the trash bins.  This frustrated him. He researched for a year to find a solution and realized that there was a business opportunity to this problem. But it wasn’t an easy start. Muniraju faced a common challenge that many face wanting to start a business: capital.  He was denied funding by multiple private banks due to lack of collateral.

Plastico: Recycling at your doorstep

One day, while watching television Muniraju saw the Be! Fund Muppet Movie – a short film about Be! Fund aired on a local cable channel and decided to apply. Since the launch of Muniraju’s recycling business, Plastico, in October 2011, he has made an inspiring impact in his community—recycling five tons of plastic bottles each month and cleaning up his local environment Anekal, Rural Bangalore.

To spread awareness about recycling plastic waste and market his business, Muniraju came up with the slogan “Recycle. Its good business”, printed them on flyers and distributed them in his neighborhood. It soon became a catch phrase and helped him set up partnerships with 10 local bars, 10 restaurants and five hospitals to pick up their plastic waste.

“Recylce. Its good business” – Muniraju

Muniraju’s business isn’t just cleaning up the environment, his business is also making a difference in the lives of people in his community through the eight jobs his business has generated. He currently employs two men as waste collectors—Narasimhappa, who is married and has two working sons, and Narenda, who is unmarried and lives with his parents. Narasimhappa and Narenda each visit 100 households everyday to collect bottles for Muniraju’s business.

Muniraju also employs five women, all of who were previously unemployed—Mamatha, Shivamma, Gundamma, Basamma, and Kamalamma. Each of these women uses their new income to support their families in big and meaningful ways. After all, collectively these women take care of five husbands, three boys studying between 6th and 12th standard, two girls studying in 6th and 8thstandard four working boys, as well as two daughter-in-laws. With this many people to look after, their incomes from Muniraju’s business are invaluable to supporting their children’s education, improving their family’s health and supplementing their family’s other daily requirements, setting their families up to live better, healthier, and more productive lives

The people behind Plastico’s success

You can learn more about this inspiring story, from Muniraju and his team in this short video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5nhlL2McDM . To check out his full business plan, check out his profile here: http://www.befundindia.com/muniraju.html.

 

Be! Fund Mumbai: Murphy’s Law & three different kinds of glue

Shut down: rain and national holidays, but Be! Fund opened for business in the maximum city and the call out is creating just a little bit of steam in the late monsoon.

In search of Mumbai’s young entrepreneurs, we released our Be! Movies. These movies tell stories of young heroes who solve local problems and are aired on local cable channels. We’re receiving calls everyday with great ideas, but we’re getting restless so we went further, on foot, into Mumbai’s slums with posters, postcards, and community movie screenings to find the youngest entrepreneurs who can change everything for everyone. Were they there? They had to be. This was Mumbai, where everyone comes to be an entrepreneur.

Be! Fund in action at a community meeting

Of course new journeys are never smooth, but as ours was particularly bumpy, we thought it may be Murphy’s Law (or just how we look at it): when we went into communities people thought we were selling something, they slammed doors, we ran awkwardly into people doing their laundry, or people with a toothbrush stuck in their mouth, not exactly the right time to ask if they or someone they know, is an entrepreneur. We screened movies and there were power cuts, the power came back on and the rain came down.

The good news is we learned a lot.

After each day in the field we took steps to make our campaign better. We now partner with local organizations in areas we visit so that we are not misunderstood for sales people selling washing powder. We also go well equipped with three different kinds of adhesive tapes because the posters just don’t stick; the walls are too rugged, sometimes they are made of soft cardboards sheets which are moist because of the rains, and rest of the time there are rickety aluminum sheets. To solve our technical crisis, we hired a projector wallah: Sajid, whose key skill is patience with our madness, we now consider him part of our team.

Sajid, our projector wallah takes a breather. You can also see him holding two different glues used to stick posters

Sajid, our projector wallah takes a breather. He also holds two of the different glues used to stick posters

In the past one week, we have focused our efforts on the area near our office in the western suburb of Santacruz and across the harbor line of the Mumbai local train. We started by visiting the areas of Golibar which has around 140 households. We then took it up a notch and visited larger areas of Mankurd which has around 575 households and Govandi with almost 730 homes.

It was my first time visiting the slums of any kind let alone the first time in Mumbai (and I’m from Mumbai!). The slums have an ecosystem of their own; it is like a village within a city. In an instance from the confines of my cozy apartment I found myself warped into another world where basic needs of living turn into luxuries. No running water, scant lighting, terrible sanitation, and garbage everywhere. It was like looking at the insides of something beautiful sliced open to bare all its guts.  According to the 2011 census, 62% of Mumbai lives in slums. That is a huge number! With 13 million people it is the country’s most populous city and unlike Delhi where slums are confined to specific pockets of the city, the slums in Mumbai are integrated into every neighborhood. Young entrepreneurs are all around us, we just have to go out to meet them.

 

In search of young entrepreneurs

I’m excited to be able to say we now have 15 potential entrepreneurs that we have started working with. The ideas are as diverse as the people who have proposed them. Asif, age 23, came to Mumbai at a young age working part time and trying to complete his studies. He is already operating a Support School which targets young people in his community and he wants to expand to two more areas. Tarannum, age 28, wants to set up a fair price shop that would fill the gap in the supply chain and provide groceries cheaper and on credit. We have Vinayak, who is 32 and wants to solve the sanitation and energy problems by converting human waste into fuel.

Watch this blog to stay updated for everything that goes on at Be! Fund. Our next post is a call from Bangalore, where the Be! Fund began. Also, check us out on Facebook to know more about what we do – and if you know of a young entrepreneur who wants to start a business to solve a problem where you live, well you know what to do, call us.

Until next time

Ronak@befundindia.com