All posts by ecowiseadmin

Manik Thapar: Money for Nothing

Manik Thapar, 29, Founder of Eco Wise
Many would say Noida-based Manik Thapar is wasting his life. But he sees enormous potential in garbage. Founder of Eco Wise, a waste management company, Thapar realised that every Indian detests bureaucracy and filth. “There isn’t much I can do to change bureaucracy, but a lot can be done to clean India,” says Thapar.

Manik Thapar, 29, Founder of Eco Wise
Many would say Noida-based Manik Thapar is wasting his life. But he sees enormous potential in garbage. Founder of Eco Wise, a waste management company, Thapar realised that every Indian detests bureaucracy and filth. “There isn’t much I can do to change bureaucracy, but a lot can be done to clean India,” says Thapar.

His employees collect garbage from Noida residents and segregate it into recyclable and non-recyclable. Only 15 per cent of all garbage is sent to the landfill. The recyclable waste is sold. Eco Wise recycles 2,000 tonnes of waste a year.

The future Thapar says he sees his company as the most innovative and profitable waste management company in India in the next five years.

Towards an inclusive model for waste management

If you cross over the DND bridge in Delhi to Atta market in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, you will see the incongruous sight of a well-heeled young man with gold-rimmed shades taking an unusual interest in the sweeping of streets and the collection and dumping of garbage into a truck nearby.

If you follow him for the remainder of the day, you will see him hopscotching from one Noida neighbourhood to another, chatting up his workers, monitoring door-to-door collections of trash, the sorting of it in a nearby landfill and finally the transportation of a lucrative haul of recyclables to a warehouse nearby. “This is a 99 per cent operations job,” he says with a shrug. “There’s no other way to run this business.”

This is Manik Thapar, 30, already a veteran of the garbage business and one of its most unlikely crusaders. After all, Thapar studied at St Joseph’s in Nainital, did a stint at an Australian boarding school, studied automotive marketing during his undergraduate years in Toronto, and spent two years in Michigan doing an MBA. This is where a summer project on the waste management business began to get his cog wheels churning.

His return to Delhi in 2005 to start Ecowise, a business in the world of garbage, could seem distinctly deranged to most Indians, who prefer to voyage in the opposite direction and work in industries that require anything but being surrounded by filth for much of the day. Predictably, his mother, who had made Toronto her home, was appalled by his decision. “When he first started off, I remember asking him ‘Are you sure you want to get into such a dirty business?'” says Ravi Agarwal, a well-known expert on hazardous waste. “He’s doing good work and has taken on a really tough challenge.”

What was most unusual about Thapar’s business was his early decision to not just incorporate ragpickers into his workforce, but to treat them like any corporation would its employees. He pays Rs 65,000 a month in the form of rent for two plots of land on which he has built 74 living units. Each of these comes with electricity and access to common toilets and water taps. Any health costs are taken care of by Ecowise. “Ten-15 per cent of my profits go into supporting my employees,” says Thapar. The salary per person starts at Rs 9,000 and can go up to Rs 30,000. This means that any one family has the opportunity to make up to Rs 55,000.

This has translated into good relationships with his workers. Thapar hasn’t experienced chronic strikes that have hobbled waste management companies such as A2Z in cities like Kanpur. Still, while it took four years for Ecowise to grow to Rs 1 crore in revenues, it took six years to break even. Then came a windfall of contracts from the Noida Authority, which propelled the company’s revenues to Rs 5 crore in just a year. Thapar says it will take another 10 years for the company to try and grow into a national one with targeted revenues of Rs 100 crore.

Thapar’s relative success comes from his ability to devise and operate an “umbrella model”- an end-to-end approach, focusing on transportation, segregation, treatment and disposal, which span all aspects of the value chain. Here, revenue streams are leveraged during collections (fee-based, from households, malls, hotels), segregation and disposal (contract from Noida Authority) and the sale of recyclables and scrap to industry.

Yet, Ecowise’s growth didn’t come easy. After putting Rs 15 lakh of his own money into buying a Tata Ace and a few carts seven years ago, Thapar had to build the business systematically by understanding it from ground-up. This meant figuring out the various roles the kabadi syndicate, sweeper syndicate and the residents welfare associations (RWA) play in the business. His biggest obstacle? “The mindset of Indians,” he says, pointing to a large house in Noida housing an Audi A6 that costs around Rs 40 lakh. “They’ve been refusing to pay Rs 30 a month for their trash collection.”

“There is a typical middle class attitude against the working class, and even more so against those working in garbage,” says Lakshmi Narayanan, who was responsible for unionising the ragpickers in Pune and fought hard to have them formally incorporated into the city’s labour force. In 2008, about 2,500 of them were officially contracted by the municipal authority in the city to collect trash from 400,000 households, where each worker would have a fixed catchment area of 150-250 households. Around Rs 4,500 is generated from household ‘user fees’ per month per worker, while another Rs 4,000 per individual is made selling recyclables. Today, they have identity cards, safety equipment and spiffy, blue uniforms. “They’ve seen a huge increase in the quality of their lives with reduced hours, less stress, and better wages. They can now live with dignity,” adds Narayanan.

This is enough proof for both municipalities and companies that a solution to incorporate ragpickers is readily at hand. Now, all that is required is the will to bring about change.

Clean India by Waste Management: Eco wise

NOIDA’S ‘GARBAGE MAN’ RUNS UP A PROFIT. MISSION DELHI NEXT? Manik Thapar, an Indo-Canadian entrepreneur and Founder CEO, Eco-Wise Waste Management says “We still see garbage as kabadi business, but there is so much more one can do”.

As we become wealthier and consume more, we are producing unprecedented quantities of rubbish. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates that our largest cities produce on average 760,000 tons of solid waste per day. It predicts that there will be a two-fold increase – to 1.8 million tons – by 2025.

It seems almost too much to handle. And it is. Much of Asia is literally wasting away. ”The growing volume and toxicity of waste is simply threatening to overwhelm our cities,” says Michael Lindfield, principal urban development specialist with the ADB in Manila.

The proper recovery, treatment or disposal of garbage is beyond the financial resources of many national and municipal governments. The World Bank says some municipalities are spending as much as half their budgets dealing with garbage. And even so, it is common that half of all the waste goes uncollected.

Hidden under piles of garbage, Manik Thapar has uncovered a golden opportunity. Granted, organizing the waste management industry isn’t easy, but Manik’s Eco Wise is leading the way and expanding on solid success.

The sight of a suited businessman sifting through garbage isn’t common in India . But if you find yourselves on the outskirts of Noida, just east of the India ’s capital New Delhi , and spy a suit amid the garbage, you’ve probably found Manik Thapar, an Indo-Canadian entrepreneur who is setting aside conventional caste wisdom and getting his hands dirty.

Garbage collection is hardly the most envied of businesses in India , where a caste hierarchy mandates that rubbish collection is not the domain of the educated and wealthy. Mr. Thapar didn’t care. India , which recycles more than 90 per cent of its waste, offered huge opportunities in waste management. In 2005, he launched Eco Wise Waste Management Pvt. Ltd., providing a four-stage process of collection, transportation, treatment and disposal of waste material.

The idea, he says, germinated with a study on producing energy from garbage during his days as a management student. “I saw the business potential in waste management.” The result: Thapar decided to set up a similar project in India, and even convinced a US firm to invest in it.

Though the project died soon, the idea of business potential in waste still remained. The Noida project finally took shape last April. “I invested Rs 1.6 crore, through family and bank loans,” says Thapar, looking at odds in his power suit at the garbage disposal site on outskirts of Noida.

Moreover, Eco Wise isn’t a classic small-scale Indian business. Mr. Thapar’s employees were drawn to his company because of its unusually protective labour practices. Mr. Thapar’s monthly costs include health benefits for all his workers. Employees and their families flock to the plant every Sunday for a free barbecue, and several of them will soon be provided free accommodation on company property. Most of them are migrant workers from Bihar and Bengal who make about 5,000 rupees ($133 Canadian) a month, a pittance by Canadian standards but above the average salary of a government worker.

Eco Wise is already the biggest plant of its kind in New Delhi and Noida. “We have the capacity of 100 tons per month. We are running at only 45 tons at the moment,” Mr. Thapar says. He hopes to be servicing all of Noida’s 130 sectors soon.

But all that’s only a short-term plan. What Mr. Thapar really wants to do is make energy out of waste and is excited about “bringing ideas that haven’t been tried and tested in India back here.” He wants to set up an anaerobic digestion plant, which takes wet garbage and converts it into compressed natural gas and electricity for domestic and commercial consumption.
For the time being, however, Mr. Thapar’s energies are focused on pushing people to be more enthusiastic about sorting through their garbage and using the recycling bins provided by Eco Wise. That, he acknowledges is an uphill task. “Even my friends told me, ‘Why are you getting into such a dirty business?’ It will take a long time to change that mentality.”

“The waste is segregated and then divided into bio-degradable and non biodegradable waste. The Biodegradable waste is then converted to compost,” says Thapar.

Wet waste, which is primarily kitchen waste is then converted into organic and vermiculture compost. This sells for Rs 40 a kilo, while the organic manure is sold at Re 1 per kg. And it’s not just about making money – Thapar says his venture saves Noida Authority, which produces around 350 tonnes of garbage every day, around Rs 9 lakh a day. Also, the men working under him are each paid Rs 5,000 per month and are given medical insurance. And Thapar plans for more!

“Future plans include expand work to cities like Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Kerela. And crush PET bottles and supply these to Reliance and turn them into fibre optics,” says Thapar.

Thapar’s also an advisor on the MCD’s solid waste management committee. And while he’s certainly making money, he says what drives him is also the will to make a difference.

Manik Thapar, Founder, Eco Wise Waste Management Pvt. Ltd

“Green Entrepreneur Manik aims to Clean up dirty Country”
Despite the bold strides in industry and business that we have made in the last fifteen years our country; India could use a good scrubbing. Nothing chafes more than the sight of the raw filth our fair land seems to be decorated with from its rivers to its mountains while we try valiantly to shed our third world tags. Manik Thapar is an Indian who will not just talk about scrubbing India clean but resort to getting his own hands dirty as well. The entrepreneur spoke to Yourstory of his plan to clean our land with Eco Wise Waste Management Pvt. Ltd.

What kind of waste management does Eco Wise work on?
Eco Wise is a waste management company based in Noida. We provide comprehensive waste management solutions to Residential, Commercial, Institutional and Industrial entities. Our process includes collection, segregation, transportation and assistance to the Recycling industry. We also provide Consultancy services. All our practices are in accordance with MSW Rules 2000. We help businesses support their bottom line and help create a better environment to live in. Our upcoming plans include waste-to-energy conversion with biogas plants and a vision to reduce landfills by 100%.

How large is the market for waste management in India?
Scope includes Residential, Commercial, Institutional and Industrial entities in Noida, Greater Noida, Delhi, Ghaziabad. We partner with numerous recycling units to deal with different types of wastes, be it organic or inorganic. Organic waste is converted into compost and inorganic is further sent to recycling units. We have over 15 processes collecting and treating 40 tons of waste on a daily basis, which would otherwise be found lying on the roadside or make its way to the landfill site. Some of our clients include Patni Computers, Haldirams, Phillip Morris, Oberthur card systems, in addition to catering over 1.2 lac residential units.

What makes Eco Wise wiser than the other waste management companies?
Eco Wise is the only company in India doing waste management with a separate segregation and treatment site. We are different from the present dealers and contractors in the sense that we treat the waste in an environment-friendly manner by making compost and further recycling our waste by 100%. The others dump their non-useful materials in open road side areas or burn it as-it-is.

Are there any alternative energy solutions that waste management offers?
We plan to generate energy from our operations by installing biogas plants in near future. This will enable us to deal with the large amounts of waste and contribute to the energy sector.

Why did you choose to take up waste management as an entrepreneurial venture?
When I was studying in the US people used to ask me how I could live in a dirty country. That’s when I decided that I need to clean up. It was then that I decided to set up a business in garbage management and collection in Noida five years ago. And the idea is now a money churner.

Was it difficult trying to introduce waste management to our “dirty country”?
My biggest challenge has been while dealing with the bureaucracy to bring this idea to the people. There is a lot of potential for the formal sector to organize professional waste management in India but very little has been done so far. The people are unaware that such services exist in the market.

How much money does an operation like yours require to get started?

An amount of Rs 1.5 crores was invested in the business, 90% of which came from my father. The rest of the capital he has raised from bank loans.

Which areas can Indian entrepreneurship improve in?
Availability of funds and proper resources.

How does the future of waste management and Eco Wise look to you?
Currently we employ about 50 laborers which we proudly refer to as ‘Health Inspectors’. Our main office is in Sector 41 Noida. Profits are ploughed back into the business and Eco Wise’s growth rate is above average with the potential in this sector being 800-1000% over the next 10 years.

What motivates you when the going is tough?
The cause of making clean and green cities. We have the right to live in a healthy environment but very few people work to make it happen.