The Kabadiwala is a doorstep service that helps people sell their household junk, and get paid for it. Over the years, it has expanded its network, shifted strategies, and raised funding. Here is the growth story of this waste management startup.Sindhu Kashyap
Have you tried to get rid of something - old newspapers, telephone directories, or that metal jewellery that went out of fashion circa 2005 and you have no idea what to do with? Most of these end up in the ‘dry waste’ bag, or you end up seeking the good old neighbourhood kabadiwala.
But finding one isn’t always easy, as Anurag Asati, an IT Engineer hailing from Bhopal, realised. “One day I was asked to get a kabadiwala home to collect some newspapers. I couldn’t find one because I did not know anyone nearby. That’s when I thought – wouldn’t it be great if this whole process was just a phone call away? Or better yet, book online at my convenience?” he says.
It was then that Anurag decided to start The Kabadiwala in Bhopal as a doorstep service to help people sell their household junk like newspaper, iron, plastic, books, metal items, etc. and get paid for it. It is intended to recycle, reuse, reduce, upcycle, and resell scrap.
When YourStory wrote about the startup five years back, The Kabadiwala had 10,000+ people who had given away the waste via their website.
Since, the team has raised Rs 3 crore funding from early-stage investors, HNIs, and senior industry professionals. The investors include Bhushan Gajaria from Beehive Capital Advisor, Bharat Mandloi of Singapore-based ABCOM Investments, Suresh Parekh of Parekh Marine Transport, Naveen Reddy, Supply Chain Director of Unilever, and Vishal Thaker, who is an angel investor.
The startup now serves over 50,000 registered users, and is handling over 100 customers every day in Bhopal; it has expanded operations to Indore, Raipur, and Aurangabad as well. It clocked Rs 70 lakh in revenue in 2018. The startup plans to use the funds it has raised to beef up its technology, in category expansion, and also to strengthen its presence across multiple cities.
“Buying products online is easy. Getting rid of them when it becomes useless, redundant or old is not. You have two options – either sell it at a second-hand market online, or call the kabadiwala to get rid of it. And the latter is a bit of a pain point for people. First, you have to find them, then coordinate timings, and then haggle. The Kabadiwala solves all of those problems for the consumer."
The aim of the platform is to help find and map assets that streamline the collection of post-consumer waste, schedule efficient and cost-effective pickups, and incorporate the segregated waste into the recycling/vendor network.
“As of now there is no way to track the household waste materials and its productive use for the city. So, we provide the solutions for that,” says Anurag.
When Anurag had the idea initially, he discussed it with his college professor, Kavindra Raghuwanshi, who was also a friend. Kavindra soon joined in as Co-founder. The core team also comprises Samiksha Sharma and, Sameer Carpenter. The Kabadiwala today is a team of 25 people, including the kabadiwalas it has on board.
In its current model, The Kabadiwala pays the customer for the scrap it purchases, based on the weight of material. It then segregates the materials according to the grade, or in level-wise segregation, and provides the scrap to different recycling industries, charging them for it, usually around 15 percent to 40 percent margin, depending on the material.
The Kabadiwala has tied up with scrap dealers, recyclers, and waste collectors. The team also works with B2B clients. The customers are paid via online means, and both the B2C and B2B customers are not charged. Starting out with one Tata Ace, the startup now has a fleet of 10 for the initial waste collection rounds.
The startup claims to collect over 100 tonnes of waste every month.
Anurag says The Kabadiwala works on a ‘Go Green’ concept. To encourage more people to sign up, the startup educates the customer on what exactly happens to the waste they have contributed and the kind of impact they have created in terms of - saved electricity, land space, trees, and water.
In the early days, The Kabadiwala worked on an aggregator model, teaming up with kabadiwalas across Bhopal. But, soon, it shifted strategies when it realised how unorganised the sector was, and due to other challenges like ambiguity in collecting time, and service quality.
It therefore onboarded the kabadiwalas on the platform as employees. Anurag points out that earlier the individual kabadiwalas would earn Rs 2,000-Rs 4,000; with The Kabadiwala’s salary model, they now make Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 a month. The team is currently has hired over 25 people.
“We have a modern on-site processing operation capable of processing all grades and forms of scrap commodities. Our collectors are police-verified persons carrying an ID card at all times. There also is a predetermined time for collection, electronic weighing machines for accurate weighing, and fixed rates,” he adds.
The Kabadiwala is in the process of implementing a tracking system for customers to know how and where their scrap is disposed of.
At present, the waste management segment in the private sector is fast growing. According to a report published by market research company NOVONOUS, India’s waste management market will be worth $ 13.62 billion by 2025.
There are startups like Saahas Zero Waste, Namo E-waste, GEM Enviro Management, Citizengage, Paperman, Vital Waste, and several others helping Indians dispose of their waste in a more responsible manner. However, entrepreneurs in the sector admit that it is a tough space, overrun by unorganised managers and several cartels.
“Our mission is to organise the unorganised sector of waste disposal and management across the country by creating a transparent platform that links the traditional kabadiwala system with tech to create employment opportunities, enhance economic growth, and save the environment while at it."
The Kabadiwala is also working on the concept of “Raddi se library” where different libraries can reuse old books that come by the startup’s way. Anurag notes that the startup is expanding its services to 20 cities by 2020.
“We are working towards providing waste solution to smart cities and other Tier-I, II, and III cities,” says Anurag.