“I was done building the next better iPhone – I wanted to solve real problems, and in India – where I grew up and where the real problems are,” Mani Vajipey the founder of Banyan Nation Recycling had said to me in my first conversation with him. Mani and his co-founder Raj Madangopal decided to quit their high-ranking technology jobs in the US and moved back to their native Hyderabad in 2013 to develop innovative solutions to the waste problem in India. They spent a year surveying and understanding the market before starting Banyan Nation in early 2014. Today, they have a material recovery facility in Hyderabad that produces about twenty tons of high quality plastic recyclables per month and works to integrate, formalize, and legitimize hundreds of informal sector waste aggregators (known locally as “kabadiwalas”). IIX is working to help Mani and his team realize their vision to be one of the largest responsible and sustainable plastics recyclers in India.

There were a few things that we like about Banyan. Firstly, their use of technology to solve the most deep-rooted problems in the waste collection and processing value chain. “I am passionate about solving problems with technology,” Raj admits. Raj has built an Android based app that allows Banyan to map a largely invisible informal sector waste aggregator base in any city the size of Hyderabad in about 15 days. The smart app collects vital information about each potential supplier, and uses a smart algorithm to identify the most high-potential suppliers. The data also helps them achieve cost efficiencies as it helps them identify the most efficient collection routes, collects data on waste content in real-time, minimizes pilferage by tracking all cash transactions, and helps match demand with supply in real time.

Secondly, we liked that this is a very scalable model. They have set up the right systems and processes in place for the operation to run with minimal management oversight. Their technology platform allows them to enter new cities with relatively short ramp-up time. And their expertise in plastics can easily translate to other high value waste sectors such as electronic waste. This makes Banyan very attractive for impact investors who are looking for fast-scaling models.

Finally, and most importantly, we like the team at Banyan. They combine experiences in business, technology, and operations with deep knowledge of the informal sector – essential for working in the waste management sector in India.

Banyan Recycling is looking for capital to quadruple its production capacity at the current facility by installing additional equipment and automating certain processes. This will also help the facility become profitable over the next year and integrate hundreds of kabadiwalas into their responsible and environmentally sustainable waste value chain. Scaling production will also allow Banyan to work with high-value clients that value the high-quality recyclates Banyan produces.

If you are interested in participating in Banyan’s growth as an investor, please email me at ragrawal@asiaiix.com

By Rashi Agrawal
Manager, IIX & Shujog