24-Year-Old Starts E-Waste Venture with Rs. 10 Lakh, Grows to Rs. 7.5 Crore Turnover
Vol 14 | Issue 51
Growing up in a business family, Nandan Mall developed a keen interest in entrepreneurship during his college years.
His breakthrough came when he won a contest in college, earning an internship at e-Parisara, one of the earliest e-waste treatment companies in Kolkata.
This experience was a stepping stone for him, and by 2014, when he was just 24, he launched Hulladek Recycling Private Limited, an e-waste recycling company in Kolkata.
|Nandan Mall launched Hulladek Recycling Pvt. Ltd. in 2014 (Photos: Special Arrangement)
‘E-waste' refers to any item that needs power, alternative energy, or batteries and has become useless.
This includes refrigerators, air conditioners, televisions, computer monitors, washing machines, toys, tools used in industry, medical equipment, and large cooling appliances.
India produces over 3.23 million metric tonnes of e-waste every year, ranking third in the world for e-waste generation.
“We collect mixed waste from various places like hotels, offices, industries, hospitals, local bodies, and houses. After sorting these at our warehouse, we send them to appropriate recycling facilities,” shares Nandan, who is now 32.
Take the case of an old computer that's sent off to recycling. In the recycling process, they extract tiny copper wires from the printed circuit boards inside the computer. These wires are then transformed into reusable ingots.
Nandan started his company in a tiny 200 sq ft place on DL Khan Road in Kolkata, with Rs.10 lakh he raised from his father and his own savings.
Now, his business runs from a big 1000 sq ft, three-floor office on Deshpran Sasmal Road, with a turnover of Rs 7.5 crore.
|When he launched his business, Nandan hired interns from colleges instead of professionals
Nandan began his enterprise by wisely investing his funds. He chose to hire interns from colleges, including St. Xavier's, instead of professionals.
Initially, he worked with six interns, training them in areas like business development, sales, operations, and logistics. These interns used to collect e-waste from places like homes, hotels, offices, factories, and hospitals.
After segregating the waste in their warehouse, they would send it to suitable recyclers. They paid for their door-to-door service with coupons or discount vouchers usable at dairy stores, cafes, or beauty salons.
In the beginning, Hulladek's team had a hard time convincing people to recycle e-waste during their door-to-door campaigns.
Nandan points out, "One of the main problems is ignorance. The necessity to recycle e-waste and its potential hazards are not well understood by the general public.” He explains that they are working hard to increase awareness about the importance of separating e-waste from other waste.
Nandan believes that the involvement of producers in the EPR (Extended Producer's Responsibility) model has significantly contributed to sustainability.
“The entire process of collection and channelisation to the recycler as per the law is done on behalf of the producers, who are the brand owners or manufacturers of electronics selling new electronic goods in the market,” he explains.
|Hulladek's deals with more than 4,000 metric tonnes of e-waste annually (photos: Partho Burman)
When Hulladek started, they only collected 35 metric tonnes of e-waste in their first year. Now, their annual collection has grown to more than 4,000 metric tonnes.
During his graduation in commerce at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, Nandan noticed garbage dumped on roadsides and public spaces. This observation led him to his life's mission.
Back in 2010, at a St. Xavier's College event themed ‘Make Your Business Plan’, he presented a business idea about e-waste. His winning idea earned him an internship at e-Parisara.
Nandan was always busy with internships and jobs during his college time. He attended college classes from 6 to 10 a.m., then went to work.
In 2009, he did a six-month internship as a campus ambassador at Google, and after that, he worked at Red Bull as a business development executive for one and a half years till 2011.
He also worked at NIIT, Kolkata, as a Business Development Manager until March 2013. After leaving NIIT, he moved to Spain to work with Indumetal Recycling, a recycling firm, before launching his company in 2014.
Talking about his company’s name, Nandan says, “We wanted a name that stands out. We researched the word waste in various languages and learned that in Hungary, 'Hulladek' means waste. Our tagline, 'Hungry for e-waste,' is a play on words.'"
Hulladek divides the waste they pick up into four main types: plastics, glass, ferrous metals, and non-ferrous metals, for specific processing.
|Around 80 people work with Hulladek
They have four methods for collecting waste. Firstly, they go to residential areas in cities like Kolkata, Guwahati, and Jamshedpur using electric vehicles. Secondly, they use trucks to collect from businesses.
The third approach involves collecting from corporations and municipal areas. Finally, they have franchisees who help in collecting waste.
They have eighteen franchisees located in Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Mizoram, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and West Bengal, including cities like Nasik, Mumbai, and Surat.
On an average, Hulladek collects about ten tonnes of waste each day.
Hulladek serves more than two thousand clients, and over 250 of them, such as Cadbury, Mondelez, Red Bull, Wipro, Infosys, Blue Star, and Hindustan Unilever, are exclusive clients.
Additionally, Hulladek has installed over 150 dustbins across the city, thanks to their partnerships with various organisations.
They have also placed bins in schools and colleges like Asutosh College, Lady Brabourne College, St. Xavier's College, Assembly of God Church School, and Calcutta International School.
Their 5,000 sq ft warehouse is located at Santragachi in Howrah district, about 10 km from Kolkata.
Hulladek has partnered with eight municipalities across the country and have a total workforce of 150 people, including the franchise team. “Of our 80 team members, 70 work with the franchising team,” says Nandan.
Growing up in Kolkata, Nandan is fond of watching films and spends his weekends playing lawn bowls at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club.
|Nandan says recycling business is a low-capital venture with great profits
He believes that the recycling business is a low-capital venture with great profit margins, suitable for anyone looking to make a difference in society.
“Our work is in waste management, and it ties in with Startup India, Swachh Bharat, and Digital India. Everything we do is connected to these initiatives. Anyone can join this field as a refurbisher, recycler, or collector,” Nandan explains.
“Though it requires hard work, it's a business that makes money from the start. Every day, I feel I am not just earning but also helping clean our society.”
In 2020, Nandan married Sriyam, who now works at Hulladek, managing the HR and EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) divisions. - ©TWL