As part of T-Hub’s third anniversary, TNM will be featuring five startups that have been with T-Hub, India's largest incubator for startups, since its inception and that have grown into success stories.
At the beginning of 2018, the startup community in India received a shot in the arm when a startup from the country became the first ever Indian firm to be shortlisted for, and even go on to win the Circular Economy awards at the World Economic Forum. To Hyderabad, it was a bigger honour, because this startup, Banyan Nation, was from the city, and a part of its startup engine, T-Hub.
A plastic recycling startup, Banyan Nation won the Dell People’s Choice Award for Circular Economy Entrepreneur. With a vision to solve the country’s management challenges through technology, Banyan Nation was founded by Mani Vajipey and Raj Madangopal nearly five years ago.
The startup leverages data intelligence to integrate thousands of last mile, informal waste collectors and large bulk waste generators into its supply chain. It initially mapped out waste collectors across Hyderabad through a mobile app and was engaged in segregating and recycling plastic.
It has now built a data intelligence platform that helps identify, track, collect and analyse data of the waste flow in a city to improve waste management. The platform is in various stages of development in Hyderabad, Warangal and other parts of Telangana.
Developing near-virgin plastic
One of the first startups to be a part of T-Hub, Banyan Nation is now also working to create a circular economy for plastics. It is also working with popular global brands such as Tata Motors, L’Oréal and top FMCG brands, which have a mandate to include recycled plastic in their packaging. It specialises in high-density polyethylene plastic, which is used for packaging detergent, shampoo, engine oil, etc.
It has now developed a proprietary plastic cleaning technology that converts collected plastic waste into near-virgin quality recycled granules (Better Plastic™), which global brands can use to make mainstream products and for packaging. Its proprietary technology cleans plastic by removing the remnants of a product, like labels, adhesives, oil and paint, from plastic waste and creates recycled plastic that is as good as virgin plastic, in terms of quality.
“Our technology has been developed to cater to the Indian type of waste. In India, post-consumer waste is a mixed bag. You have shampoo bottles, oil cans, parachute bottles, engine oil bottles, etc. and the inks, prints and adhesives used are different here, when compared globally. We have developed a process that removes all these contaminations and gives recycled plastic, which can substitute virgin plastic,” says Raashi Agrawal, director, Banyan Nation.
The startup has signed an MoU with the Telangana government to help develop a standard operating procedure for government-generated e-waste. The government will use Banyan Nation’s IoT-enabled dashboard for waste management.
Working with several global brands, Banyan Nation today has a facility of 1,200 tonnes per annum (TPA). Having outgrown the capacity here, Banyan Nation is now in the process of setting up its second plant in Hyderabad, which will be 10 times the capacity of its current plant. This will be operational by April 2019.
Apart from the Circular Economy awards, Banyan Nation also has to its credit the Intel & DST Innovate for India Challenge 2.0, which it won in June 2017, for creating a zero-waste platform to streamline and automate urban recycling operations at all stages.
'T-Hub instrumental in our growth'
According to the startup, T-Hub played an instrumental role in this. The Intel & DST challenge collaborated with T-Hub to identify ideas that could solve complex issues at the country’s grassroots level through technology and automation, accelerating the transition to a Digital India.
Apart from that, Raashi says that Banyan Nation got some of its first contracts from Telangana, and T-Hub was instrumental in facilitating those.
“T-hub is helpful for startups that want to work with the government. It also introduced us to many large companies within its networks and we are exploring partnerships with all of them in some aspect or the other,” she adds.
Next, standardising plastic recycling
Going forward, Banyan Nation has grand visions for its growth and for waste management in the country. It wants to deal with all types of plastics and to recycle over one million tons of plastic, which will be used in mainstream applications.
Banyan Nation is revolutionizing the recycled plastic industry the way Amul revolutionized the milk industry. On one hand, Banyan’s technology and supply innovation is helping organize millions of recyclers across the country, incentivizing and facilitating collection of recyclables from waste streams - similar to the way Amul organized millions of milk farmers in the country. On the other hand, their recycling technology is helping standardize quality of recycled plastics - just like Amul's technology which helped pasteurize and standardize the quality of milk - allowing mainstream brands to trust recycled plastics as a raw material in their supply chains. "In the 70’s, India experienced Amul’s ‘White Revolution’. This decade, with Banyan at the forefront we are witnessing the plastics revolution," co-founder Mani says.