India is riding high on a strong wave of entrepreneurship that has captured the imagination of the country’s young generation. Inspired by the success stories of Sachin Bansal’s Flipkart and Ritesh Agarwal’s Oyo Rooms, among many others, the young graduates are shedding their inhibitions and cultivating risk-taking capacities required to establish and nurture a start-up. As a result, over the past few years, several small businesses have emerged. Thriving on uniqueness in their ideas and freshness in their approach, these businesses are providing solutions to fundamental problems like getting a taxi-cab at a reasonable price or securing livelihoods of farmers.
Here’s a list of a few unique startups that are redefining sustainable business in the country:
An industrial engineer-turned-entrepreneur Shubhendu Sharma started Afforestt in 2011 with an aim to create self-sustainable dense forests into urban landscapes in India. Sharma conceived the idea to increase country’s forest coverage while assisting Japanese botanist and ecologist, Akira Miyawaki, to cultivate a forest at the Toyota plant, where he used to work. Starting from scratch in Uttarakhand, Afforestt has successfully created around 118 forests in 40 cities across nine different countries. Around 33 of these 118 forests have been created in India alone.
Afforestt is an end-to-end service provider which looks into multiple aspects of creating a sustainable forest. The company specialises in conducting soil survey, managing labours, on-site consulting, project extensions, and various other elements required to execute Miyawaki’s afforestation method. Sharma now plans to launch a monitored crowdsourced software to encourage people to feed their native plantation species in the tool.
2. Vat Vrikshya
Vikash Das left his highly successful career with IBM to introduce the concept of entrepreneurship amongst tribal women, who never have been able to harness their talent. In 2014, he laid the foundation of Vat Vrikshya, a grassroots initiative aimed at creating alternative means of earning for tribal communities. Starting under a Banyan Tree with only one woman, in four years Vat Vrikshya has grown workforce to 2500 women artisans and has boosted their business by 350%.
With a team of 72 passionate social workers, Vat Vrikshya has provided business training to almost 18,000 tribal women and helped them to lead a dignified life as breadwinners of the family. Apart from providing business training, Vat Vrikshya is actively involved in need assessments, market linkages, and awareness generation towards government schemes. Besides turning tribal women into entrepreneurs, the organisation has also been successful in bringing positive behavioural changes in the community. According to Das, school dropout rate has come down to 32% from 95%, and linkage with the banking system has pulled women out of financial vulnerabilities associated with local moneylenders. Vat Vrikshya now plans to expand to the Andhra Pradesh and northeast.
India is struggling to manage its three million tonnes of e-waste generated every year. Most of the recycling happens in informal sector posing several environmental hazards and life-risks to the labours involved in the process. Releasing this challenge and seeing it is an opportunity to fill the gap, Achitra Borgohain, a former employee of IL&FS, launched an e-waste startup BinBag in 2015. Bengaluru-based BinBag uses technology to bridge the demand and supply gap between waste generators and the processors.
Within 18 months of its existence, BinBag serviced over 3,000 customers. The company focuses on large corporates, Small- to Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), and households. Thereby, targeting maximum of the e-waste generated in Bengaluru, the IT hub of the country. The company has already created a lot of buzz in the city and is reaping benefits in terms of increased client base and revenues. The company posted around Rs. 1.15 crore in the previous fiscal and is confident to double its revenues in this fiscal year. Furthermore, the company plans to boost its business by launching an App. According to Borgohain, the App will enable the users to upload the details and photos of e-waste, which in turn will help the company to quickly and properly pick up the waste.
Traditionally, the country has been an agrarian society, and in spite of the boom of the service sector post-liberalisation, agriculture continues to employ around 50% of India’s workforce. However, the heavy dependence on the climatic conditions has made farming unsustainable. The loss of groundwater, uncertain rains, and poor market support has seen people abandoning the sector. To increase the viability of farming, an engineer-turned-entrepreneur Deepak Pareek launched MyCrop Technologies in 2017. Gujarat-based MyCrop uses Big Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Blockchain, and Cloud computing to provide a comprehensive plan, from sowing to harvest, to increase the farm productivity.
The company employs around 35 Farm Mitras, who collect the essential data about crop cultivation. The collected data then is used to advise farmers what to grow and when. The company is currently providing services in 32 villages across the country and plans to generate over $20,000 revenues in the current fiscal. The company claims that in its first season it helped in increasing the productivity by 30%.
The rise of start-ups and work-from-home culture has led to the phenomenal growth of coworking spaces in the country, especially in Tier 1 cities. The skyrocketing prices of commercial spaces have discouraged many companies from investing heavily in the physical office space. As a result, there has been an increased demand for coworking spaces. This is why Ritesh Malik who was studying medical decided to launch Innov8 in 2015. Tapping onto to the rising market of coworking spaces, Malik’s Innov8 rose sharply from just one centre at New Delhi’s Connaught Place (CP) in 2015 to nine bustling centres spread across Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Chandigarh in 2018.
The company has over 190 companies onboard and boasts of around 95% occupancy rate. The company has developed an active community of over 4,000 members and is planning to acquire 15,000 members by 2019.