As smartphone sales go up, e-waste also goes up. With hundreds of small and large smartphone makers vying for each others’ marketshare in almost every country around the globe, the e-waste problem assumes alarming proportion. While some reverse logistics and re-commerce companies are already addressing this issue, it is still just a scratch on the surface.
E-waste is a global problem. It contributes to global warming and pollutes our environment. But not for smart entrepreneurs. For them, e-waste a massive opportunity worth billions of dollars.
Two Indian entrepreneurs have come up with a unique solution that could help reduce e-waste, at least in India.
Self-evaluate and sell
“ZeroWaste Recycling is a reverse commerce (re-commerce) platform connecting sellers of used, unused and overused electronics with refurbishers and authorised recyclers. We provide an online platform where consumers can self-evaluate their products by answering a few questions about it, and receives instant quote for the same. On acceptance, customer can schedule free home pick-up and get instant cash at his/her place,” says Co-founder and CEO Prateek Goel.
A serial entrepreneur, Goel founded the startup in mid-September 2015. along with friend Dixit Singhvi.
“Here, the customer has to mention the brand, condition and other details of the product. Based on this information, he/she is offered a price quote. He/she can schedule the pickup after accepting the price offer. Then a ZeroWaste technician will visit [the person] within 48 hours to verify the order. After verification, instant cash is paid to the customer and the product is picked from home without any fee,” Goel explains.
Since ZeroWaste offers algorithmically-determined prices for customer’s old electronic products based on their condition, there are no questions of trust and the customer gets a fair deal.
Huge demand in small cities and towns
According to Goel, used electronics have a huge demand in tier 2 and tier 3 cities in India. The opportunity in India is huge and the market is fairly untapped. ZeroWaste’s major target customers are people selling and buying old goods through C2C platforms. Also, the growing middle class population is important, because they can be influenced to sell their product to refurbishers rather than local dealers and other unauthorised traders of electronics.
ZeroWaste also has plan to tap into opportunities across urban India in coming months.
“The pocket size of the customers in urban India is actually higher than what we are pursuing here and obsolesce rate of electronics is quite high in metros due to [the people’s] lifestyle,” adds Goel. “They like to upgrade themselves with new technologies present in the market and want to keep new stuff, not junk old electronics.”
ZeroWaste has partnered with around eight active vendors in cities such as Jaipur, Lucknow, Surat, Ahmedabad, and Chandigarh.
Whenever an order is placed, the vendor picks up the product after verification and pays the amount to the customer. ZeroWaste generates revenue charging a commission on that amount according to a contract.
Goel claims his startup has captured 60 per cent of the re-commerce market in tier 2 and 3 cities. In the near future, it will go to Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi NCR as well.
Goel says a major challenge for the startup is lack of trust among customers, developed over the time due to unreliable channels. Another major challenge is lack of customers’ willingness to buy refurbished electronics from vendors.
“Most of the customers would rather buy an old electronic appliance through C2C platforms like Quikr or OLX, rather than from refurbished goods vendors,” he says.
Bootstrapped till date, the startup is looking to raise US$2 million to scale its operations and technology base in order to match its expansion milestones.
Key keep calm for the first 1,000 days
“Going through my entrepreneurial journey, I have learnt that one should invest in people, not just business model. Models may fail, but if you have invested in right set of people with necessary skill sets, they will help you sustain even in tough phase and refine and improve existing model into a better one. One should invest time, not just money, in people,” he maintains.
“Another valuable lesson I have learnt is to keep calm for the first 1,000 days after launch of your startup. If you sustain that period, you have the business on your hands,” concludes Goel.
Prateek Goel is a serial entrepreneur who started his entrepreneurial journey way back in 2009 with launch of a startup Codescape (a telecom network management company) with his college friends. Later, he also co-founded Teramatrix Technologies, an IT-based company in 2013 which has its clients in India, Ghana (Africa), Bhutan etc. He is a B Tech in Communication and Computer Engineering..
His business partner Singhvi is an ex solar entrepreneur and a computer engineer.