What started as a Retirement Plan, turned out to be plan towards a better environment

October 2nd , 2018 | Ravindra Karnad

It all started with a basic question “What do I do to keep myself busy?”

Approaching retirement brings a host of questions. In our time and age, the one question on top of the list would most likely be “What do I do to keep myself busy?”

In March 2014, as I retired from my job the answer was not difficult for me. Strangely, the clarity came from a 90 minute documentary which I had watched about a year earlier. It was the much celebrated “An Inconvenient Truth” by Al Gore. If I had to be loyal to my love for engineering and the environment then it was a quick decision to build products which help the environment.

It was a like a large canvas on which I could paint my ideas. There was a rush of ideas. Many were exotic but I wanted to begin with the problem that I wanted to solve. As a citizen of Bangalore, it was not difficult to pick Solid Waste Management (SWM) as an area crying for attention.

Prudent Eco Systems was registered as a company and began developing a composting system that would manage waste in an eco-friendly manner. We started operating in Bangalore in 2014 and now we have some installations outside Bangalore like Mysore, Tirupur and soon in Trichy.

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Shanmugam(left) showing staff at customer location how to compost

Composting is never an easy habit to make our people understand

At that time, I had already been practising home composting for more than 5 years and had tried to get many of my neighbours to also do so. An important insight was that everyone would whole-heartedly agree composting is a good thing (in theory), but (in practice), just a handful of people would actually do so on a long term basis. If we wanted large communities to make the change and start composting waste, then what we need to focus on is community composting systems to ensure sustainability of the practice.

In less than six months, we had our first prototype system installed and proven in a gated community.  In the next two years, we had only a couple of apartments who had signed-up to buy our composting system.

It helped to build our own equipment to keep an eye on quality. As our system was manual, we also found a way to deploy manpower to take care of the daily processing of waste.

Demo at a public park in Kalyan Nagar, Bangalore

Slow but steady growth towards our product expansion

Now, four years since founding the company, we have installations which are large enough to service 400+ homes and in totality our composters at various locations process about 1.6 Metric Tonnes per day. A small drop in the ocean of waste but it makes a difference.

Failures are the milestones to success. We have had our share of failures and set-backs: issues of odour making it difficult for residents near some of our composting sites. In 2017 we had installed our system in a large apartment with few hundred flats. Suddenly for unknown reason we had a lot of foul smell and residents were furious. We had to stop composting till we found that the root cause was due to strong chemicals in the saw dust we used. The chemicals stopped the microbes from composting. We have learnt from mistakes, fine-tuned the process and now confidently assure our customers that we can offer a clean and better way of on-site composting.

My friend Girish K Balakrishnan is an inspiration to me. A rare person who wants to help some unknown person everyday in any which way he can. This is only a start of the journey and we realise the importance of support from activist groups, Municipal authorities and other likeminded individuals. More and more people in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are beginning to adopt environmentally friendly living practices like composting and avoiding plastic. All of us have a role to play in managing solid waste to move to a Swachh Bharat.

Lettuce growing in compost from our customer locations

The author of the story is “Ravindra Karnad of Prudent Eco Systems and you can reach out to him at their website 

InwasteR is only a platform to share WaStory and the views and experience are purely of the author.

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