Trashes, Garbage, Debris are the Commodities for this Unique Startup: ‘Saahas Zero Waste’

Trashes, Garbage, Debris are the Commodities for this Unique Startup: ‘Saahas Zero Waste’

City life always holds an invisible sort of attraction for all classes of people. It lures people for its amenities which are becoming necessary for the modern way of life. People from underdeveloped areas to cities just flood in search of jobs and opportunities. Life in the urban corner of India is filled with a different kind of contrast in itself. It is like two sides of the same coin. One side of the coin is development, provisions, and chance to be successful, the other side of the coin is poverty, pollution, tons of garbage, crowd, diseases to name a few of them. Life in cities means adjustment. Pollution has become a new trend. When we speak about waste management, major developing cities of India are facing major challenges associated with inadequate waste collection, waste generation, transport, treatment, and disposal. But for entrepreneurs like Wilma Rodrigues, the scenario is entirely different from others.  She has given life to a new concept of waste management with her startup called Sahaas Zero Waste.

The path of transformation of waste from source as to resource

Sometimes people are imprinted by new and fantabulous ideas when least expected. And some ideas just change the way of our life and our approach to life. Wilma’s life and her company is the product of such an idea that put an impression on her life some eighteen years back.

Mumbai –born Wilma Rodrigues, started her career as a tour guide for the India Tourism Development Corporation in 1983. She was quite excited and proud to showcase her heritage to foreign tourist but where ever she went the contrast between the beauty of the monument and the garbage, trash scattered around the road or the community hit her hard. The garbage heaps was antithetical to the idea of promoting India’s splendid, magnificent heritage of India. Even though the waste mismanagement disturbed her consciousness, but she moved on from the job and landed on working for other companies like editing for a trade magazine for Indo-German Chamber of Commerce then working as journalist with Metropolis. 

After marriage, she moved to Bengaluru and worked with The Energy and Resources Institute, but her mind still wandered towards the ugly side of India; the poor waste management system. Thus, in 2001, Wilma founded Saahas, focusing on solid waste management- segregation of wet and dry waste at source, composting wet waste, and recycling dry waste. 

The Path of Evolution from NGO Saahas to Saahas Zero Waste (SZW), a Social Enterprise

Wilma was clearly affected by the pathetic way of waste management in India. However, with the launch of the first-ever Municipal Solid Wastes rules 2000, she was prompted and triggered with the idea to start a non-profit NGO Saahas in 2001 towards on-ground implementation of the policy. But she soon found too many loopholes in the system. She elaborates how she was motivated to start a social enterprise Saahas Zero Waste “After over a decade of running the NGO, I realized that the scale of the problem was too huge, to be solved through charity alone. There was a potential business opportunity, while also solving a social and environmental problem.”

Saahas Zero Waste (SZW) started a relatively new concept in India called the Circular Economy where all the waste would be converted into a resource. The principal aim of SZW is to help the clients towards achieving zero waste, with the segregation at source. SZW manages 20 tonnes of waste in Bangalore, Chennai, and Hyderabad. The working model of Saahas is quite unique and simple. It provides an on-site solution for bulk waste generators including corporate campuses, schools, and apartments whereas for smaller waste generators, Kasa Rasa, a unique decentralized waste management plant is used, where the waste materials are collected as well as processed too.

SZW manages almost 90% of the waste on-site and the remaining 10% goes to a medical facility for energy recovery and incineration.  In addition, SZW has created common collection centers for e-waste where they would be recycled.  And as part of the ‘closing the loop’ initiative, SZW offers products made from waste such as stationery items, roofing sheets, compost.

Waste management is becoming a Profitable business

Waste is not something that is beautiful or pretty but it is really becoming one of the blazing investments in comparison with the rapidly simmering down tech business. SZW is still a young startup but it is already on the road to aptness and profitability. Last year the company had raised a revenue worth rupees 1.97crore and is expected to reach revenue of 4.8 crores this financial year. It also supports and employs over 200 waste pickers who avail benefits like medical claims and provident fund and their security is also taken care of.

Saahas is on the way to develop its branches in cities like Surat, Mumbai, Gurgaon, and Goa. It now intends to include waste ranging from construction and demolition waste to multi-layered packaging waste. With a vision of an entrepreneur, Wilma Rodrigues is ready to make most of the opportunity when 4,000 tonnes of garbage is produced per day, in Bangalore city itself, she says, “We can do complete waste management for a city or town. We are even willing to do door-to-door garbage collection.”

She is a trend setter and pioneer of innovative ideas. People like her are the real champions who have the power to merge business and environment, still become success in their field of venture.

May her dream of bringing back the lost beauty of India becomes a reality!


 Gayatri P

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