Solving the issue of waste management has been one of the key focus areas for Social Alpha and the testimony to this fact is Hasiru Dala Innnovations, Social Alpha’s very first investee that strives to provide predictable livelihood for the waste pickers by converting them into waste entrepreneurs and skilling them to provide total waste management solutions to the residents of Bangalore.
Taking this a step further, in a bid to support technology and innovations across the waste value chain and find solutions to better the waste management ecosystem in the country, Social Alpha has partnered with H&M Foundation to launch “Techtonic – Innovations in Waste Management”, a nationwide grand challenge that will identify and curate locally designed, disruptive innovations in this space.
With a focus on supply chains efficiencies, logistics traceability, waste to value systems as well as improvement in the lives of the waste picker community which includes street waste collectors, scrap collectors, sorters, and recyclers, Techtonic – Innovations in Waste Management will invite applications from start-ups that are working on addressing select, crucial challenges in waste management.
In doing this, top 5 winners of this nationwide challenge will join the first cohort of Social Alpha Waste Innovations Accelerator and receive support in their lab-to-market journey. The Accelerator will provide startups support with fully paid pilots, expert guidance, go to market strategy, ecosystem access and an opportunity to pitch for seed capital investment. First of its kind, the accelerator has been designed to leverage the knowledge and strength of multiple stakeholders across Central, State and Local Government bodies, private sector and civil society to drive the uptake of high-impact and scalable technology innovations.
Both, Social Alpha & H&M Foundation have committed USD 2 million to support start-ups and innovations in Waste Management through this programme. In the future, both partners will also look towards scaling this initiative across the country, seeking more partners as it progresses in its journey.
Madhushree Narayanan, Programme Director, Waste Management, Social Alpha
What does the program aim to achieve and where will the solutions be deployed?
The overall goal of the program is to create a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurs to drive waste management and to improve the income of the informal sector in India through sustainable and scalable business models. The five winners will get to implement their solutions, we’re aiming for at least 3 of the 5 solutions to be deployed in Bangalore.
What will be the criteria for selections in terms of stage, sector, industry, solution, among other things?
The criteria will focus on early stage startups in the waste management sector with solutions to accelerate waste management and processing in India. The winners will be selected based on the impact on the informal economy, the innovation (technological or service driven), the operational scalability and business sustainability of the solution. As this program is built to select enterprises working in the waste management space, integrating the informal sector into their operations and improvement of the income and income stability for the informal sector is a very important criteria for selection.
When will the announcement on selected companies be made and when will the program commence?
The 5 winners will be announced by mid-April and the program commences in the last week of April.
Walk us through the different stages of the challenge – will it entail any training for the shortlistedapplicants?
The selected startups are a part of a one-year accelerator programme that will enable the winners to scale their innovations, avail of industry-specific mentorship, and gain access to seed funding to accelerate their growth.
There are three components of the accelerator programme, of which, the first is, The Market Validation Lab, where each of the winners will be supported to identify test-bed partners to implement its innovative technology as part of the one-year roadmap. The identification of the test beds will be supported by Saamuhika Shakti, an initiative supported by the H&MF, where seven civil society organisations are working on different aspects of the informal waste pickers’ livelihoods in Bengaluru with a common agenda to enable waste pickers to have greater agency to lead secure and dignified lives.
Simultaneously,through a component focused on Digitisation and Marketing, Social Alpha will aid these startups design marketing and develop digital support tools. The winners will have the opportunity to consult marketing experts and co-create a plan that can identify impact indicators that need to be brought to the fore, communicating their work to a larger audience. Digital experts will help the startups create the right kind of tools to capture the data in an effective manner, supporting the creation of a transparent waste supply chain.
The final component of the programme is a Demo Day. The accelerator ends with the showcase event — a platform for the 5 startups to present their innovations to important decision-makers, including the government of Karnataka, and investors. Each of these startups will also have access to pitch to Social Alpha for seed capital support of up to Rs 1 crore, post the Social Alpha’s due diligence.
Why did you choose H&MF as the partner on this project?
As a part of the Collective Impact initiative, the H&M Foundation was looking for a partner to build interventions to increase the income of informal waste pickers in Bengaluru. At Social Alpha our portfolio companies in the waste management space have adopted deep science and technology innovations to improve the livelihoods of people involved in sector and accelerate waste management and processing. Our portfolio company, Hasiru Dala Innovations, has enhanced the livelihoods of close to 520 Waste pickers in the process of diverting 1345 Tonnes of waste from landfills. Another portfolio company, Phool, a flower recycling start-up has enhanced lives and income of 73 women who were earlier engaged in manual scavenging. Phool built income stability and a threefold increase in the income of these women. Social Alpha’s entrepreneurial-operating model was a natural fit to the H&MF’s search for a partner to lead the thread on improving income and building income stability of the informal sector.
Maria Bystedt, Strategy Head, H&M Foundation
Why did you choose to partner Social Alpha in this project?
The H&M Foundation has since 2019 developed a collective impact (CI) initiative called Saamuhika Shakti to target improvements in the quality of life of the informal waste pickers in Bengaluru, with a strong gender lens and a systemic approach to achieving improvements. The initiative is based on an ethnographic study which recommended eight interventions to create a systemic change; one of the recommendations of the study was to increase the income and build income stability of the informal waste pickers. Here we saw a potential in accelerating the development/creation of new income streams by leveraging innovation to increase recycling in India. Social Alpha’s operating model of innovations and entrepreneurship can accelerate waste management and processing in the country and build the income stability of the informal sector.
With H&M Foundation’s entrepreneurial heritage and spirit, we see it as both essential and inspirational to use technology and innovation to create social change. New ideas are needed for positive development, and waste management and material recycling are fundamental components of a circular economy. Social Alpha has the same mindset, and we are thrilled to join hands to leverage their considerable experience and expertise in nurturing entrepreneurship for social, economic and environmental impact – which represents a unique triple bottom-line paradigm. Social Alpha is the perfect partner for Saamuhika Shakti to bring onboard the industry perspective and to use technology and innovation to create social change.
Will you be committing any sort of commercial prize to the winners?
No, the only financial support the selected startups can avail is the access to seed capital from Social Alpha, provided they clear the due diligence process.
The winners will be invited to an accelerator program where they will be offered support in their lab to market journey, and the potential to pitch for seed capital investment from Social Alpha. Through the accelerator the winning cohort will have the possibility to have access to the H&M Foundation’s international network of stakeholders.
Tell us in detail about H&MF’s focus on waste management, and other initiatives.
Innovation is a guiding star for us and we use collaboration and innovation to co-create, fund and share solutions for the world’s most urgent challenges. We have a unique role to play since we’re not a traditional NGO, we are privately funded by the founders and owners of the H&M Group, the Stefan Persson family. Hence, we bring with us an entrepreneurial heritage and spirit, and we see it as both essential and inspirational to use technology and innovation to create social change.
Waste management and material recycling are essential components of a circular economy and we see an urgent need to support innovations in order to speed up the process of creating value out of waste, but also to do this without creating damage to the possibilities for waste pickers to create an income. We’re therefore very happy to join hands with Social Alpha in the search for new business models addressing waste streams in India.
The non-profit H&M Foundation is the initiator behind a broad collaboration of actors that aims to co-create sustainable systemic change together with, and in the eco-system around, waste pickers in Bangalore. This initiative was launched very recently, and it is called Saamuhika Shakti.
Saamuhika Shakti takes a holistic approach to improve the living conditions of waste pickers by supporting them in various aspects which include not only economic opportunities but also issues related to education, housing, water, sanitation, perception change etc. We are working with different partners, all of them bringing their expertise into the collective effort, working towards common goals. Social Alpha is the newest addition to this consortium, and their program is designed in alignment with the common agenda of the Saamuhika Shakti.
The intervention areas of the CI initiative include the Sector perception change program, which is designed to improve professional pride among waste pickers sector, and encourage Bengaluru’s general population to respect and value waste picking through a strategic partnership with BBC Media Action. The CI initiative has partnered with LabourNet and CARE to focus on the development of exit opportunities, for waste pickers who desire to leave the profession. Additionally, the initiative looks at development of new waste streams, so as to increase waste picker income, and improve the stability of this income – through the collaboration with Social Alpha.
CI is working towards creating improved linkages to social security government schemes, to enable access to basic services such as housing, access to financial services, healthcare through the partnership with Hasiru Dala. IT also inculcates counselling programs to reduce incidence of substance abuse and domestic violence in waste picker households collaboratively with Hasiru Dala.