Chennai-based Paperman comes up with novel way to fund NGOs

Mathew Jose is a 25-year-old commerce graduate who calls himself and all his colleagues, some 120 raddiwallas, waste entrepreneurs or papermen.

Jose is behind the two-and-a-half-month-old Paperman Pvt Ltd that connects raddiwallas, households, and NGOs in need of funds.

Paperman Pvt Ltd, based out of Chennai, offers its services to 220 households in the city. When households want to sell their waste, they call the Paperman helpline, from where the nearest waste entrepreneur is alerted. And the waste is cleared within 48 hours.

Two options

Paperman offers two options: recycling for a cost and recycling for a cause. In the former, people keep the cash realised from the waste, but in the latter they give it to Paperman, which, in turn, invests the sum in a social cause. Currently, Paperman funds three NGOs from the money thus collected Twenty per cent of this amount is retained as service charge on each transaction.

“It becomes a kick-starter platform where NGOs post their requirements and people start funding. All people have to do is choose an NGO, make a call and give away the money realised from the waste to that NGO. So it is more of an impact-investment,” says Jose.

According to Jose, a social organisation/ business should focus on imparting social value to the process. And this, he believes, is Paperman’s strength as customers are given an option to support a cause they believe in; almost 90 per cent of their customers recycle for cause.

Avinash Satish, the operations manager of Paperman, says most people are receptive to their model as it is a win-win for all – more business for raddiwallas, a sustainable source of funds for NGOs and easy disposal of waste for the customers. And, of course, the satisfaction of having helped someone in the process.

The Foundation

The idea for Paperman Pvt Ltd came from Jose’s experience of single-handedly running the three-year-old Paperman Foundation of India, which creates an awareness about recycling and waste management in schools, colleges and other organisations.

“We do work with corporates to design such systems within their organisations. We have prototypes of how they can manage their waste and teach them to take ownership,” Jose says.

When Jose started the Foundation, he says it cost him almost nothing as he was on his own. His primary aim was to build a network and create awareness.

He jokes that he wanted to be Superman but became a paperman instead. “A year later I started out as a kabadiwalla, went to schools and organisations, and raised a little bit of capital before moving on to corporate projects,” he says.

Jose says for Paperman Pvt Ltd, “We might have invested up to Rs 4-5 lakh, which was derived from the business itself. We are also looking to get investors so that we can scale this up.”

Immense potential

Satish and Jose see immense potential for their business but understand that it will take time until it picks up and grows into something big.

Jose’s enthusiasm and belief in his company’s model is evident when he says: “This business is tapping into the traditional business... In Chennai alone, 5,000 tonnes of waste is thrown away every single day. About 42 million tonnes of waste was dumped across the country in 2012. It can be worth more than Rs 15,000 crore. The money that is dumped into landfills – not the waste, the money – is easily more than that. So what if that kind of money can be channelised for social change?”

Creating this kind of awareness is what Jose is working towards. When this becomes a reality, perhaps, Jose would have successfully become a Super Paperman.

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(This article was published on November 3, 2013)
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