Erode-based Zigma Global secures ₹90-crore funding

M Ramesh Chennai | Updated on August 19, 2020

In these hard times of economic slowdown, rare is a business that says it needs more hands but Erode, Tamil Nadu-based, Zigma Global Environ Solutions Pvt Ltd expects to double its manpower in a year, from the current 850. Business is so good — it needs workers.

Zigma is into ‘bio-mining’, or, clearing away landfills and mounds of garbage dumps and freeing the lands underneath.

A few months back, the Singapore-based Blue Planet Environmental Solutions Pte, which has made a string of investments in India, bought into Zigma for ₹90 crore. Armed with the funds, Zigma, which has a technical tie-up with Forcebel of South Korea, is ready to expand.

But just what is its business? Zigma Global Environ is what is veritably a sunrise industry.

Urbanisation and modern lifestyle results in generation of garbage and there has been little option but to pile it up in the open – anywhere in the world, not just in India. Until recently there have been only two known measures of tackling these mountains of wastes – cap them with some kind of cloth or work with the wastes in such a way that some kind of vegetation grows on the surface, a process called ‘phyto-remediation’.

In India, though, the mountains of waste have just been left high and dry, literally, causing issues such as health hazards, fires (the decaying muck produces methane) and ‘land’ slips. Such problems at the Ghazipur, Delhi – it may be remembered – have impelled the cricketer-turned-politician, Gautham Gambhir to declare that if he doesn’t cause clearing off the landfill, he would never again contest an election.

But a technique that has emerged in the recent times is stripping away the mountains of waste, or bio-mining. A fair bit of science, and mechanisation, is involved in this process, but in the end you split the waste into its various components – all that can burn (which becomes ‘refuse-derived fuel’, or RDF), metals, glass, dirt, and residue such as stones. Each component is disposed off separately, some for money.

The biggest gain

However, the biggest gain is the reclamation of the land underneath the mounds, which is often worth several times the cost of clearing and disposing of the waste—the sweet spot in this business. The business is very profitable, says Ku Tha Ilangovan, Co-founder and CEO.

For example, the first project that Zigma Global did was for the local body of Kumbakonam, an old, temple town in Tamil Nadu, which cost the municipal body about ₹4 crore, but freed up 12 acres of land. This project, incidentally, became a model and Zigma has since been invited often to present the case study at workshops organised by the Ministry of Urban Development.

Another project, in Vijayawada, threw up even more spectacular results. The project cost ₹25.68 crore and freed up 45 acres of land, worth ₹675 crore — not even counting the bouquet of social benefits due to cleaner environment and the consequent increase in the value of the real estate in the neighbourhood. Of course, the lands belong to the local bodies — the value of the reclaimed land more than pays for the cost of the projects. Yet another project in Vadodara yielded 15-acres of land but more importantly, has prevented seeping of the leachate into the nearby Viswamitra river.

Today, Zigma Global has 16 projects on hand, worth ₹400 crore, the biggest of which is a ₹101-crore project in Nagpur. Ilangovan says the order intake could triple in a year, given the rush of tenders. There is a lot more business to be had, as in India there are some 23,000 landfills, of which 2,500 are big.

Another part of investments is for getting into value-added products such as blocks for applications such as compound walls and making RDF pellets, so that it burns better. B Dharmaraj, Co-founder and Managing Director of the company, says there are also opportunities abroad and the company is looking at some in South East Asia.

Published on August 19, 2020

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