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Technology Trumps Trash

Mani Vajipeyajula knew from his early days at Berkeley that he wanted to do something good for India and decided, based on prior visits there, to tackle his home country’s waste-management woes.

Vajipeyajula used every opportunity of his Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA program to develop a plan for a company that today uses technology and data analysis to eliminate supply-chain inefficiencies, improve the quality of recycled materials, and support worker safety within the country’s disjointed and largely informal recycling sector.

Not long after graduation, Vajipeyajula, who has two electrical engineering degrees in addition to his MBA, left a position as software engineer at Qualcomm to launch Banyan Nation. Banyan is poised to make an impact in the booming city of Hyderabad in South India, home to some 8.7 million people, roughly 50,000 of whom are “rag pickers” who salvage recyclable materials from the 4,500 tons of waste generated daily.

In the existing system, these collectors sell to street-level aggregators, who sell to larger distributors, who sell to processors. “We are trying to organize this very informal industry,” he says. Under Banyan’s plan, pickers still perform the bulk of the sorting but have more job stability. They sell to local aggregators, who can sell to Banyan for a higher price than they currently receive, Vajipeyajula says. The company then processes and sells the materials directly.

Banyan is currently focusing on plastics and already has a plant processing 1.5 to 2 tons of it daily. With investor support, in the next three to six months Vajipeyajula hopes to expand both beyond Hyderabad and into the realm of e-waste recycling. —NS

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Mani Vajipeyajula, BCEMBA 12

Mani Vajipeyajula, BCEMBA 12

Founder and CEO, Banyan Nation
Hyderabad, India