Environmentally friendly products are in demand today, and with this need comes alternate perspectives. While people continue to shift to minimalist living and thrift-shops are growing at a rapid rate, the ‘recycle’ component of the 3 Rs continues to be a popular choice globally and in India. With huge firms and conglomerates rebranding themselves as eco-friendly, products include clothes and furniture are being made out of recycled waste. Trash is now a commodity and consumers are beginning to make choices that considerably, if not significantly reduce their carbon footprint.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that implementing circular opportunities in India could generate over $624 billion per annum in material savings by 2050 which is equivalent to 30% of India’s current GDP. As the waste generation in India is enormous owing to the population, experts suggest that decentralized composting could be extremely effective. Wilma Rodriguez, from Saahas Zero Waste, works from decentralized waste management centres located around bulk manufacturers such as tech parks, corporate campuses, and housing complexes. Therefore, the composting business is an excellent avenue for the inception of new ventures across the country. The composting business is also viable in the current scenario as it does not require a large labour force or cramped workspace.
However, this process can seem quite daunting in terms of the scientific process as well as the entrepreneurial journey. Do not fret, as we have put down a simple but comprehensible guide towards establishing your own compost business.
Plan your business
Make a clear business plan on your initial scope of investment, your target market, and the materials you would be using for your compost. You need to begin your business in a place that has access to a large number of organic waste to be able to sustain the business. This requires a lot of research and you could also take the help of farmers or agriculturalists for the same.
What do I need?
The primary requirement is a piece of land to manufacture your compost. Choosing the location must be done carefully such that it is traversable to your potential market. However, it must also not be in the centre of a living hub where the smell would cause problems. To begin with, you could rent the land, but make sure to have a flexible arrangement where you could have greater space in the later stages when your business would expand. You would require two or three pits in the land to dump the waste in for it to decompose.
Sources for Organic Waste
The substance you will compost would be biodegradable forms of waste and hence, you would not incur any costs. You can utilise any form of waste in your compost depending on the needs of the customer. This waste can be gained from local restaurants, office and housing complexes, schools, and malls- hence, you need to talk to people and create a network.
You would have to invest in some tools such as shovels and rods as well as a vehicle for transportation and bags for packaging as well. Once your business expands, you could purchase a compost turner to enhance your process. A compost turners mixes air into the windrows to speed up the decomposition process as it moves the right amount of moisture through the pile and regulates the temperature. Nevertheless, the startup costs are minimal and you could also be eligible for certain tax benefits for your eco-friendly initiatives.
What should I know?
While this covers the material aspects, you need to develop the skills necessary for composting to manage the business. You have to research about science to understand how to convert any organic materials such as leaves, or food waste into rich, natural, and usable compost. You have to be aware of the science behind composting, like temperature, moisture levels, microorganisms, and chemical compounds that may affect your product. Composting involves significant physical work, so do not get your hands dirty if you are not willing to sweat it out regularly.
You must also remember that not all materials can be composted, so ensure that you have a thorough knowledge of what could be used. You must also update yourself about local waste management regulations and receive any permissions/licenses required as per the state of residence.
How do I price my product?
It is advised to start your compost business with quality; this will help you set a standard and create a niche within the community. You do not have to sell it at exorbitantly cheap rates, but rather create quality compost which will speak for its own. You could initially explore bulk sales, even though that brings in smaller turnovers. Once you create a reputation for yourself, you can start selling packaged compost in shops as well as online.
How do I expand my Business?
You could sell you compost in bulk as well as in packets depending on the customer. The key to this is developing a good network. Lack of channels leads to compost being sold at extremely cheap rates. In an Economic Times interview, Padma Patil, from Purva Venezia, who has been in the composting business since 2012 says: “We have to sell our compost at Rs 2 a kg because we cannot store it or package it. The same quality compost in a retail store is available at Rs 20-40 a kg”.
Apart from a general demand for sustainable businesses, organic farming and organic products are extremely popular due to the natural and safe mode of cultivation. Hence, creating a clientele will not be much of a Herculean task. You could build a local network of referrals among gardening enthusiasts, you could also approach farmer unions and co-operatives to expand your business. You could directly meet them as well as set up stalls at the farmers’ market. You could also harness the power of e-commerce and sell your compost online so that you can create a pan-Indian presence. You could also invest in a website of your own to capture the true essence of your business. Digital marketing, a powerful logo, and a quality consumer experiment will create an imprint on every buyer and propel a chain of referrals.
The composting business has a multitude of benefits to offer you as a start-up as well as post-expansion. With platforms like amazon selling compost material, the possibilities within the market in India, particularly e-commerce are immense. Beyond the entrepreneurial thrill and profits, you will be left with a definitive satisfaction of contributing towards a better environment. You could also lend a helping hand to small farmers by creating partnerships or other initiatives to support them. You have boundless freedom to design your business depending on your values and interests. Nevertheless, irrespective of your choice of clientele, this business is sure to add to your pocket while simultaneously enabling you to be a responsible citizen in creating a better world.
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