OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more


Recent contributions


Contribution list

Recent comments

(3) View all

Dear expert panel,

Thank you so much for your feedback, and the many positive comments on our approach to solving the waste management crisis in India.

We agree that it is indeed a complex problem to solve that has many moving parts, and over the last two years our approach has been one of evidence based testing and research, and our current interventions and roll-out strategy reflects this process.

Two years ago, we started with a simple question — how much post-consumer waste does the informal sector process at an ecosystem level, and can we use technology to help more residents in the city connect to their closest scrap-dealer. To that end, we started mapping kabadiwallas (small primary scrap shops) in the city and asking a lot of questions about what the nature of their ecosystem was. It included questions about materials collected, price-points, support networks and demographics.

A map of Kabadiwallas in the city that we have mapped so far can be accessed here - [usr: kabadiwallaconnect | password: kabadi2017].

We started writing about what we were learning as well:

We are now working with our research advisor to write up a white paper on our findings, which we plan to publish in a scientific journal. We believe that this is an important aspect of our work as there is still a very simplistic understanding of the 'informal' sector at large, and our work can play an important part in advancing the discussion on informality and the role of ICT.

Through this exercise we began to understand the contours of the informal ecosystem in Chennai (and by extension urban India) and realised that there is an interesting opportunity to develop a technology based for-profit business that's centred around the informal sector. The details of this intervention and the technology used is in an attached document (KC_Brief). Our more ambitious goal is to prove that with technology and a little nudging, the informal waste ecosystem in urban India (and perhaps other cities in the developing world) represent a cheaper, inclusive and more efficient way of resource recovery.

Our initial research was funded through a grant from the World Economic Forum ( and now to build on our research on informality and the opportunity for technology we have won a grant from the World Bank and the UN Foundation (

As mentioned before our approach has been one of evidence based research, and with regards to our business we have seen traction on our B2C application and interest from residents to use the technology to start selling into the informal sector. More exciting, we have seen interest from other groups like local municipalities, NGOs and large apartment buildings to use our B2C application, which opens up interesting opportunities for a SaaS based model.

With our B2B solution, the results are clear, it is fairly easy to work with kabadiwallas, and we have procured and sold almost 150 tons of material at our pilot Materials Recovery Facility. Through our partnership with the Launch Circular innovation ecosystem (, we are working with some phenomenal partners to build out a customised and commercially viable MRF that can procure all grades of plastics that Kabadiwallas collect.

The development of the IVR system and Kabadiwalla toolkit are the next steps we would like to take in this process, as it can add tremendous value on both our B2C and B2B efforts, and we hope to work with the IDEO team to make this happen.

I'd like to conclude by saying that while I will in no way dispute that it is indeed a complicated landscape, but by focusing on approaching our interventions with this kind of evidence based approach we have seen some success, and we believe that it is actually not that hard to design solutions that work with this mindset.

The implications of our work has the potential to make a tangible difference into the policies and strategies for working with the informal sector in resource recovery and the circular economy in general, and we hope to have the opportunity to work with the IDEO team to help magnify our impact.

Hi Kate,

Yes, apologies for that, will change the order now.

The toolkit is currently in the idea/research stage, however there is positive feedback and initial validation as something that our beneficiaries would find useful as well as from a technology/development/cost perspective.

The IVR educational platform will be to deploy content that can help communicate best practices on materials handling and other essential information to our kabadiwalla ecosystem as well as to the waste-picker/itinerant buyer ecosystem. We are working with to deploy their voice-forum tool for this purpose.
Yes, some preliminary feedback has been taken from our beneficiaries, which has been positive, but more testing has to be done — especially with regard to content and access.

Hi Kate,

Thank you for your feedback!

Our next steps are around developing a successful 'smart Materials Recovery Facility that can handle all grades of recyclable plastic that Kabadiwallas (these small primary aggregators) currently source, and focus on streamlining our B2B technology — ensuring that we can source it at a transparent price point, and pick up on demand.

Also equally important is to figure out what works well on our B2C application (Recykle) that helps households and apartments segregate and sell their recyclables to their closest kabadiwalla.

Yes that is our company, and we have registered as a for-profit enterprise.

Please write to me at for more information, and I can send over a more detailed deck on our plan for the next 5 years!