Jabir Karat, a student from a small village in Kerala took the job as a rag picker to become a social entrepreneur. While looking for a sustainable business idea, he ventured to find a solution to the biggest problem of our country would face in the coming 10 years, the problem of waste management.
Jabir was born in Puthuppadi, a small village in Kerala, around 45 km away from the city Kozhikode. As an ordinary boy, he finished high school at the government school and got a scholarship to go to Delhi for studying History at Zakir Husain Delhi College. Jabir’s life took an interesting turn in Delhi where he often felt he is not good enough and a misfit in the society because of his upbringing in a small village. He felt that he cannot dress well or be fluent in English.
Jabir went on to do an MA in History from Delhi University after completing the graduation and thinking whether to pursue Ph.D. or opt for the civil service examinations. But, neither of the two options seemed interesting to him. He felt Civil Services are not his cup of tea and very few research topics in Ph.D. can actually make a difference to the society.
Jabir was convinced that he wants to do something more interesting and useful for the society. At that moment he got selected for the Gandhi Fellowship, the two-year residential programme which changed his life forever. His experience during the Fellowship tenure changed his entire thought process as he spent the two years coaching Government School headmasters in Mumbai. The mission was to bring about changes and Jabir had to spend time in slums and faced the realities of underprivileged India.
Jabir got inspired by this experience and decided to come back to his home state Kerala to start a social enterprise to embark on a meaningful career. He thought to do something about one of the most grueling problems of our country, the waste management. He went to Coimbatore to have a firm grip on the subject and took a three-month training under Vellore Srinivasan, who is the Project Director of Indian Green Service, a solid and a liquid resource management company. He worked as a ragpicker during his training. He collected trash, segregated them and then took the biodegradable waste for composting.
Following the training, he started his enterprise Green Worms in Thamarassery, a small town in Kozhikode district, Kerala. His team leased out a plot of one-acre where they segregate waste and take the biodegradable wastes to the composting unit, set at the same location.
Jabir convinced the local shopkeepers to dispose of their wastes reasonable as they usually just dump their waste on the roadside or throw it in the river. His three-member team started the process by managing the waste of shopkeepers and traders and would charge them a small service fee.
But, this did not work for long as most of the shopkeepers realised that irresponsible dumping of wastes was much cheaper than actually paying for getting it managed. Jabir and his team quickly addressed the issue by offering other services along with waste management at the same cost.
The problem in our country is that there are no decentralised waste processing units and all the wastes are taken to one centralized unit causing huge labour charges and transportation costs. This also left us with a huge pile of garbage to tackle while 90% of the garbage is recyclable.
Jabir and his team now conduct waste literacy programmes in schools where they teach children about the different types of waste, its segregation, waste recycling, composting of wastes and so on. They conduct weddings and other functions on the ‘zero waste’ principle as well and offer recyclable plates made from ceramic, steel, etc. in these functions. The clients can choose from disposable plates/glasses made from areca nut or traditional banana leaves.
The post first appeared in KenFolios - Only interesting stories.