Published: 03rd July 2019
This start-up that deals with floral waste employs underprivileged women from Gundlapochampally
Though Maya Vivek was born in Gulbarga, Karnataka, she has been in Hyderabad for ten years now. She quit her job in September last year and then, the duo started Holy Waste
There are so many boxes that Holy Waste ticks — they are a start-up, they help manage waste, they have engaged underprivileged women to work with them and they sell products that are sustainable and eco-friendly! So we found ourselves texting Minal Dalmia one evening for an interview and in the next ten minutes, we were laughing about how start-ups often need to go out of their way and, sometimes, beyond to mark their space in the very busy and very crowded world of entrepreneurship. But it's probably their will to go above and beyond their call of duty that has put them on the fast track to success. Minal and Maya Vivek, co-conspirator and co-founder of Holy Waste, did not have to go through the trouble of using used flowers from temples, but they did. They did not have to engage women from Gundlapochampally to use the flowers to make products, but they did. And that is why we see the mark of true entrepreneurship in the duo.
The estimated amount of waste Hyderabad generates every day is 7,000 mt
Pedaling back to the start, the two ladies met through their children, who are in the same class, and the cause that further united them was the will to do something for the greater good. During November last year, after shuffling through ideas like fridge covers and goodwill stores (which they gave a shot), a friend and avid gardener suggested that they do something with floral waste — those withered flowers left behind after their brightness and fragrance have expired. "And we finally had our first breakthrough!" exclaims Minal. And what better place to start than the flowers discarded by temples?
Best team: The duo Minal Dalmia and Maya Vivek | (Pic: Vinay Madapu)
But used flowers from temples? However did they manage to procure them, we wondered out loud. "A friend knew the head of Sri Subrahmanyaswamy Temple in Skandagiri so it clicked easily," says Minal. The 40-year-old also shares that it's quite easy, when it comes to procuring, to convince the heads as they are quite open to the idea, "Temples pay Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation to collect their waste and flowers comprise of 80% of their waste. So it helps their case as well when we take care of the used flowers," explains Minal, who was born in Kolkata but pursued her education here, hence considers herself a pakka Hyderabadi. The real challenge though was convincing those who directly handle the waste and segregate it. But they overcame this with time and today, they procure floral waste from as many as nine temples. After registering their company under the name Oorvi Sustainable Concepts, the operations of Holy Waste officially began.
Their husbands Umesh Dalmia and Vivek Kannan also pitched in when the duo was piloting their products
Now, procuring used flowers was just half the job, engaging the women of Gundlapochampally, which is about an hour from the main city of Hyderabad, was the other half. "Agarbatti and soaps are already being manufactured by machines too, but that's taking away the employment from those who need it. Also, the way some of the women around us, like our domestic help and ayyas in school, are being treated is just plain sad. So we wanted to offer them a more dignified job. And floral waste management is comparatively easier," she explains. Luckily, for the duo, the Sarpanch of Gundlapochampally lent his support and even offered their community hall from where Holy Waste started their operations. "This gesture of his helped us win the trust of families and then, women started joining us," Minal explains. These women started segregating and making products like incense sticks, soaps and even compost. The timings are from 10 am to 4 pm, keeping in mind their convenience as this is probably when children are in schools and husbands are at work. Currently, they have employed six women, including a college dropout. They also have onboard two men who help them bring the floral waste from the temple. Just this year, they moved to a facility of their own and now, occupy a flat, terrace and a few rooms of an apartment in the same area.
Work on it: Heaps of floral waste waiting to be put to good use | (Pic: Vinay Madapu)
They even added their own touch to the soaps by packing them in pouches stitched from old and traditional handloom sarees. "We started by offering the products to close friends and relatives, then slowly, started putting up stalls at Saptaparni and Lamakaan. More than the products, we found that people were fascinated with the way we came up with these products," she explains. They even add a handwritten note on handmade paper with every product they hand out. How sweet!
The amount of floral waste Holy Waste is keeping out of landfills and lakes every day is a humble 200 mt
All their care and efforts have led to them being incubated at a-IDEA (Association for Innovation Development of Entrepreneurship in Agriculture) at ICAR-National Academy of Agricultural Research Management, Hyderabad. The good folks at the centre help Holy Waste with the minutest of details, like getting just the right butter paper which will lock the fragrance and freshness of the soaps and incense sticks. The future for them is obviously about going digital as they plan on starting a website where people can place their orders online. Another goal is dealing with as much of the city's floral waste as they can. "I want people to associate us with flowers and think of Holy Waste whenever they look at them," says Minal, hopeful.
Behind the scenes
Meet two women who work for Holy Waste:
First working at an LED company, Manohara currently works with Holy Waste and is accompanied by her one-year-old. Her husband continues to work for the LED company and with her additional income, they are planning to purchase a refrigerator and send their child to a good school. "I think she likes the work here and how she is treated," says Minal who also informs that Manohara was their first employee
The duo needed someone who could keep a record of how much waste was collected, how long the women are working and so on. After completing her plus two, Monica wanted to study further, but circumstances dictated that she couldn't. When the duo asked her to join the team, she was hesitant at first but joined for two months. Then she just stuck on. "Now she is pursuing an open degree," informs Minal with a smile
Full focus: Women working with floral waste | (Pic: Vinay Madapu)
These are the products that Holy Waste produces:
These Sodium Laureth Sulfate, charcoal and Paraben-free soaps have the goodness of flower extracts, naturally infused oils sourced from flowers and cold pressed vegetable oils. Tulsi and rose are already quite popular with their clientele, we hear
Their hand-rolled incense sticks, called Vimoksh, have no synthetic fragrance or artificial colours. They even give out lesser smoke when compared to regular incense sticks and burn for about 45 minutes
Their compost, or Bhoomija, usually takes 45-60 days to make and is enriched with cow dung and bio-enzymes. Minal is already a pro at aerobic composting, which she has been carrying out at home with kitchen waste
The other temples they collect waste from are Sri Ujjaini Mahakali Devasthanam in Secunderabad, Tadbund Hanuman Temple in Sikh Village, Ayyappa Swamy Temple near Somajiguda and many others
For more on them, check out oorvi.org