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Where the grass is greener

Young entrepreneurs are spurred by the opportunity to innovate. NextGen is working on a plan to power telecom towers through waste-to-energy plants. Kamayani Singh reports.

entertainment Updated: Jun 06, 2011 11:23 IST
Kamayani Singh
Kamayani Singh
Hindustan Times

Richa Bajpai and Abhishek Humbad were 21-years-old when they refused lucrative job offers after their engineering degree. Instead, the Bangalore-based duo decided to become entrepreneurs, and that too not in one of the more ‘fashionable’ industries. They ventured into renewable energy and sustainability.

They founded NextGen in 2008 and entered the ‘green consulting’ space with nothing more than two laptops on which they made business plans for companies on how to reduce their carbon footprints.

Then they entered the waste-to-energy business, too, by setting up biogas plants for their clients. In just three years, NextGen has more than 20 clients including the Reserve Bank, ICICI, Intel, Infosys and the UB Group.

Humbad and Bajpai aren’t the only youngsters to have jumped on the green entrepreneurship bandwagon. More and more young Indians are chucking up conventional careers for the business of sustainability.

And why not? According to German consultants Roland Berger, the global market for environmental products and services, currently estimated at $1,370 billion, could double to $2,740 billion by 2020. By 2025, India could create more than a million jobs in biomass gasification, claims the US-based Woods Hole Research Center.

“We have a turnover of Rs 1.5 crore, have offices in Bangalore and Mumbai, and are setting up an office in Delhi,” says Humbad, 24, who has also just finished his MBA from IIM Bangalore.

The grass is so ‘green’ right now that even the simplest of ideas are clicking.

“I set up segregated bins for papers at the offices of my clients, usually MNCs,” says Nitin Goel, 26, who runs GreenOBin in Gurgaon.

“For the paper they dispose the clients get points, which they can redeem by taking stationary made from recycled paper.”

In two years, GreenOBin has more than 35 clients in and around Delhi and is about to break-even the initial investment of Rs 5 lakh.

Students have taken note of the opportunity.

“I am looking at a career in environment management and entrepreneurship — not only because I am passionate about it, but also because the field offers unlimited and unprecedented opportunities right now,” says Abhilash BN, 21, a final-year BTech student at IIT Kharagpur.

Last year Abhilash and three classmates started a campus sustainability network, which wants to turn the campus greener by introducing features such as biogas plants, pedal taps, composting, modified toilet flushes and rainwater harvesting.

However, being a green entrepreneur isn’t always easy. India is notoriously difficult to start a business in. But Bajpai claims there’s more support now.

“In the last three years I’ve seen more angel investors and venture capitalists come to India,” she says.

“Our start-up was incubated at IIM Bangalore and we use the labs at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, for our research.”

“My biggest challenge has been to recruit talented and committed people,” says Bajpai.

“Most youngsters still want instant gratification and huge pay packages, but entrepreneurship requires patience.”

Goel sees the lack of public awareness on environmental issues as the toughest bottleneck.

“The silver lining is that corporate India is waking up to sustainability.”

Young entrepreneurs are spurred also by the opportunity to innovate. NextGen is working on a plan to power telecom towers in rural India through small waste-to-energy plants and the IIT Kharagpur group hopes to implement their sustainability model on a city one day.

"I really believe the coming decade in India is going to be about youth entrepreneurship and there is no better field to do that in than sustainability and renewable energy," says Bajpai.



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