Leadership Vanguard helps TrashCon solve India's waste challenge

Founder/CEO Nivedha R.M tells Xynteo’s Nyla Khan how the programme is contributing to their growth

TrashCon, the recent Xynteo Exchange 2019 Impact Maker Award winner, envisions a future where garbage is history. The promising start-up is among several participants in Xynteo’s 2019 Leadership Vanguard acceleration programme.

This year, TrashCon has been advised by a team of Vanguard leaders from leading global companies such as Baker Hughes, Tata, HSBC, Mastercard, Unilever, EDP, ICRC and Shell, as it seeks to scale its innovative solution to India’s waste management problems.

Nyla Khan, who leads Xynteo’s Vanguard Low Carbon Cities track, catches up here with founder and CEO Nivedha R.M:

Why did you take part in the Leadership Vanguard acceleration programme?

The problem TrashCon is trying to solve is one of the biggest in the world: eliminating waste. We were really hoping that we would be selected to take part in the programme. We got involved with the Leadership Vanguard at the right moment – TrashCon was about to take off, but we had some issues we needed help to resolve.

My expectation for joining the Leadership Vanguard was that it will help our business scale and take us to the next level. The next level is: setting up our own end-to-end system; defining a sustainable business model: and ensuring that we create the impact we want to.

To have all these leaders that participate in the Vanguard programme guide us is every start-up’s dream. It helped us get on the right track.

How has participating in the Vanguard helped your business?

Each of the Vanguard leaders helped us fill the holes in our business model. For example, Shell supported with strategy, Tata helped us with testing and certifications of products. The leaders also helped us with the process of funding.

The Vanguard programme felt tailor-made for us. The kind of companies and leaders that were in the programme had a similar vision that matched with TrashCon, and they have become an extended part of our team. They advise us on issues related to technology, strategy, finance.

We got answers to many questions we otherwise would not have solved. Working with global companies such as Unilever, Shell, Mastercard, Tata, has given us an opening to a lot of new cities.  

Individually, the leaders bring their own expertise – for example, one of the Vanguard leaders has allocated their technical team to us, with top engineers, to respond to our questions. This has helped us resolve some issues that would otherwise have taken a long time. This kind of expertise is extremely expensive, and a start-up can’t afford it.

All these leaders have become a part of our team, and they are going to become integral in our next steps of the growth process. It’s been a very emotional journey. And there has been a lot of involvement from the Vanguard leaders in making our pitch and presentation better. We have now become way clearer about what exactly we want to do.

How do you think winning the Impact Maker Award will affect TrashCon, and how will you spend the money?

The biggest hindrance today is making the kind of products out of waste that the market wants. We are getting a lot of demands, but we are not able to reach out and fulfil them because we don’t have the machinery we need.

With the 50,000 Euros we received by winning the Impact Maker Award, we can buy a segregation unit that can process 10 tonnes of waste per day. We can also get a press, and other machineries for cleaning and drying – all of this would be going into the “wow boards” system, which will help set up the end-to-end system that we want to create.

Apart from the financial aspect, winning the Impact Maker Award boosted our confidence as a company. Being recognised at that kind of platform (as the Impact Maker Award and Xynteo Exchange), was very rewarding for the team. We have already won a few awards but winning one of this kind initiated a lot of confidence in each team member. Also, being there, meeting all these companies, exposure to the companies that were present, is something we would not have got if we weren’t a part of it.

To sum it up: we were really glad that we were took part in the Xynteo Leadership Vanguard programme!