Paperman is an NGO that has been campaigning for efficient waste management since 2010. They do this by creating an organised system of kabadiwalas (people who collect the scrap from households) across the city, training them, and acting as a middle-point between customers looking to recycle and the recyclers. When the customers call Paperman hotline or register online, the kabadiwala closest to their house calls them within 48 hours. They go and collect the scraps for some money. Paperman, in turn, charges the kabadiwala 5 percent of the total value of each transaction as revenues.
Mathew Jose is a social entrepreneur, who is championing the cause of recycling by his social venture called Paperman. This agency is almost making a paper revolution in Chennai, by connecting over 280 local scrap dealers to 3,500 households to ensure scrap is collected, weighed and paid. Paperman charges the kabadiwala 5 percent of the total value of each transaction as revenues. They have also connected NGO’s to people who are willing to donate papers and plastics. The NGO’s, in turn, utilizes this to raise funds by selling them.
Jose shares his experience and ideas with The Logical Indian in an exclusive interview.
Is your venture all about recycling papers?
Paperman is not only about papers. It also involves the lives of those, whom we call “Kabadiwalas”, who collect old papers and plastic scrap from households. We want a Kabadiwala to be called a paperman who goes from house to house and collect papers. They are playing a key role in the society for waste management by collecting papers. Our main goal is to strengthen the networks of Kabadiwalas and creating more visibility and connecting them with people.
How did you come about with this plan?
After my graduation, I was working with my mentor MB Nirmal at ExNoRa (Excellent Novel Radical) International. There I learnt about the environment and how can we help in protecting our environment. Then the idea of recycling came to my mind. Recycling is undoubtedly one of the best ways to help the environment. I was interested in paper recycling. So, that’s how the idea came to my mind. And thus, Paperman was born in 2010.
How are different NGOs benefitting from Paperman?
Through Paperman, we have introduced trash funding system, wherein customers can donate their papers and plastic to an NGO of their choice, instead of selling it. And NGOs use these trash to raise funds for their cause, it can be about child mortality or even about HIV.
What are your future plans?
Right now, our model is working only in Chennai. We are planning to go at a national level with our project. This project can be really resourceful for the country and I hope it will do well. Soon we are planning to launch in Hyderabad and Bangalore. We try to connect kabadiwalas to an industry that needs waste products for recycling.
How does it feel to be recognized by Forbes as 30 under 30?
Well, it was a happy moment for me, because gaining such a recognition gave the whole idea of Paperman a big support. People started to know about it. More people will come forward to help and it will benefit all. I am from Kerala, I came to Tamil Nadu from and had to work on my own to build this concept. I think, now it will be easy to reach out to people. However, my work is more important than the recognitions that come along.
Any message you would like to share to the people to would want to work as social entrepreneurs?
Social entrepreneurship is a big thing these days. Any youth can come up with great ideas that will help to transform societies. But you have to take risks and struggle a lot. You can’t expect to work at a comfortable place and get a good pay initially if you want to achieve something like this. Only determination to make a better tomorrow, will be able to help you. Forget about your payments, forget about holidays, work hard for anything that matters to you.