The art of waste management with Nirmala Kandalgaonkar

She was a social worker for whom becoming an entrepreneur was a natural extension of that work. At 50 years of age, Nirmala Kandalgaonkar, from the small village of  Mhalkoli in Maharashtra, founded Vivam Agrotech, now known as Vivam Solid Waste Management Pvt. Ltd,  in 2001. The Company operates in the field of solid waste management by providing consultancy along with technology solutions such as vermicomposting, biogas and mechanical & bacterial composting, and power generation from biodegradable waste. #WorldEnvironmentDay

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The journey from a housewife to entrepreneur was not trouble-free. But her efforts have paid off and today she has got recognition from various institutions such as the TiE Stree Shakti Woman Entrepreneur of the year award in 2009. SheThePeople.TV caught up with this lady who is doing her bit for the environment to find out what makes her tick.

Entrepreneurship emerged out of the need to help farmers

Having been around in a small village, facing poverty taught me how to bring changes in the society. I knew very well that the kind of problems people in the remote areas face on a daily basis can only be changed through a social service organization. The overall rural set‐up was more use of pesticides and chemicals and a total apathy to the Mother Earth. My background in science and social work helped me a lot. So, after my graduation in Biology, I joined an organisation, Rashtriya Seva Samiti as a volunteer in many villages. Then and there, I reached a decision to undertake more constructive ideas for the rural people.

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My family moved to Aurangabad due to my husband’s work and I became closer to the villagers. Gradually, I understood the lifestyle and daily concerns of the farmers.  I saw that the farmers had to spend a lot of money for procurement of seeds and chemical fertilisers. I started visiting nearby villages to develop awareness on various social issues. I decided to help them out through vermicomposting. I learned every inch of earthworms’ cycle. Joining in exhibitions and giving demonstrations of making organic manure, slowly I got so much involved into this.

First I thought of concentrating to make a business which requires less capital and less technology, no education and age limit, less cost raw-material and the nearby market. This is how a new idea can be implemented over the old one. Gradually, the villagers realised, that this organic manure, will make their soil rich and maintain the ecological balance and produce of organic crop will bring back them more money.

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Nirmala at the installation of Vermicompost Unit at Ghrushneshwar Temple

Our mission is to furnish every village with eco-friendly projects

The biggest challenge is the lack of waste management awareness

To arrange funding is most challenging part. It is difficult to get funding for waste management projects. Creating awareness in the society is the second biggest challenge in this field. People are not aware in waste management. Still we try to fix involve educational institutions, corporations, housing societies, temples, hostels, hotels. Through our ‘Save our Rivers’ NGO we are also into river cleaning and waste water recycling with cost-saving plans, which helps us in widening our scope.

Mainly we work with Municipal councils. We file tenders regarding waste management. As per tender conditions we complete the projects. There are projects coming from industries, individuals and others.

Protecting the environment is the objective

My objective is very clear- Environment protection; clean India-clean city-clean village. It is very realistic and most important also. There are hurdles but it is achievable. When I started my work in this field 15 years back nobody was even thinking on this subject. But now at least everybody is discussing. I am confident that in near future everybody will join in this work. Our mission is to furnish every village with eco-friendly projects.

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Innovation is a necessity for business

Innovation in the field of waste management and updated knowledge in this field is necessary. For any business to expand you need to be able to grab the right ideas at the right time and act on them. Shedding tears and showing sympathy will not solve any problem. So your efforts need to be overhauled to solve one’s life hiccups and empower them.

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Nirmala receiving the Chankya Award from Vittal Kamat and Rajshree Birla

Every woman should follow her own dreams and do something beyond household duties

Family as the biggest source of inspiration and strength

My mother and older brother influenced me the most. My mother, a school teacher, was very careful about cleanliness and waste management in our home and surroundings. My older brother is an entrepreneur. He started with small scale industry and became an industrialist in the city. Both of them influenced me and when I started my own company, and I also had the full support of my husband, Shree Girish Kandalgaokar. He is an engineer by profession and that brings me technical support into Vivam.

Since I belonged to a middle class family, funding had been a big problem during the initial days of Vivam Agrotech. I ventured into this business at the unusual age of 50, that too, with a capital investment of Rs 50,000. The research of the business happened at the terrace flat at Aurangabad. By and by the business is expanding and projects have been started in six other states. Both my sons, Nilesh and Kaivalya help me in the business. My daughter, Neha has also left her job and joined Vivam Group.

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The milestones

I am the first woman to generate Power by waste in India. I started my waste to power project in 2008 at Chiplun, Dist Ratnagiri. This is my greatest achievement so far. Today, Vivam Agrotech is a solid waste management consultant to 125 municipalities and which works for farmers to help them building self-sustenance. Power generation from biogas-based projects also brought sustainable growth. I have taken effort in changing the traditional method of making ‘khad’, modified the whole process and made it user-friendly.

I feel hard work is most important reason of my success.  I would say believing in inner strength and making quick decisions will  bring success your way. Every woman should follow her own dreams and do something beyond household duties.

A word of advice for women entrepreneurs

Stand up and walk every time whenever you fall. Do not stop working even though there are difficulties in your way. Always keep learning from experiences, people around you. This will help you get going.

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