When it comes to consumer technology, today’s state-of-the-art is inexorably destined to be tomorrow’s e-waste.
India has more than 900 million mobile phones in use today, and over 100 million PCs, and they’re all headed to an informal e-waste recycler or a landfill at the end of their product lifecycle, damaging the environment in ways we are already beginning to experience--the excess lead in our food supply is just the tip of a nightmarish iceberg.
The average lifespan of a mobile phone in India is 8 years, according to a recent study on mobile phone usage. But that’s a skewed figure that doesn’t really track usage. Consumers living in metros upgrade their phones more than once a year.
Karma Recycling, a firm founded in 2013, is extending the reuse cycle of these smartphones. They buy used gadgets from Tier 1 cities and sell them to consumers in tier 3 to tier 7 cities in India. Nearly 1.2 lakh quotations have been made on the site so far. The site has purchased 17,000 devices this year -- 95 percent of these have been reused and resold, said Akshat Ghiya, co-founder and director, speaking to HuffPost India.
“Everyone has two or three mobile phones lying in their drawer, People who want to dispose of their old devices don’t do so because they haven’t found a convenient way to do so,” said Ghiya. Traditional online channels like eBay and OLX are stressful. “There’s a lot of listing work, you have to reply to around 20 to 30 people and then there’s meeting up with them, counter-party risks, there’s cash transaction that happens, it’s quite a lot of hassle.”
The firm accepts over 3,000 models of smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Ghiya reckons that an average person in Gurgaon and Noida holds on to his phone for 12 to 14 months. “Everyone wants the latest, but these devices have been designed to last for four or five years. They just lock it up in their drawer. They’re attached to it and don’t want to sell it, plus selling it such a hassle, so why go do it? We’re trying to switch that mindset that your device can be useful to someone else, we’ll pay you good value for it, and pick it up from your doorstep. Now let’s give these devices to people who need them. Instead of fuelling demand for more devices which will consume more of the planet’s resources,” he said.
Karma Recyling is focused on collection and segregation, and is a government-authorised collector and segregator of electronic waste, which ensures your e-waste is safely and responsibly recycled. Karma Recycling works with factories that have government authorisation to use clean technology to break down old electronics.
Their household service works in over 24 cities in India. The firm also collects electronics through buyback and take back programs, and is currently working with retailers such as Sangeeta Mobiles, authorised Apple stores and Future Group, with a total reach of over 150 stores. “We power the entire exchange. In any condition, through our training and cloud-based interface, we are able to value this device and give you in-store credit in exchange for your device.” Ghiya said.
Karma recycling has 15 employees, and is partly backed by SafeExpress, a logistics provider. It is currently backed by four promoters, and is expecting to raise a round of VC funding soon.