World Vision estimates that over 600,000 homes were completely destroyed and more than 288,000 houses were irreparably damaged in the deadly Earthquake of 2015 that hit Nepal. When any natural disaster hits a nation, it majorly affects the poor. A house is not just a dream, but a basic need for yourself and your family. However, given how expensive it is to build a house, many marginalized and poor people who lost their homes in 2015 may never be able to afford another sustainable housing facility.
Or maybe not, when we have a bunch of young entrepreneurs and engineers and their start-up venture Aawas.
In our conversation with the co-founder of Awas, Ms. Bidhi, we learned that Aawas carries huge possibilities in Nepal that touches many Sustainable Development Goals.
Aawas recycles plastic waste to manufacture alternative bricks. Recycled alternative bricks, helps to construct housing at affordable cost, and protects the land and water habitats, by reducing land and water degradation.
Read our conversation with the team below:
1. Tell me about your journey of starting your venture? When did it start?
Post Earthquake of 2015, many families, including mine, lost their houses. Mainly in rural Nepal, people were forced to live in poor housing facilities, as they couldn’t afford reconstruction. I didn’t want to depend on donors to help the poor. Instead, I wanted to do something that would create an impact on the lives of people.
So, my team and I thought of creating an alternative construction material that would cost less and would also benefit the environment. Then we realized, that plastic wastes are increasing rapidly, causing environmental degradation. Our team of engineers came up with an idea to recycle waste plastic to make alternative eco-friendly bricks. With these alternative bricks, the cost of building a house can be reduced by up to 50 %. That is how we came up with Aawas.
2. Could you please explain your product to us?
We are basically recycling plastics to manufacture bricks. We use 60-40 ratio of plastic and sand, where sand works as an adhesive agent. Our product is resistant to heat to up to 1100 degree Celsius, and the bricks have a fireproof property for which 4 to 5 ml of chemical thermosetting plastic is used.
These blocks have similar strength as that of a normal blocks. Additionally, there are no health hazards. We can vary the shape, color, and texture of bricks as per desire. Furthermore, the blocks have a faster production rate compared to that of normal bricks.
3. What stage is the company in?
We have not constructed physical houses yet. However, everything is finalized; the prototype is ready and we have also carried out efficiency test. We are waiting for the recognition, networks, so that we can build houses.
4. How will Aawas benefit society?
With Aawas we are trying to solve environmental problems and uplift the living standards of people in rural Nepal. There are about 4-5 hundreds of brick companies that produce about 80-90 lakhs of bricks per year. If we can reduce the bricks production by 10% over 2 years, the environment will benefit as there will be an encouragement in the recycling of plastics.
Moreover, through our alternative construction materials, we are trying to fulfill people’s basic needs for shelter.
5. What is your current staff strength and how many people did you start with?
There are three people in the team – Amar, Santosh, and I. Amar is an industrial engineer and Santosh is a civil engineer.
6. How will you raise funds to start your company?
For now, we’re trying to build and recognition for our brand by participating in different entrepreneurial competitions and challenges. We’re also doing so to build a network before we can actually propose funds for our project.
7. What challenges do you foresee in the future?
We might face some challenges in product adaptation, due to culture, where people might hesitate to use recycled materials. Likewise, some governmental regulations could cause our constraints.
Moreover, we are concerned about the product’s impact on health.
8. How will you overcome your challenges?
We are participating in different competitions such as SBC, and Seedstar to get recognition and validity so that people can trust us. This way, we will get people to know about us and our products.
Our product’s composition of sand and plastic testing has not caused any challenge to health, at least in the prototype stage.
To build the network we will spread the word from our own circle, and also collaborate with like-minded organizations such as the Dhurmus – Suntali Foundation that is constructing houses for the marginalized people.
9. Who are your target customers?
Our targeted customers are the victims from the earthquake of 2015, so we are geographically targeting regions of Sindhupalchowk, Gorkha, and victims of other different natural calamities.
Our other customers will be marginalized people who are economically weak to build their houses. Likewise, we will include tiles in our product line to sell in urban areas.
10. What is the business model for self-sufficiency or profit-making model?
We will sell the bricks to the needy people in the most affordable cost We will manufacture floor tiles for commercial purposes, and sell them in the urban areas at a certain profit margin. The revenue generated from this product line will be injected to create bricks to build homes in the rural area. We will also sell decorative items made out of plastic wastages to export it to India and other Asian regions.
11. What are the key needs of your company?
As we want to be recognized as a company that recycles plastics, marketing the product is our most important need.
12. What is the future plan for your company?
We are planning to collaborate with like-minded organizations, like Doko Recyclers to collect plastic waste. If we are economically stable, we will be providing installment facilities to our rural customers, to make our payments.
13. Do you consider yourself as a Social Entrepreneur?
We have not become social entrepreneurs yet, but we are definitely in the journey to be one, as we are impacting society, by recycling plastic, and building sustainable and affordable housing.
14. How will you measure the impact of your product/service?
We will keep track of the houses that we have been built using our product. These numbers will reflect the impact we have created. Taking surveys from the customers to know whether they are happy with our product as well as cost, can be another way to measure impact.
Find out more about Aawas by contacting Bidhi at firstname.lastname@example.org
Transcribed by Sadikshya Shrestha and Edited by Shambhavi Singh