Reverse vending machine for all your recycling needs

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Joseph Shrestha is the founder of J.S. Enterprises. His most recent endeavor is the development of vending machines that accept recyclables and produce new products as well as dispense rewards for your contribution. His first prototype for this machine is completed now with the help of the National Innovation Center. He explains to us the simplicity of the idea and how it could make it easier for people to dispose of recyclable trash if they knew there was a specific spot to discard it and potentially get a new product or rewards in return. Continue reading to find out more about his business and his ideas on entrepreneurship. 

reverse-vending-machine

1. Could you give us a general introduction to yourself and your organization?
I started this company about a year ago after I returned from Australia. I completed my engineering degree in 2006 after which I traveled to the U.S., Australia, and Singapore. I also worked in India for a few years but now I’ve settled down in Nepal to start this company, J.S. Enterprises. While I was working in India, I worked at a similar company that produced vending machines. I wanted to know if these vending machines would do well here in Nepal. However, when we looked into importing those machines the taxes were quite high, so we considered the idea of building them here. We spoke to people at the National Innovation Center (NIC) and that’s where it all began. The NIC, run by Mahabir Pun, is a non-profit that funds a lot of innovative ideas in Nepal. They have their own engineers and equipment and help with research for start-ups.

We have successfully designed and manufactured vending machines that collects recyclable materials, mainly recyclable plastics, and aluminum cans. When you put an object into the machine it dispenses a coupon, which gives incentive to people to continue doing so. The machine gives you discount coupons for companies that are affiliated with us so we’ve been trying to collaborate with business houses who might be interested in this as a Corporate Social Responsibility project for them. What these machines will do is compact the recyclables and possibly create a new product such as ashtrays, dustbins, etc. We even did a pilot project at the Sagarmatha bazar in Thamel and got a very good response. We’re planning to place these machines in areas like malls and airports. So far, we have got the permission and even collaborated with few business houses. We were supposed to execute this on Baisakh 10 but because of the lockdown, this has been postponed. 

2. Is your company working on any other projects too?
My family background is in business, we have been involved with the import and export of garments and handicrafts. We also import Korean products, mostly makeup products and after having done that for the past couple of years I’m involved in this now. 

3. How big is your company right now?
At this point, there are 4 of us working together. We’ve all come back after completing our studies and working abroad. We are all settled here now and are hoping to do something positive in Nepal. My wife is supporting me with the business as well. 

4. What got you interested in this idea?
While I was working on a similar concept in India, it sounded like a great idea and I figured it would do well in Nepal. We don’t even have a vending machine here. I spoke to some of my family members because of their expertise in imports and exports and found that bringing the machines to Nepal from India would be very expensive due to the cost of transport and taxes. We figured it would be more profitable to manufacture them here so we started searching for engineers to help us manufacture the machine but no one was readily available. Finally, Mahabir Pun at the NIC helped us out. It is a 40-year-old technology, so it is well understood. We’re changing it a little bit to keep the technology simple and easy to use. It will be able to accept plastic, aluminum, and possibly glass in the near future as well. We have been working on this project for a year now, it is a new technology here. We will need government support as well because they have to be placed in public spaces. Usually, there aren’t designated places to throw your trash even if you do have knowledge about recycling. So we’re trying to make it readily available in public areas.

5. What is your revenue model for the business?
We plan on manufacturing the vending machines, selling them to the government and managing operations and maintenance. We will also have space on the machines for advertising, which is an additional revenue source. 

6. What are the major challenges for your organization?
The major challenge for us is simply getting the government and the business houses on board. We have been participating in a few contests and gaining exposure because we need a lot of support to implement these ideas that are relatively new in Nepal. 

We want to have 50-200 machines all throughout Nepal, but vandalism could also be an issue, so we need to make sure the machines are insured. In India, you get paid back for your recyclables through Paytm. Some machines even pay you back in cash which would increase the likelihood of vandalism. We’re trying to start with discount coupons but eventually, we’d like to develop an app that gives you discount codes and possibly even cash. Right now we’re not looking for investors but for people to buy the product as well as banks and business houses who would want to advertise on it as a CSR product.

7. What are your future plans?
Since we had to postpone our launch event because of the lockdown, we’ll be doing it right after the lockdown. That’s the nearest future for our plan. Besides that, we’re hoping to develop machines that accept glass bottles too. Right now we’re looking for software developers, electronics engineers, and back-end developers. Once we have customers we’ll start looking for more professionals. We’d also be happy to collaborate with other waste management organizations, and even sell them the machines if it’s feasible. 

8. How was your experience at the UYC bootcamp?
Actually I wasn’t able to attend all the sessions because my team and I were busy working with NIC to fix ventilators at seven different hospitals. The two sessions I attended were on Digital Marketing and Sustainability, which were very helpful to take my idea further.

9. How will you take your idea further if you win the seed fund from UYC?
Since we haven’t touched on marketing for our business, we’ll be going ahead with that. Plus, we’ll also be using it to advance and modify our machine which needs more updates.

10. What are your thoughts on entrepreneurship?
I think most people have to become entrepreneurs in Nepal otherwise you have to pack up your bags and leave. Several people have really inspiring ideas and businesses to solve problems in Nepal through entrepreneurship. It’s a great way to solve problems. For younger people who are just getting into this field, I’d advise them to make as many mistakes as you can now and learn from them, especially when you are developing your product or service. You might make a lot of mistakes but will eventually succeed. I personally love the idea of entrepreneurship because I hate 9 to 5 jobs, I’ve never really enjoyed working for someone else. I have my own way of working and I’m happy with what I’m doing now. 

For more information about Reverse Vending Machine, connect with Joseph Shrestha at jsresearch123@gmail.com.

Interviewed and article by Jyotika Shah.
Edited and updated by Yangzum Lama.