E Waste Social won WEConnect International’s 2022 Rise to the Challenge Supply Chain/Healthcare Award sponsored by Organon.
Iram Maimua knows that waste is an untapped and underutilized resource that can generate energy for the future—a necessity in a world with increasing population and depleting resources.
So, in 2019, she founded E Waste Social as a business-to-business auction platform that connects companies that have waste with registered recyclers and refurbishes across India. Based in Bangalore, the online platform functions as a one-stop solution for corporates, industries and individuals to buy and sell waste inventories.
Iram came up with the idea after having witnessed the significant waste involved in the ongoing mass purchasing and disposing of computers when she worked as director of operations at an educational institution. Her goal was to incorporate a truly beneficial service to the recycling industry via responsible waste aggregation, carbon footprint reduction and value chain improvements.
Not only has Iram achieved this goal, she did so in a male-dominated industry of waste management. She encourages other women in India and around the world to push back on professional gender norms.
“Rather than focusing on the traditional female industries, women need to start thinking differently and creatively about other sectors, identifying problems and coming up with solutions—solutions that will change the world,” says Iram.
What also sets Iram’s business apart is the lack of middlemen. Many of the difficulties that she noticed in her previous job were all the procedural hoops and management approvals that were necessary to recycle on a large scale. Through her auction platform, users bypass those barriers.
Today, E Waste Social is the only total waste management solution in India that builds recyclers and refurbishers into its business model as partners rather than rivals. This model has been so successful that it’s expanded from just focusing on electronic waste to now include electric vehicles, medical devices, household appliances, textiles and more. By the end of this year, Iram expects that a million tons of material will have been recycled through her platform.
The journey hasn’t always been easy though. When she first started, many of those in the recycling industry—particularly men—had their reservations, telling Iram she wouldn’t last in the business for more than six months. As a result, she struggled to raise sufficient capital to fund her idea, but she persevered. Today, those same professionals who doubted her are using her platform to buy waste, dealing with her mostly female team.
“If you believe your concept is good, raise debt and work on it; do not wait for the capital to come in,” she advises other female entrepreneurs.
Registering with WEConnect International as a woman-owned business also offers opportunities: In 2020, Iram was invited to the Global Business Forum in Dubai, where E Waste Social gained a lot of international exposure. She’s grateful for the opportunity to present her company and build new connections and, as a result, will soon be expanding into the Middle East.
But, even with big goals on her mind she remembers to also celebrate the small victories. “The biggest indicator of success is when an auction deal in a remote region of India occurs via our platform,” Iram explains. “It can be a small monetary amount, but it’s a big win to know that our reach is expanding beyond just cities.”
With each transaction completed on her platform, Iram is one step closer to her vision of everything that is recyclable is recycled and not simply thrown out.
“Waste is a global issue and recycling is a must,” Iram emphasizes. “We can improve the ecosystem and processes for resource optimization and a circular economy with the correct strategic partnerships and collaboration.”