KrAsia, 18 January 2021
Hyderabad-based serial entrepreneur Abhay Deshpande likes to say he has always ventured into sectors before they become the next hot thing.
In 1998, Deshpande started what might have been India’s first e-commerce website, Malamall.com, which was essentially an online marketplace for ethnic wear brands. With a dash of pride, Deshpande told KrASIA, the market was not ready for the site. Even though Malamall didn’t do well, he learned a lot from running the business.
His next startup, formed in 2007, was a software-as-a-service company called Martjack, which he again claimed was one of the first homegrown SaaS companies in India. Deshpande said Martjack worked with companies like Pizza Hut, Walmart, and Future Group. Eight years later, he sold it to Capillary Technologies.
Afterwards, Deshpande got into venture capital investment. This was a time when tech startups were the talk of the town. VC firms from the United States and China were making investments in the country. However, the entrepreneur-turned-investor was not comfortable in his role as a VC. Deshpande still had at least one startup in him and didn’t yet want to hang up his boots as someone who starts and runs a business.
Deshpande did some research and decided that waste management, an industry estimated to be worth USD 14 billion in India by 2025, could be the next big thing for him.
Along with his former associates Abhishek Deshpande and Anirudha Jalan, Deshpande started Recykal in 2017, a waste collection company that works with ragpickers who collect waste from residential houses and deposit refuse at recycling centers. To streamline the process, Recykal launched an app called Uzed where individuals can schedule waste pickups.
However, the unit economics for Uzed weren’t sound. “Households are not massive waste generators on a daily basis and the amount of waste we were collecting wasn’t enough for recyclers,” said Deshpande, founder and CEO of Recykal.