From trash to treasure

Written by Sudhir Chowdhary | Updated: Feb 10 2014, 19:42pm hrs
Millions of mobile phones, laptops, tablets, televisions, refrigerators and other electronic equipment are sold in India every yearthousands among them are shipped back to the manufacturers because they are defective and get damaged in their journey from the factory to the retail stores. A good number of products purchased online are also returned by the customer incase there is a functional defect, missing accessory etc. Outdated products too make up a major chunk of the reverse journey.

Ever wondered what happens to such unused inventory No prizes for guessing, but a large volume of the discarded yet unused items, especially the big ones, end up at scrap dealers shops and are dismantled mercilessly. Only those parts that are somewhat useful are segregated from the rest of the electronic junk and recycled; the e-waste awaits an acidic death in a nearby landfill!

Hitendra Chaturvedi, a smart

entrepreneur is trying to help the planet in his own way by ensuring that the hazardous toxin spewing e-waste and non-recyclable plastic stays out of the landfills. His five-year old venture, located in a south Delhi colony abutting the Delhi-Gurgaon metro line, deals in refurbished products and has made a successful business out of it. GreenDust, as his start-up is called, collects all customer-returned and factory seconds products, and restores them to like-new condition. If theres a functional defect, it is rectified. The refurbished product lineup comprises of mobile phones, laptops, desktops, cameras, home & kitchen appliances, healthcare and even gaming devices. These are then sold to the customer via company stores as well as its website

Every refurbished factory seconds product is restored to its exact original factory specification. Only our price is almost halved, says the GreenDust founder & CEO. We adopt orphans, make them healthy and find them a home. It is a sustainable business model that is green and profitable. Just to give you a sample on whats on offer, a refurbished LG home theatre system is available at R11,915 compared to its market price of R16,990, a Philips toaster will carry a retail tag of R4,875 compared to its original price of R8,495, a Whirlpool washing machine will sell for R21,340 instead of its market price of R28,000, and so on and so on.

I have tried to keep my business model simple, says Chaturvedi. Take the rejected and returned products from the retailer as well as end-customer, refurbish them, provide a years warranty from our side, and finally sell them as factory seconds through our brand, GreenDust. Not only do we give our customers a unique shopping opportunity, but also provide the manufacturers, distributors and retailers an alternate organised sales channel where they can be rest

assured that the returned/factory seconds products will not cannibalise their new product sales.

A unique concept

GreenDust was incorporated in 2008 at the height of recession. It is a brand by Reverse Logistics Company (RLC) that is essentially a comprehensive reverse supply chain company. Before launching RLC, Chaturvedi worked with Microsofts OEM business in India and a US based reverse logistics company, Newgistics. With GreenDust, he has pioneered a unique business model in an otherwise disorganised sector to provide cost effective products to value conscious customers through a hybrid offline and online model by utilising reverse logistics as a sourcing engine. The challenge was to create a channel for the products that are returned annually, sell them for 25-30% off the current market price, and still leave a decent earning margin, he says.

Every year, the value of all products returned to the manufacturers stands at a staggering $15 billion. Consumer electronic products worth $5 billion are returned to the manufacturers each year and they sit idle at the warehouses since few companies have heard of reverse logistics. Chaturvedi saw this as an ideal business opportunity. His venture creates a significant value for retailers, OEMs, and e-tailers by efficiently managing their reverse logistics. It also provides value conscious Indian customers a smarter alternative to buying new products.

A quick look at how the GreenDust business model works. Company employees inspect and collect rejected/defective/unsold/returned products from OEMs, retailers and customers. Technicians at the companys 14-odd value added centres perform necessary repairs and refurbish the defective products to ensure full functionality using genuine spare parts from OEMs. Products that cannot be repaired are set aside as e-waste and disposed off in an environment friendly manner. GreenDust personnel undertake a 50-point quality check to ensure products are restored to like-new condition. These are then labeled with non-removable GreenDust Certified Refurbished stickers and dispatched to stores and listed on the company website for consumers to buy. On purchase of the product, the company activates a one year warranty that is supported by pan-India after sales services network.

Most important, our DNA is that of reduce, reuse, repair, recycle and resell, stresses Chaturvedi. By bringing them back to life from the verge of being scrapped and providing them a new home, we have decreased the amount of pollutants that would gone into the environment. Today, GreenDust sells the refurbished products of brands like Sony, Haier, Electrolux, Samsung, LG, Videocon, Panasonic, Phillips, HTC, Toshiba etc.

GreenDust has made significant investment in systems, people, infrastructure and processes. Starting with a capital of R60 lakh in 2008, the company had a turnover of R1 crore in the first year of operations and expects to touch a turnover of $100 million during the current financial year. We aspire to be a $1 billion firm in the next two to three years, says Chaturvedi. The company has over 170 retail stores and 14 value added centres placed strategically in tier- 1 & tier- 2 cities. It is having aggressive expansion plans to increase its foothold in the major cities to increase the sales of the products.

Making money out of defective products can be lucrative too!