Where Wastepickers Become Entrepreneurs


Bengaluru’s Citizens have looked at wastepickers, popularly called ragpickers, with disdain. Even if some acknowledge their constribution to the city’s cleanliness they don’t think wastepickers have or need an identity of their own. Nalini Shekhar, Shekhar Prabhakar and Marwan Abubaker thought otherwise. They set up Hasiru Dala – green brigade in 2011. Today, they are a force to reckon with – they even won the 2016 Environment Award from the Karnataka government. The team brings rich experience in community service, management
and operations.

Apart from their regular chore of picking up waste that has some value, Hasiru Dala believes that wastepickers have a good potential to unleash their entrepreneurial potential if right amount of training and support are provided to them. It undertakes skill upgradation through multiple training programs.

The focus areas of training is upgradation of skills in management and technical competencies in organic waste management, mushroom farming, terrace gardening services, providing professional waste management service for large and small events, zero waste events service and drivers’ training for commercial vehicles. In collaboration with Jain University and Waste Wise Trust, Hasiru Dala has developed a Scrap Dealer Certification program, a first of its kind training program.

It also offers managerial support for Dry Waste Collection Centres (DWCC). The dry waste (paper, plastic, metal, glass) is brought to their respective DWCC in every ward.

The Bangalore Municipal body is in the process of setting up 180 such centres shortly. They have created 50 entrepreneurs who have employed 500 people.

All waste pickers have government issued ID card that includes Adhaar card. With
this they are able to access healthcare facilities and even loans for the expansion of their trade.


The objective of BUGURI, Hasiru Dala’s Community Library initiative, is to create a comfortable space for dialogue with children through the written and illustrated words.  It is a medium to bring the world to them, help them understand it in their way, and in the process, build their unique voice.

The library houses over 600 books in four different languages (English, Hindi, Kannada and Tamil). It caters to 200 kids and has weekly read aloud sessions, arts-based activities, game time, and theatre workshops.

Policy Advocacy

Hasiru Dala has been advocating inclusion of informal waste workers in solid waste management services at municipal and state level. Through Hasiru Dala’s effort more than 7000 wastepickers have been enumerated and given BBMP identity cards. In addition, Hasiru Dala advocates for inclusion of waste workers in various central and state government schemes in collaboration with Alliance of Indian Wastepickers. In 2017, Social Justice Department through National Safai Karmachari Development Corporation (NSKFDC) has included wastepickers as its beneficiaries to avail all the schemes set up by them

Passionate Founding Team

Nalini Shekar has had the experience of working with waste pickers in Pune before her venture in Bengaluru. She is a pioneer in advocating for wastepicker rights. She has trained hundreds of waste pickers, municipal officials and elected representatives on zero waste practices and integration of informal workers in solid waste management. Nalini lived in the US for a decade working on human trafficking and child labor issues.

Shekar Prabhakar, an IIT Madras and IIM Calcutta alumnus, has extensive experience in teaching and product and solutions development.  His mandate is to scale up Hasiru Dala’s operations.

As a co-founder I am responsible for management of the Waste Picker Franchise teams. I have twelve years experience across diverse sectors including agriculture, waste management and community radio services. I’m an active member of the Solid Waste Management Roundtable (SWMRT) in Bangalore that works to promote decentralized waste management in the city. I have co-authored a paper on the ‘Informal Waste Workers Contribution in Bangalore’, to determine their economic contribution to the city.

Future Prospects

Hasiru Dala decided to start providing waste management services to bulk generators by forming wastepickers franchises for providing waste management service, what started as a small demonstration project with 4 apartments reached 60 by end of 2015, and we kept growing. The demand for services came just with word of mouth. It was time to scale up it was very difficult to bring in business and operations rigor as a non- profit so, Hasiru Dala Innovations Private limited was initiated in 2015.

From then on, the company has grown to over 200 clients servicing over 175 residential complexes covering over 22000 households.  The business has spawned 16 waste picker entrepreneurs and created over 85 jobs with the franchisees till Feb 2017.

To operate DWCC, we trained wastepickers and small waste traders to become entrepreneurs to manage the Dry Waste Collection Center. Today the city of Bangalore sees model as most sustainable method of managing its source segregated waste and given all their centers (180) to give DWCC operations only wastepickers.

On 30th June 2017, the Bangalore city council has passed resolution. When completely implemented will have 198 entrepreneurs with a potential of hiring 2000 wastepickers to sort, grade and convert dry waste into tradable commodities. Hasiru Dala supports more than
40 centers.

We create many unique, creative space for citizens to interact with wastepickers that has created positive image of wastepickers in the city.

Nalini Shekhar says: “Clean Bengaluru can be achieved when waste is managed beyond just visual cleanliness. Integration of the workers from the informal waste economy, appropriate space and respect for sanitary workers of the city. Circular economy principles, space for recycling is enhanced by the state.

http://www.hasirudala.in; www.wastenarratives.com

By Marwan Abubaker

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  1. I cannot express the happiness that I feel as I read this article. Each member of Hasiru Dala is really a ‘force to reckon with’. Thanks to Ms. Nalini who has organized Hasiru Dala and given people an identity. Kudos to the good work that the team is doing.


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