The Problem: According to government estimates, homes generate 75% of all organic waste produced in urban India. Daily Dump aims to manage this waste right where it is generated – within families. Daily Dump, has brought together design thinking, traditional pottery and the science of composting to develop more than 50 aesthetic products and services that enable urban Indians to compost their waste at home and be part of the solution to the country’s waste management problem. Daily Dump see organic waste as a valuable resource that can reconnect human beings to the planet.
Ogunte: What kind of a leader are you, Poonam, and how have you grown over your journey as an entrepreneur?
Poonam: I am a slow learner so I think my leadership style is still evolving. I prefer not to lead, I prefer to do. I am told that often does not qualify as leadership. So I ask myself: am I a leader at all or just a reluctant entrepreneur?
I am driven by my interest in unravelling something, and asking questions on why some things work and some do not. I’ve found that over the years what matters to me is seeing through the noise and keeping a clear perspective on what value I can possibly add.
If anything, I have grown to be a more private person with a deeper appreciation of the natural world because of my daily work with ‘waste’ and compost.
Daily Dump believes in decentralising organic waste management structures so that everyone has a responsibility to reduce waste in their community.
Ogunte: What are the biggest obstacles you face at Daily Dump? Have they changed since you first started the business?
Poonam: The biggest obstacle when I began was the lack of perceived value of work in the urban waste sector. Often people were confused. In their minds, this kind of work was done by the non-profit sector - so why are the products and services so expensive?
Eleven years on, we have now seen some change. Since ‘cleaning up India’ has become mainstream, we have more and more players in the market, and it is almost fashionable to be working in the waste sector!
Ogunte: How do you measure your impact, and what has been your proudest moment so far at Daily Dump?
Poonam: I would like to think that our biggest impact is the most invisible: that composting is seen as actionable by individuals, and not something to be abdicated to the government. Because of our efforts to make the ‘waste as resource’ story fun, light and easy to do, the shift from the centralised to the decentralised model is now the norm.
Our proudest moments are when customers tell us that our products make them feel fulfilled and proud. We feel happy to see kids touching maggots, and our potters proudly declaring they make products that reduce the mess on the streets.
Ogunte: What are three key pointers to keep in mind when trying to make your social business more visible and engaging?
Ogunte: Have you ever felt isolated on your journey as a social entrepreneur? If so, how did you break out of that and reconnect?
Poonam: I have never ‘fitted in’. I like my autonomy too much. I remind myself that there is more to life than we think we know - this is what keeps me grounded and connected to what is.
Ogunte: Which areas of the business world did you find hardest to be confident in?
Poonam: I feel least confident when I have to convince someone that an idea that is not totally defined is actually something worth pursuing. I feel fear myself when this nebulous idea takes shape in my head. But I find that if I work on it one step at a time - it unfolds and takes on a life of its own, and then it becomes something I can be confident in.
Ogunte: What advice would you give to someone who wants to contribute to change the world but is scared to take the risk?
Poonam: I would really not want to give any advice, please. I would be happy to have a cup of tea and listen to that person talk. Some cake with the tea will be nice.
Ogunte: If you could travel back in time to when you first decided to start a business, and talk to yourself for 5 minutes, what would you say?
Poonam: ‘First, get better at networking - you have no idea how important that is in this world if you want to scale.
Second, you need to get fit if you want to be an entrepreneur, so no more fried poories for breakfast!’
Ogunte: What major new challenges do you anticipate in the next ten years and what skills do you need to develop now to face them?
Poonam: The major challenge I anticipate is actually in transition already. I would like to build a team now who can take over in the next four years. I need to develop the skills of managing different life needs: older parents to take care of, home, and the building of the second line of command.
Ogunte: Finally, who are three women in social enterprise who inspire you?
Poonam was honoured as India’s 2015 Social Entrepreneurs of the Year - World Economic Forum.
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