Their shanty house, located between a large market and a slaughter house in Bengaluru, provided a source of income. Krishna’s family took bones from the slaughter house and sold it to traders who converted this material into bone meal for crops. The rank stench of the dark, dingy, bone meal shops, sank right into Krishna’s bones and still haunt his dreams today. As the city grew, the slaughter house was removed, an event that pushed the family into crisis, taking away their only source of income. It was this situation that forced Krishna and his family to turn to a life built on garbage.
Whilst the foundations of this new line of work were demeaning, it gave Krishna independence and money at the end of each day. Krishna dropped out of school and became a full time waste picker. By his teens, Krishna was faced with the disgust of a society that saw only his tattered clothes and sack, but not the conditions that had forced him into that life.
It was at this critical period, in which many fall into a life of vice and unruly behavior, that Krishna met with personnel from Waste Wise — a non profit organization that worked to improve the livelihoods of waste pickers. Initially doubtful of the intentions of an organization that did not share his circumstance, Krishna slowly put his trust in Waste Wise through casual get togethers, exposure vests and training. He became a volunteer at a youth brigade that accompanied Waste Wise at its advocacy and job placement events. Soon, an opportunity came his way in the form of a five star hotel that wanted to clear dry recyclable waste on a daily basis. Seizing this opportunity, Krishna took a loan, hired a vehicle and rushed to work at 3 am every morning, without fail.
Faced with a tough job, Krishna did what he had done his entire life when faced with tough circumstance. He adapted. He began to understand the value of routine and reliability in service. His new found commitment earned him a meager, but steady wage and gave him the respect that he sought after in his community.
It was not enough. Krishna wanted more. He did not want to fall back to the habits of his peers — faced with a family relying on him, he sought to find a niche in the scrap market. Supported by his mentors, he sourced hotels and companies that required waste management solutions.
Krishna has come far. From humble beginnings, he has ensured that his sisters are married and settled, and that his mother is cared for. He owns a vehicle, bought with a loan from Waste Wise, and has paid back 75% of that loan. He has employed 8 people as drivers, loaders and sorters. He collects waste from 24 different locations in the city with the help of Hasiru Dale, and collects on average, 10 metric tons of post-consumer Tetra Pak cartons in a month. His band of workers service 3 star hotels and manage a dry waste collection centre that retrieves 15 tons of dry recyclable waste every month.
Krishna is not finished.
He dreams of an Industrial Warehouse, where sorting is done through a mechanical conveyor belt, bailing is fixed by hydraulic press and where forklifts move bundled materials onto trucks, loaded with materials. He wants to employ 50 to 60 waste pickers, with fair wages, insurance, medical and retirement benefits. Krishna lost his childhood – he intends to prevent that fate for others by providing crèche and schooling facilities for the members of his work force.
Krishna is an entrepreneur in every sense of the word.