Mansoor, 33, is the oldest of six sisters and two brothers. Possessed of a thin, wiry frame and a beaming smile, he dropped out of a small government school situated near his home, in the 5th grade when his father tragically passed away. As the oldest son, the burden of taking care of his siblings fell upon his tender shoulders.

With his mother, he joined the informal waste sector to supplement the family income. His parents had run a small scrap shop near their home, to which all the wastepickers from their slum would bring their daily collection. Mansoor was responsible for sorting, segregating and weighing the approximately 500 kilograms of waste that would arrive everyday.

As their scrap shop was situated in a waste picker slum, they were insulated from the attention of the police, who routinely interfere in the lives of these communities.

Years passed and their lives were modest. Faced with rising competition and with unreliable labour, the scrap shop was forced to close.

By a stroke of luck, Mansoor met Soubhagya, of Hasiru Dala three years ago. Six months later, Mansoor attended his first Hasiru Dala meeting, in which he was able to network with other scrap dealers, as well as NGOs including the Namana Foundation, Gilgal Trust and Recycle Guru. Through this network, he received an opportunity to provide waste collection services to the Commissioner’s office in Shivaji Nagar, thus increasing his brand visibility and confidence.

Mansoor was not satisfied. He unskilled by attending the Scrap Dealer Training program conducted by Hasiru Data in early 2013, in which he learned about business development strategies and relationship management with different stakeholders, ranging from customers to labour. Through this program he was able to become legitimate — in his eyes, the most valuable part of the training.

All of this combined to put Mansoor in a position in which he could take advantage of opportunity when it came. The Dry Waste Collection Centre in Ward 168 was struggling to make ends meet — with Mansoor’s qualifications, he was the ideal choice to take over.

Operating the DWCC was a challenge. Opened in March 2013, the centre was poor, with low, broken walls, which led to two robberies in which Manor lost valuable equipment. Undeterred, he secured the DWCC by re-building the walls and installing metal grills along the roof.

Mansoor has turned this DWCC around. Working from 7 am to 8 pm, he employs seven sorters and collects 120 kilograms of waste from waste pickers. He also collects waste from five apartments in South Bangalore, receiving 1 tonne of waste and visits each apartment personally to make sure that nothing goes wrong.

Blessed with trilingual ability (he speaks Kannada, Tamil and Hindi) and an impressive personality, he has built strong relationships with the apartments — he receives a nominal monthly collection fee from two and is on call to collect extra waste.

Achieving this was not easy. Mansoor initially lost 60,000 rupees over the first six months of operation, due to the cost of hiring a tempo and extra labour. With a Rs20,000 loan from MSSS and his personal savings, Mansoor was able to invest in a small tempo and has turned around these losses.

Working with waste has provided Mansoor and his family with a future. It has enabled his children’s dreams by allowing him to enroll his two daughters and one son at Oxford School in J.P. Nagar. He hopes that all waste pickers and scrap dealers will be associated with Hasiru Data and dreams of the day when there is a DWCC in every ward and no waste on the streets.