The idea struck Rohan Gupta in late 2006 while he was disposing of his old laptop. Where did discarded desktops, laptops, printers - indeed, all the hardware associated with the digital world - go? To his surprise, he discovered that there was hardly any organised industry to recycle it. "There was nobody offering end-to-end e-cycling," he says. "It was a huge opportunity to tap."
At the time, less than one per cent of the e-waste generated was being treated by the organised sector. The rest found its way to dingy sweatshops where it was taken apart to extract the tiny quantities of gold used in some of the equipment, before being dumped in open fields.
Founded in: 2008
Founders: Rohan Gupta, Nitin Gupta
What makes it cool: Enormous need for e-waste recycling, few rivals
Mirchandani's take: high potential of growth in the segment. it is expected that there will be stringent regulatory issues going forward which will benefit attero. it also has the early mover's advantage.
Even the organised sector lacked the expertise to properly recycle the waste and ended up shipping most of the components to European countries for further processing.
Yet, starting an e-waste recycling unit was no picnic. The project required land, machinery and a research unit. Rohan roped in his US based brother Nitin and together they went looking for funds. It was only in mid-2008, having obtained $6.3 million (Rs 28.35 crore) from venture capital firms NEA-IndoUS Ventures and Draper Fisher Jurvetson, that the brothers were able to launch Attero Recycling.
Attero today processes over 300 tonnes of e-waste every month at its two-acre recycling facility in Roorkee, Uttarakhand. It does complete processing of e-waste with zero landfill system and has also indigenously developed electro-refining technology to extract metals from the hazardous components. It has tied up with over 200 leading companies to take care of their waste.
A 2008 Greenpeace report said India generated 380,000 tonnes of e-waste in 2007/08 and the quantity would grow by 15 per cent annually. The Gupta brothers are certainly on to a good thing.