Oh God! The boy has quit his job to clean up temples, was his parents' reaction when Ankit Agarwal told them he was giving up his job at cyber security firm Symantec to start up. He had apprised them of his idea to process waste flowers from temples to produce soaps, incense sticks, organic fertilisers and styrofoam.
Born and raised in Kanpur, Agarwal had seen the river Ganga turn into a heap of temple waste—mostly rotting flowers. A solution to process the refuse held business opportunities, besides helping to save the river, he felt. Together with friend Karan Rastogi, Agarwal launched HelpUsGreen with an initial investment of Rs 72,000 in May 2015 in Kanpur.
Today, HelpUsGreen has an FY18 revenue run rate of Rs 2 crore. Armed with Rs 4.2 crore in seed funding from Tata Trusts' Social Alpha, Greenfield Ventures and Echoing Green, Agarwal and Rastogi are planning to launch two more plants in Varanasi and Mathura by June. Combined with the Kanpur plant, the new facilities will take their company's processing capacity to 38 tonnes of flowers a day.
In the process, the duo is also helping women in these cities find jobs. For instance, HelpUsGreen employs about 80 women at its Kanpur facility and provides them with benefits such as provident funds, health insurance and transport to and from work.
"The best part about the business is that they have healthy revenues. We have to remember that this is a very touchy area. Religious places always have sentiments attached to them," says Nagaraja Prakasam, angel investor and partner at Acumen Fund.
Currently, the company is in the middle of a rebranding exercise and the founders have decided to halve the prices of their products to gain traction in the market.
In the year since they were recognised, most in our cohort of young achievers have gone the distance. And those who have faced adversities, soldiered on. But for the most part, the Millennials are alright, as this report card shows
Here are some achievers who narrowly missed out making it to the final 30 in our Class of 2018. But who knows? Some could make it to the main list as soon as next year!