Monday, June 17, 2013

Wecyclers: Business Review





This morning, I discovered and immediately fell in love with a Nigerian Start-Up, Wecyclers. I thought to do a short post about the business, why I love it, and a few other random thoughts.

***1***

Wecyclers is a Nigerian business that aims to solve the urban waste challenge for households on one hand and recyclers on the other. Quite simply put, they collect recyclable waste (plastic bottles, sachets, and aluminum cans) from households, aggregate and sort this material, then sell it off to local recycling processors.

The team is headed by Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola (CEO), MBA (MIT Sloan), MA (Vanderbilt), and BS (Fisk); Alexandra Fallon (CS)), MBA (MIT Sloan), AB (Brown); and Jonathan Kola (CTO), BS (Harvard). The project was conceived during a course (Development Ventures) taken by the co-founders at MIT.

***2***

Transportation:
To work around the challenge of transportation in Lagos, they use a fleet of low-cost cargo bicycles. I had expected they would use motorcycles (like Fan Milk does), but in an interview with Spur Magazine, Bilikiss explained that they chose bicycles in a bid to reduce their carbon footprint. Smart! But this begs the question: how far can you go on bicycles?


Hubs:
For now, Wecyclers has two hubs in densely populated areas in Lagos (one in Ebute Meta). Given that bicycles are limited by the humans who power them, it would appear that Wecyclers is constrained to those areas for now. In the long-term, it will be interesting to see how Wecyclers solves the transportation challenge while keeping their carbon footprint minimal.

Partnerships:
Of course, they have a strong partnership with LAWMA and the Ministry of Environment – and they presently work out of a LAWMA facility. They also have partnerships with Coca Cola and GlaxoSmithKline.

Loyalty Scheme:
Wecyclers executes a brilliant loyalty scheme. Households that manage their recyclable waste through Wecyclers are allocated points for each kilogram of waste the company collects. Each household receives a text message notifying them of their points-balance once their waste is received and processed. The choice of SMS simplifies the operation and saves cost versus deploying a loyalty-card management system. The graphic below (sourced from Wecyclers’ facebook page) shows what these points can be used for. Brilliant!


 ***3***

I love the fundamental idea of Wecyclers. There are a good number of companies that play in the Waste Collection space today, thanks to LAWMA’s partnership with the Private Sector; but there are very few that play in the Recycling space. I am not sure, but I think Wecyclers has a great “first mover’s” advantage in this regard.

Their loyalty scheme will endear them to low-income households in no time, and I can already see a situation where young children will actively collect recyclable waste after neighborhood-parties in a bid to win stuff from Wecyclers. A move from door-door collections to having people bring in their recyclable waste to neighborhood hubs (in return for Loyalty Points) could be a natural growth direction for Wecyclers.

It will also be interesting to see Wecyclers work out partnerships with existing collection companies. These companies typically have established transportation, collection and logistics systems already, and will help Wecyclers scale-up quite fast. I’m not quite clear how the Loyalty Scheme would then work in this setting, but I’m quite sure there is a way.

***4***

Like I said already, it will be interesting to see how Bilikiss will scale this upwards without a commensurate increase in their carbon footprint. I am also a tad surprised that she’s not sure if she wants to call Recyclers a Business, opting instead to tag it a ‘Social Enterprise’ – and will watch to see how that changes in the future.

Overall, I think Wecyclers is a Business/Social Enterprise to watch, and I’m definitely signing on soon as they start to service my area of Lagos.

PS:
I wrote this post based on information gathered from the Wecyclers website here, an interview Bilikiss granted Spur Magazine here, and other information from around the web.

2 comments:

  1. Abraham Omotayo21 June 2013 at 10:46

    I wish Wecyclers success in business, this initiative is long over due in Nigeria.
    I have high hopes and believe in them.
    Thanks Koye 4 d info & analysis of the business, thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for posting such interesting articles.

    ReplyDelete