This Social Entrepreneur is working with rag pickers and makes fashionable handbags from Plastic Waste

Anita Ahuja - Conserve India Founder
Image Source: Conserve India

Success Story of Anita Ahuja, Social Entrepreneur and founder of Conserve India

Starting a business requires not only investment but also a good business idea. Because of this one idea, a Delhi-based woman entrepreneur started a business and today has a turnover of Rs 100 crore.

Interestingly, this has provided employment to thousands of rag pickers and has encouraged central government’s ambitious ‘Make in India‘ Scheme and ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ or ‘Clean India Mission’ Scheme.

Anita Ahuja collects waste from rag pickers to make stylish and fashionable handbags.

Anita Ahuja, who, along with her unique social entrepreneurship program, Conserve India, is “upcycling” plastic waste into revenue generating world-class fashion products.

Anita Ahuja and her husband Shalabh are running this social campaign through “Conserve India”. They make beautiful export quality products like Crochet Pouch, Shoulder Bag, and Crochet Handbag by reusing plastic waste.

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Anita Ahuja born in Bhopal and raised in Delhi. Anita’s father is a freedom fighter. Anita has dedicated her entire life to the service of society.

Let’s find out how she started the social business of making beautiful things out of garbage.

Started working for garbage pickers

Seeing the plight of the rag pickers, she decided she would do something to improve their lives.

So, Anita started an NGO called “Conserve India”. Under this social venture she decided to collect plastic waste from rag pickers and make world class handbags from it.

She had no plans to enter the social business, nor to serve the community. She started working for garbage collectors with the intention of doing something new in life.

The NGO ‘Conservative India’ started collecting garbage

One day Anita decided to take up some small projects in her area with some friends and family.

Under this social campaign, she started collecting garbage from the entire area. She separated food waste from the collected waste. She kept this kitchen waste in a nearby park for composting.

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From the beginning, she realized that nothing would be achieved by hand alone, so Anita enlisted the help of another colony as well.

Started working with the Resident Welfare Association with 3000 people

Anita’s Conserve India NGO started the Resident Welfare Association with about 3000 people. In 2020, the organization became a full-time organization.

Anita and her husband worked with hundreds of rag pickers for four years and realized that the standard of living of garbage collectors was below the poverty line. Most of them belong to rural immigrant poor families. They have never attended any school.

Image Source: Conserve India

While collecting garbage they are subjected to infections and chemical poisons. Due to malnutrition, they suffer from anemia.

She decided she would work to improve the living standards of rag pickers. Anita learned about recycling technology from the internet and tried to understand related things.

Weaved and made carpets

First, she knitted and made carpets. But these products seemed very easy to see, not economically viable, also becoming difficult to sell.

Then she decided to develop a plastic bag and it went well. She thought first she would do artwork in a plastic bag, then put up an exhibition, and then try to raise money.

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Her husband, Shalabh realized that Anita’s social campaign would not work. He made a large plastic sheet by machine. He did artwork from an automatic machine and put it on display.

An order received from a small booth

In 2003, Conserve India participated in the Pragati Maidan Trade Fair. She was given a small booth by the textile ministry and received an order of Rs 30 lakh in it.

Anita and her husband decided that they would take Conserve India, as the buyers were not ready to take orders directly from the NGO.

Garbage collectors had to go door-to-door to collect waste for plastic waste, but it remained small and then special colored plastic was needed to make the product.

For this, he approached Junker and started ordering plastic waste directly from the industry.

When Conserve India happens

In 1998, Conserve India started out as a Non-Government Organization working in sustainability, in 2004 it converted to a social entrepreneurship model and committed to sustainable innovations.

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Since then Conserve India has been working in a waste management field by recycling, composting, and upcycling.

The social enterprise recently launched “Clever Bud”, an initiative in Food Security to promote sustainable soil-less farming.

Image Source: Conserve India

Conserve India has started a social campaign called Recognition for Rag pickers. By providing ‘Conserve Employee Cards’, Conserve India supports garbage collectors have a voice in the society.

As part of Recognition for Rag pickers campaign, Conserve India is trying to persuade the Delhi government to create an official register for more than 150,000 rag pickers. So as give them their right to a fair wage.

Today, Conserve India became a brand and by 2020, it achieved the turnover of 100 crores.

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So, we hope Anita Ahuja will continue to shine in life even more and motivate the Indian women entrepreneur. Sugermint wishes to emulate her on the path of success.

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