Renewing the efforts

Innovative idea
Last Updated 29 May 2016, 18:37 IST

Most of us must have heard about the recent victory of ISRO when it took its first steps towards developing a reusable launch vehicle- a first in the country. The ‘reusable’ tag is one of the reasons this event captured the headlines.

Renew, reuse, recycle- we hear these words so many times in our lives. But practising what we preach doesn’t come naturally to many. ISRO did it on a grand scale. Mukund B S and Raghav Boggaram have been doing something similar for years now, albeit on a smaller scale.

‘Renew It’ was founded in 2009 by these 2 cousins with a mission to make computers affordable for everyone. “The idea took shape when I met an American who was doing something similar in the US,” says Mukund. “This person would buy back old computers, break them down and sell the spare parts. Availability of ancillaries is a pressing issue in today’s age where companies stop manufacturing electronic devices which are deemed outdated.” Considering that electronic devices see the shortest lifespan these days with newer models being churned out almost daily, this is a valid concern.

This led the base for the model of Renew It. The company buys back old computers from corporates, repairs and refurbishes them and sells them at lower prices to people who can’t afford a normally priced one. “We started the company since we wanted to impact the society in a positive way,” says Raghav. “By helping in accessing computers, we help people to get better jobs and maybe, eventually, provide employment to others.”

The work done by these 2 youngsters is commendable because it addresses 2 of developing India’s pressing problems- a wide digital divide and a staggering quantity of e-waste. In a country where less than 1 out of 10 households have a computer but which is the fifth biggest producer of e-waste in the world, the disparity could not be more stark. So while many of us throw out our 2-year-old laptops for the latest model in the market, there is a child who has been saving for years to buy his first PC.

Affordability is the main reason for this, says Mukund. “We have smartphones in all price ranges- from very expensive to ones that cost less than Rs 1,000. Unfortunately, this flexibility is not visible in computers. And most of the jobs nowadays require at least a basic knowledge of computers so many people are missing out on opportunities because of this.”

To ensure that this does not happen, Renew It has collaborated with NGOs and state governments to set up low-cost computer labs in rural schools. They have service centres in all metros and some tier-IV towns in Karnataka. Currently, they are working with the Uttar Pradesh government to set up computer labs in some UP schools.

It was not always smooth sailing though. “When we started, people were very reluctant and suspicious,” says Mukund. “They were hesitant to buy second hand PCs and we were seen to be people who were dealing in scrap. But as word of mouth spread, the concept was understood and trust in us grew. And nowadays, with portals like OLX and Quikr coming up, people are okay with the idea of buying used products. It is no more a social taboo.”

Also, with corporates focussing on CSR initiatives, a practice is evolving where companies adopt a school and donate their old computers to set up computers labs there- a laudable action in which they are ably assisted by Renew It.

The cousins are now looking to expand to all corners of the country. One of their plans includes empowering local people in remote areas with necessary skills to provide after sales support.

(Published 29 May 2016, 14:51 IST)

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