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Making Ganga Cleaner: Kanpur Startup's Unique Efforts

Preserving the sanctity of the sacred river Ganga has been in the works for ages. It isn’t merely about maintaining religious and cultural significance but also about ensuring ecological health and sustainability for future generations. Many activists, environmentalists, and politicians, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have tried to keep it pure. Yet the pursuit of keeping the water clean is not without its challenges.

Challenges in Cleaning Ganga

Indians’ sacred religious and cultural practices pose the biggest challenge as they often dispose of floral waste or other offerings in the river Ganga, believing that it is the gateway between the material and spiritual world. Some believe that this sort of practice can purify their souls of any sin they may have committed. Some believe that it is capable of giving divine blessings. The unaware devotees fail to see the impact their practices have on the ecology of the river.

When the flowers containing pesticides and insecticides are thrown in the river, the chemicals make the water toxic. This organic pollution depletes the oxygen level in the water, which not only disrupts the natural flow and harms marine life but also spreads diseases.

The Solution: Help Us Green

With our vision to keep the biodiversity and ecosystem of the river intact, Ankit Agarwal and Karan Rastogi set sail to start a business, Help Us Green, back in 2015. The duo decided to go straight to the source to collect floral waste: temples, mosques, and gurudwaras close to the river in Kanpur and Varanasi. Currently, the startup collects around 1.5 tonnes of floral waste from Kanpur and 8 tonnes from Varanasi. 

This initiative of going green started as a way to keep the river Ganga clean, but soon, the two masterminds of the initiative realised that more could be done. So, a decision was made to use the floral waste and convert it into natural and chemical-free lifestyle products. The flowers were dried up and handrolled by rural women to create organic incense sticks and organic dhoop cones

“Help Us Green” Becoming Synonymous With “Go Green” 

Help Us Green has appeared as a light in shining armour to keep the river Ganga clean, but the journey wasn’t easy. We initially met with resistance, but after we won a competition at IIT-Kanpur in August 2015, things started to change. Our self-sufficient company managed to achieve many awards after the initial victory, including the Tata Social Entrepreneurship Competition in 2016. 

Recognising our efforts for the economy, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav, decided to offer us support and land at subsidised rates to build more processing units. This marked a turning point in our journey, allowing us to upscale our operations and move from backyard setups to larger processing units.  

Our winning streak didn’t stop there. We entered the Wharton India Economic Forum ( WIEF) in Mumbai. Help Us Green won the People’s Choice Award and a prize money worth $6,000 too! 

We firmly believe that our efforts with just 2 hubs have worked great so far, but this isn’t enough. So now, we aim to set up seven hubs along the Ganga by 2019 and collect 15 to 20 tonnes of floral waste.

Help Us Green stands as a beacon of innovation for cleansing the river Ganga. With our mission to become synonymous with “go green”, we have not only made an effort to address environmental concerns but also created employment opportunities for local communities. With our plans for further expansion of our operations, we hope for a cleaner and sustainable future for the holy river Ganga.

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Startup: Help Us Green
Established: May 2015
Funding: None
Turnover: Rs 63 lakh in FY15-16. Expected to double in FY16-17