Coffee with Feeds: Srinivas Reddy on RECycle

Many of us would have crossed the shed near LHC filled with cycles lined up in neat columns with ‘RECycle’ banner hanging outside. Intrigued by this initiative, we checked it out and were able to get an interview with Srinivas Reddy, founder of RECycle and Student Task Force. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

How did you come up with the idea of RECycle?

When I was thinking of how to convert waste product into something useful, we started NITTRO – NIT-Trichy Resource Recovery Organisation. We took the metal frame of the coil around which optical fibres are wound and made it into a chair which we christened ‘REChair’. When I looked behind the Estate Maintenance Department I found a lot of ‘waste’ – old A/Cs, keyboards and computers, motors which could be used by us engineers.

Also I’d come across ‘bike-sharing programs’ that were in place in many other countries, extensively researched on it for two months and fell in love with the idea – one could pick up a cycle at one spot in the campus and keep it at their destination.

I also found that many students aren’t willing to spend a lot to buy brand-new cycles.

So because of these reasons (and still others that I can’t seem to recall) ‘RECycle’ was created, to reuse old cycles. At the time, the batch of 2014 was leaving. I drew up a report on this and handed it over to the then Director Dr. Sundarrajan who posted it on Facebook. I then personally went door-to-door and requested everyone to donate their cycles. We got a good number of students who gave us their keys and seeing such support I thought we had to make good on our promises and make this initiative a success.

We faced many challenges with the resources needed to set up RECycle like the land, a shed, cost for refurbishing around 200 cycles we’d collected, etc.

We’d come up with more ideas like building different types of cycles for different purposes – one such being a ‘cargo cycle’ which will have provisions to carry heavy luggage, so that students coming in from their weekend at their home can easily take their luggage to their hostels. Another is the ‘bus bike’.

What is the agenda for RECycle?

Since the institute cannot invest money directly onto this (to do so requires RECycle satisfying a lot of requisites) we needed revenue.

We knew that there was a ‘market’ ready to avail of our services like the crowd during Pragyan or Festember. This meant that they’ll have to rent it out for a short period and return the cycle afterwards. Since we had to cater to such ‘markets’, we had to have cycles ready to be given out. For this, we needed money. The business model that we came up with was to be student-friendly because, ultimately RECycle is of the students, for the students and by the students. We collected funds from the students of my batch, some alumni and I invested some of my own money into this as well. We used this to refurbish around 100 cycles. We want to give these cycles to the current 1st years on a subscription basis for a period of 4 years. This revenue generated would then be invested in the remaining 300 cycles.

Hence we can satisfy any kind of ‘market’ that needs these cycles.

Let me clarify – I don’t expect RECycle to be very successful in the next 2 years, because we are still studying methods and models that suit our needs. We want to know how our cycles are going to be treated, whether they are lost frequently, or broken easily. We want to know of all the problems we might face and if the fee collected is enough for the maintenance of a cycle.

We have been receiving praises from the students’ parents that such initiatives exist in campus. Times are such that students’ fees have skyrocketed and people are looking to reduce their expenditure. Let’s not look at it as a ‘cheap’ or a ‘second-hand’ cycle but those which are ‘pre-owned’ or ‘donated’ which are available on a subscription basis. In the end, we look for ways to make the lives of students easier to live, here in NIT-Trichy.

How has RECycle affected the businesses of the local vendors that visit our campus?

We have taken over the business of unscrupulous vendors in our campus through our initiatives. If we successfully sell 100 cycles, then it’s a loss of 100 times 4000 rupees (approximate cost of a cycle these days) for the others. We invest our revenue again in building other cycles and also the ‘help centre’ for students.

How do you plan on ensuring quality of services provided?

We plan to improve upon the ‘security’ of our cycles. We’re going to colour them in a uniform manner and paint our logos onto the cycles, which if found tarnished, the owner would have to reimburse for damages.

We are looking to sell off many cycles in the coming 3 years, and we’ll then be offering only 2 models for rent. We’re in contact with some industries that manufacture cycle parts, so that we can obtain them at lower prices directly.

What are some of your short term goals?

We plan to offer our services to the faculty in our campus during Earth Day so that they can, hopefully, say no to their polluting vehicles.

There are a lot of facilities we offer if you rent a cycle of ours like free maintenance services for two years and exchanges are possible. We are trying to reduce the time for which you can rent the cycle form 4 years to 2 years and so on till anyone can rent it for as small a period as 4 hours.

We’d like to appeal to the current first years more and more because their word-of-mouth is very important for RECycle to grow. The plan is to make them love this project of ours, and in the end I’m confident that they’ll support us.

At the end of the day, our plan is the same as that of the Task Force – to make people’s life within the campus easier.

Other than the objectives already stated, here are some more:

  • RECycle plans to make bicycle repairs free of cost by 2020. We see that many students forgo using their cycle because of the constant maintenance their cycles require. We will be trying to incorporate technology into cycles to make them easy-to-maintain. For example, tubeless tyres and puncture-resistant tyres can be used. As long as it doesn’t involve purchase of new parts once more (as in the case of replacement of a seat, say) we plan to offer free services.
  • We’re looking for sponsors who are willing to invest in our project and have their logos branded onto our cycles in return, for some period of time. We proposed this idea to the SBI here, and we’re calling it “SBIke”. I feel start-ups can take up these opportunities to publicize their brand.

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– Sriram Raghavan and Suriya Arumugavelan

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