Anita Ahuja

Ashoka Fellow
India,
Fellow Since 2007
Conserve

Citation

This profile was prepared when Anita Ahuja was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
In a unique entrepreneurial partnership, Anita works with ragpickers in the city of Delhi, raising their income levels and offering them an alternative to the squalor and grime of garbage dumps. Together with the ragpicker community, she is removing plastic from the waste stream and building a social venture that is profitable and sustainable.
Her organization, Conserve, has created a lucrative business venture out of plastic waste. It employs around three hundred workers and involves them in all aspects of the business, allowing them to build equity and learn useful skills. Through a process she invented, Anita converts discarded plastic bags into large sheets that she uses to make a range of commercially successful goods. The final products—handbags, file folders, coasters, and other household items—are marketed and sold in first-world luxury goods markets, creating the potential for a shift in both how ragpickers perceive their own skills, and in the public perception of ragpickers. Conserve is also a training ground for ragpickers, whom Anita encourages to found their own fabrication units for plastic sheets through an assured buyback arrangement.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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