DB Prabhu: The Environmental Entrepreneur Greenifying India with Passion & Innovation

DB Prabhu,Founder

DB Prabhu


As investors gravitate towards IT-enabled businesses, 95 percent of startups nowadays merely replicate successful IT ventures and squander investor’s money in an attempt to earn customers loyalty with discounts. But the fascinating story of DB Prabhu (Founder, Respose Waste Management & Research Pvt. Ltd.– renowned as Respose India) is on the other end of the spectrum. Though DB was adept at his lucrative job of building valuable clientele for an IT organization, he had a looming discontent in the horizon that kept humming that it’s not his call.

Determined to rewrite his story, he quit his job overnight with a strong desire to give back to the community and conducted a meticulous research on social cause sat IIM-Bangalore for two years, which revealed the dire need for reliable and affordable waste management technology. Hence he along with co-founder Sujit Kochrekarpoured his entire life savings in establishing Respose in 2011, though machinery and recycling were an alien vocabulary for both of them. While DB’s 18 years of profound customer handling experience had turned him into an intrapreneur, entrepreneurship was an uncharted territory for him. Unlike earlier, the business’ loss/profit could now impact him directly.

Albeit Respose successfully shipped out its first machinery in 2012, there wasn’t any further sale till 2014 while they focused on improving the technology and smoothening out the rough edges. Many moments pushed them to the brink of laying down their arms, but DB and Sujit (a staunch environmentalist with strong affinity for innovation ) kept each other motivated and sustained the company.As Respose’s atypical business was too unfathomable for banks to provide funds,DB had to borrow from friends andrelatives to address customers’ commitments and office burdens such as rent and
e-Bill. They didn’t understand the business either, but were willing to bet on DB’s passion. Emerged above challenges with reinvigorated energy, he went back to the drawing board and kept improving the technology.

Every day brings him a new challenge; but having mastered the art of taking calculated risks, DB has been maintaining the company’s upward growth trajectory

Soon, the uniqueness of Respose’s technologies was noticed as it kept winning awards; notable amongst them was the gold medal it won at DST’s (Govt. of India)India Innovation Growth Program in 2014, where its technology surged ahead of 50,000 contenders. “When you acknowledge your passion and stick to the cause, things rally around. Bonding within the team is important. Sujit has been a great asset without whom all this would not have been possible. And yes, in your bad days relationships with friends, family and customers count,” adds DB who is now vindicated by Respose’s success. Even at present, every day brings him a new challenge; but having mastered the art of taking calculated risks,he has been maintaining the company’s upward growth trajectory.

Knowing DB

This environmental entrepreneur gauges success not with money, but with the amount of pollution he controls by installing a machine, since it provides direct economic benefit to customers, their employees, environment and therefore to society and obviously for Respose. This explains why Respose’s high calibre machinery is affordable. -.DB calculates with his heart rather than brain – a trait that oscillates between being his metier and foible. Never the less, what he lacks in negotiating capability, he makes up for in conviction towards his passion.

“To have a robust business model, entrepreneurs must innovate a solution to a real life problem. You should have your own yardstick to measure the quality, no matter what the customer demands,” DB shares his learning. When the chips were down, he stayed strong. He recommends his peers
to develop a similar attitude and suggests budding entrepreneurs to read Jack Welch’s Straight from the Gut and all of Rashmi Bansal’s books.“Every customer and competitor I’ve met so far has been a mentor in one way or another,” he remarks. Besides his extremely supportive parents, DB is also blessed with a smart wife, who contributes to his success in multiple ways – be it through advice, criticism, or merely sitting through during tumultuous times with great understanding and silent support.

Rising just before the sun at 5:30AM, DB spends 30-45 minutes in gym (which keeps him fresh for his whole day filled with customer interaction, planning financial aspects and so on) and enjoys some quality time with his son, as he believes in working smart & efficient than working hard for over ten hours. He takes vacations annually twice, unsurprisingly to natural paradises like desert, sea shore or snowy mountains. DB avoids gadgets, as he reckons that they succumb his time to think for himself.

Greenifying India

DB is shifting the spotlight towards e-Waste recycling, since amidst the 1.7 tons of e-Wastes generated by India, merely 15 percent are being processed formally, while the rest is being discarded informally using acids and cyanides, which increases pollution and endangers the lives of people involved. “Government should strengthen its regulations and add significant benefits to bring traction to formal e-Waste generation sector, which has the potential to become India’s key revenue generation stream,”concludes DB.

Besides aiming to grow into a Rs.200 crore company in 8-10 years with a 60 people strong team, Respose intends to encompass all aspects of environmental management not only by building products for kitchen waste management, plastic, tyres and others, but also by helping people to setup green businesses of their own. In fact, DB is in discussion with multiple agencies including business associations, banks etc to setup an incubation centre for budding entrepreneurs. It’s this vigorous selfless passion which assures us that a greener India might be possible after all.