Green Elephant, Pioneering ‘Organic Waste to Clean Gas since 2008

Green Elephant, Pioneering ‘Organic Waste to Clean Gas since 2008

Revolutionary technology from Germany catapulted Green Elephant to advance in an evolving Indian market which was looking for new alternative fuel sources, especially ones derived from agricultural, industrial or municipal solid waste.

While it was created by a group of far-sighted German entrepreneurs majorly from a scientific background, Green Elephant was an ahead-of-its-time venture, aiming to commission Asia's largest waste-to-biogas plant (this plant is currently Asia's 2nd largest). With this background, Green Elephant was welcomed by all the stakeholders, ranging from financiers like IREDA to civil authorities like the Pune Municipal Corporation.

However, perhaps unsurprisingly, it's expectation of thriving from inception was not met immediately. But as a venture passionate to be a catalyst for change, Green Elephant coped well with the challenges in its foetal stage. They started the hustle by investing in market and customer development, with a loosely structured but well-defined path to long-term profitability.  Today Green Elephant provides waste-to-clean energy solutions for clients with a diverse variety of requirements, in the private, as well as the public sector. The company's waste treatment solutions primarily focus on the conversion of organic waste into biogas and/or bio-CNG. 

The Beginnings of Green Elephant

To become a name recognized for quality and reliability in this industry, Green Elephant heavily encouraged and promoted awareness on the merits and environmental benefits of responsible waste management, and conversion of waste into clean energy, on a massive scale across India.

At the same time, the company doubled down on R&D investments, and both German and Indian engineers working together to help realize the company's vision of a sustainable future based on the fundamentals of a circular economy.

Soon, the brand started delivering cutting-edge solutions. In the words of its MD, Sangram Singh, "our engineers, the backbone of the company, are our core competency". These engineers and business people on a shared mission created some of the industry's most-appreciated solutions like world's first high-efficiency portable, plug-and-flow waste-to-biogas plant called the GreenBox™. 

Greenbox – An R&D Breakthrough and a Runaway Success

A solution that democratized the idea and route for responsible waste management across industries, the GreenBox is a portfolio of waste-to-biogas processing units for residential units, hotels, hospitals, small farms, and factories, and is capable of processing waste quantities ranging from 500 KG to 2000 KG per day, thereafter converting it into biogas, electricity or fertilizer. 

GreenBox tops the list of achievements that Green Elephant is most proud of today, along with the recognitions of being a "valuable service provider" to leading organizations such as Tatas, the Pune Municipal Corporation etc. 

Learning's From The Covid-19 Pandemic

"Empowered teams are capable of tackling challenges beyond the realm of most managers' expectations. A work culture where employees across levels are empowered to achieve their expected outcomes without micro-scrutiny by their reporting authority will offer unparalleled flexibility when that micro-management is not feasible/possible for any reason," stated Sangram.

He added, "Our experience in the days of the pandemic has reinforced our belief that the laissez-faire management style we've painstakingly created over the decade has been one of the best strategic decisions undertaken by our organization, and we're fortunate that it's spirit has been maintained and honed over the years."

The Market

Due to the nature of their broad-ranging product portfolio, Green Elephant works with a target audience that ranges across a wide spectrum, including medium to large-sized companies, PSUs across all verticals, hotels, hospitals, municipal corporations and gram panchayats. 

The group of German visionaries who founded Green Elephant was led by Dr Felix Weber, Founder of Elephant Equity GmbH, a private equity firm in Munich, with investments across Europe, USA and Southeast Asia. While the group could have chosen any of the plethora of problems needing solutions across India, they picked waste treatment, given it's direct impact on millions of lives in the country.

"This realization that the work has far-reaching consequences drives us to do our best every day, in a manner that will ensure healthy growth of our organization in years to come, so that it may continue expanding its sphere of positive impact on the Indian circular economy," asserted Sangram.

Currently, the key strategies Green Elephant team is adopting to maintain connection and add value to its customers and partners include donation of PPE equipment. 

Kaizen-Focused Planning and Operations

Green Elephant's R&D team comprises some of the brightest minds from India and Germany, in the field of waste treatment. Treating technology as an optimization tool, they are persistently experimenting with the integration of new frontiers. This experimentation is coupled with rigorous testing and analysis, only after which, the integration takes place on a commercial scale. 

Being a part of an industry dependent on rapidly-evolving technology, the questions Sangram asks himself often are, "Have we maximized achievable impact given the resource inputs?", "Is our team capable of scaling the breakthrough, thereby making it a profitable revenue stream for the company in years to come?" and "If our innovation is incremental; is there a scope for disruption in any specific part of the innovation?"

The company's goals for 2025 include the ability to process and treat over one million tons of municipal solid waste annually, coupled with portfolio waste treatment options across all market segments depending on their waste generation volumes and budgetary constraints. Green Elephant also plans to leverage IoT and Industry 4.0 technologies to optimize processes and produce actionable data and insights for its customers, as well as its in-house R&D team.

Learning's from Failure

Companies invest continually in R&D with the expectation of a windfall gain at some point in form of a technological breakthrough. However, if the first initiative rolled-out becomes a colossal failure, it becomes difficult to regain the board's confidence to justify continued R&D.

Green Elephant's first R&D outcome was a failure. Yes, it lagged significantly from achieving desired outcomes. However, as soon as this was discovered, rather than becoming defensive, their engineering team boldly proposed that the R&D budget be tripled for the subsequent year, to enable them to accomplish what they had failed to in the first place.

After a series of exercises in persuasion, pitching and selling, they were able to give the engineering team an amount close to what they'd sought. While that didn't result in desired outcomes either, it gave the engineers a much-needed morale boost that snowballed into several incremental product improvements, which when compounded, have paid back the R&D investments several times over. 

R&D is also supported by the Chief Information Office (CIO), a department exclusively tasked with continually studying developments in the circular economy framework, waste management, and treatment spheres globally, thereby assessing the impact of those developments on their business, along with proactive identification of opportunities and trends. The combination of these various initiatives working in tandem keeps Green Elephant at the forefront of its ability to deliver technology-driven solutions, thus continually maximizing impact.

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