Addressing Long-term Environmental Problems through ‘Reap Benefit’: The Success Story of Kuldeep Dantewadia

On the pamphlet for Ashoka’s Green Plan-It event last summer, the bio for Kuldeep Dantewadia stated that he was ‘…an ordinary guy with no extraordinary achievements…’. Yet, it was this ‘ordinary guy’ who delivered one of the most poignant speeches during the event, alongside a line-up of seasoned orators.  Perhaps the modesty evident in the self-submitted bio for the event’s headliners was rooted in the fact that Kuldeep, the founder of Reap Benefit, is the kind of leader that values group achievements.  Motivating groups is after all at the core of what Reap Benefit does when helping young people to take collective action for the environment.

Reap Benefit grew from a small pilot that Kuldeep and some friends undertook after being witness to the incredibly inefficient system of solid waste management at college.  

At the age of 21, Kuldeep took a calculated risk to forgo a traditional career path and try his hand at social entrepreneurship. Kuldeep describes this decision: ‘I was 21; I had nothing to lose and lots to gain. If I could ever take a risk in my life it can be now.  This logic might be slightly flawed but was good enough to convince me.’  While other 21 year-olds were looking for internships and trying to get a foot in the door for a job, Kuldeep and his friends were managing the waste from 100-150 households.  And so it began, based on a self-described flawed logic, the future founders of Reap Benefit had decided to root their careers knee-deep in household garbage.  This out-of-the-box (or out of the waste bin rather) style of thinking shows that Kuldeep has the fabric of a social entrepreneur.

 Although Kuldeep and his partners at Reap Benefit are still going through a learning process in managing and maximizing the impact of a social venture, they have achieved a huge amount of success.  They have worked with over 60 schools and have consulted with a list of impressive corporate clients.  While they still work with waste management, they work in a variety of ways that that are true to their motto ‘Making Green a Habit.’ By providing knowledge and incentives, Reap Benefit is helping young people change the systems and policies of their institutions.
With a genesis in household waste, Reap Benefit has grown to provide a variety of environment-related consultations and activities for educational and corporate campuses.  Kuldeep described the priceless experience of starting a social venture from scratch and building it through a course of experimentation.  He said the process taught him, ‘…management of capital, understanding of operational expenses, optimizing operations, …interacting with customers, managing human resources, employee welfare and serving a twofold objective of sustaining ourselves and having a substantial environmental impact.’  It’s hard to imagine that even the best college courses could teach such lessons with the same kind of depth and practicality as can be learned through this type of real world implementation.

By Elijah Monroe