Interview with the Co-Founder of Trashcon
Saurabh Jain is an electronic engineer and co-founder of TrashCon. This company has invented TrashBot, a waste segregator that can automatically sort mixed waste into biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste. Its patented invention has been recognized by India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and has won many awards and accolades.
How has the Leaders Programme helped you coming from the private sector in India?
Precisely the fact that there were participants from the public sector was very positive. I made good friends and good connections with my colleagues from India. It was a great experience to meet them, as their governmental point of view is very different from mine. But thanks to the Program, which also facilitates personal and human bonds, we have understood the problems we face on both sides, and we can empathize in both directions. The other participants have given me many suggestions that can help us enormously as a private company. So, beyond the experience in Spain itself, the Programme helped us to understand each other outside our country. So that was a big learning experience for me: on the one hand, to empathize and understand the process that they go through in the central and state governments, and, on the other hand, how we can change our approach to sell also in India, not only in Spain.
It was also very useful to connect with industries and institutions in Spain, as that allows us to have a global perspective to understand that the problems we have in India are the same or at least not very different from those in Spain, although Spain may be more developed in certain areas, such as transportation. As for waste management, people have better habits here, however, the problem is the same: 40% of waste still goes to landfill, while in India 70%, 80% or even 90% goes to landfill, depending on the location. None of us have reached a point where we can say we are perfect. When we are in India we think that our solutions will not be accepted anywhere else because they are specific to our country, but when I was able to see the Spanish cities and talked to the mayor of Valladolid and other representatives of the city councils I realized that the problems are the same.
You mentioned that Spain and India are facing the same problems, in what way is this an opportunity for Trashcon and for India?
I learned a lot of things, for example, when we visited the Valdemingómez Park about what works and what doesn't work. So that can be of great help to us as we go back to India to tweak certain aspects as India grows. India today is on the second step, while Spain is on the sixth step. As India climbs those steps, we will need Spain's know-how. That way, we won't make the mistakes that Spain may have made as part of its experience, so we can accelerate our progress. Also, since we exchanged our business cards, we can always get in touch with them, continue to learn and perhaps make a follow-up visit ourselves. We can also invite them to partner with us in India to bring the technology and know-how to our country and thus move from the second to the sixth step or even the tenth step in the future.
How has your perception of Spain's capabilities in the field of smart cities changed since the Leaders Program?
Before I came, I thought Spain was a developing nation like India. I didn't know that the city of Madrid is as good or even better than New York. We think only Germany and Switzerland are developed; Germany is possibly the most important benchmark for Indians. This has been one of my learnings. Despite this, Spain and India are very similar; our culture and philosophies are very similar, which brings us very close.
How can this cultural closeness help us to strengthen the relationship?
We share fundamental ideas such as hard work, integrity, solidarity, the value of truth etc. We have similar roots and similar philosophies, which can benefit both sides. If you go to a country where these ideas don't match, people won't match either. There is enormous scope and untapped potential for our relations to move forward, and it should be a very important goal for both countries.
What are those aspects that we should exploit?
One of them is clearly the language, Spanish. In India, everybody chooses German or French. For example, in Bangalore there is a French language institute with an exhibition area, where events on France and French are organized. If there were such a Spanish cultural center in big cities like Bangalore or Mumbai, it would attract many Indian students to learn about Spain, its culture and language. Indians should aspire to come and get to know Spain. When I go back to India, I will only talk about the capabilities of the cities of Madrid and Barcelona, not football; I will say that Madrid is much better than New York. Everyone in India aspires to go to the United States, Germany or Switzerland, and no one would know that Spain has reached such a level of development in the field of smart cities. Also, the work that Casa de la India is doing to make India known in Spain is very important. Its model should be replicated in Bangalore or in any city in India.
Is there any visit of the Programme that you would especially highlight?
All the visits in Spain were really enriching, and most importantly, the people who received us showed the passion they had. This is what is needed for cities to develop: leaders with passion. I am sure that the Municipal Commissioners who participated in the Indian Leaders Programme will be inspired by this, and will realize that change is possible. Spain was able to do it in 30 years, so India can do it as well.