“I wanted to solve problems related to education, healthcare and waste management. A large, human problem. Working at Qualcomm and trying to make a better iPhone wasn’t cutting it for me. I wanted to solve bigger problems.”

This quote from Mani Vajipey perfectly captures his way of thinking. Mr Vajipey is an NIT Warangal alumnus who turned CEO of one of India’s most unique and visionary startups— Banyan Nation. The Hyderabad-based waste management company is one of India’s first recycling company whose proprietary plastic cleaning technology converts collected post-consumer and post-industrial plastic waste into high quality recycled granules. 

Mani Vajipey’s pioneering technology has led his company to win the Circular Economy Award of 2018, becoming the first Indian company to do so. Mr. Mani describes circular economy pertaining to plastic recycling as “where brands are actually using recycled plastic and not virgin plastic. Then all the virgin plastic being put out will be taken back because there’s a huge demand for recycled plastic. That is how you do this. That is the whole concept of circular economy.” 

Before Mr. Mani ventured into the world of recycling, he was a wireless communication engineer at Qualcomm. For him, shift from silicon valley to a groundbreaking startup wasn’t as daunting as it is made out to be. 

“It would have been a risk if had stayed at Qualcomm and didn’t do what I’m doing right now. What will I do there? I’ll be a director, then maybe VP. Then what? Not solving the plastic problem is the risk I’m putting my son in. That is the risk I’m talking about.”

So, how does one begin changing the world? For Mr. Mani, it all started with a shift in personal philosophy. “Right now I’m in this whole Ikigai phase and have been for the last five years. I still haven’t found anything that beats it.” Ikigai in Japanese refers to the source of value in one’s life or simply ‘a reason for being.’

“The four aspects of Ikigai came together for me. I got to raise money for a problem I love solving, I think I’m good at it, and this is what the world needs right now. So when you are in that perfect state of harmony, all the minor problems simply become hiccups that need to be solved.