APD is a Mangaluru based startup but they have done some projects in Bangalore. It is an NGO which is founded by Abdullah A Rehman.
My work involved traveling to cosmopolitan cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Chennai etc. Using public transportation to shuttle around, at the end of long days I’d find my face covered with grime and would have terrible coughs from the exposure to smoke and dust. The thought of millions of people having to bear this, and most of them without even being its contributor disturbed me, says Abdullah.
We got an opportunity to talk with Abdullah A Rehman, it is an inspiring story of the founder. Read his full story to know more about the startup.
Give a brief info about your startup?
APD is a non-profit organization working on fighting pollution and its sources head on by drawing a strong link between public health and the environment. We believe in building a strong emotional connect amongst citizens & government officials which will enable them to proactively join us in our efforts to build sustainability into daily actions. As of now, our focus is solid waste management and air pollution.
In the 4 years since its inception, APD has reached out to over 200 schools and influenced more than 20,000 students in 6 states; we have completed around 30 behavioural change & research projects. Our strategic interventions have been the first of its kind and helped the city achieve several milestones.
What made you start your start-up and what problem does it solve?
When I moved back to India from Dubai, I took over my family’s property development business. My work involved traveling to cosmopolitan cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Chennai etc. Using public transportation to shuttle around, at the end of long days I’d find my face covered with grime and would have terrible coughs from the exposure to smoke and dust. The thought of millions of people having to bear this, and most of them without even being its contributor disturbed me.
I started a Facebook page called Anti-Pollution Drive and a lot of people with similar concerns joined in. Seeing the growing response, I knew there was great opportunity to build a community where passionate citizens could work together on solutions for a cleaner environment. A year later I registered APD as a non-profit organization and began working on it full time.
APD addresses the problems we face related to ignorance, apathy and lack of data. I wouldn’t say we are ‘solving’ a problem but rather enabling a society to find solutions as they go about living their daily lives. Pollution has become such a big monster that it cannot be fought by non-profits alone. Everyone needs to do his or her bit in building a healthy and sustainable environment.
Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this start-up?
My father went from doing petty jobs in Mumbai to becoming one of the leading Indian businessmen in the Middle East. I was born and raised in Dubai, UAE till I was 22 after which I moved to India. Although my official schooling was only till the 8th grade, I had the good opportunity to learn real-life skills from my father and by the age of 13 began working full time with him
After moving back to India to explore more opportunities and take forward the property development business, I sought to do more with my time. Growing up I watched my Dad’s eagerness to help and uplift the deprived in our cities. I realised it is his spirit of philanthropy amongst his legacy which I want to take forward. APD Foundation is a cause that I give all my heart to because I know that it really has the potential to make a change in people’s lives.
Where is your startup based out of? Why do you think that is the best place for you?
APD is based in Mangaluru, where I live right now. It is a growing city with a population of almost 5-6 lakh people and is at a position where the pollution problems are mounting. Right now, our focus is on working with the ULB in Mangalore and testing solutions for waste management and air pollution. We have done some one-of projects with Bengaluru. Hopefully, we will gain more recognition and opportunities to work in other cities.
As a startup founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?
From a practical perspective, it’s funding. We can’t function only with volunteers so there are always bills to pay – salaries and overheads. Finances are a constant worry. Then there’s the need to innovate in how we engage citizens. Despite there being so many warning signs around us, it isn’t enough to convince people to care. As a non-profit in this space, we have to package the message such that people of all ages and classes really understand the urgency and the need to move our cities to grow sustainably.
Who are your competitions and how are you better than them?
There are so many – Greenpeace India, The Energy Research Institute (TERI), Paryavarn Mitra, Chintan Environmental, Research & Action Group. It is unfair to compare APD with any of them. Each of us is unique, with our own size, challenges and focus areas.
How hard is it to have a work life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?
Honestly, it is extremely insane! My phone never stops ringing, I am always traveling and the To-do list never gets done. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have a great team I can delegate to and an extremely supportive family – this is how I’m managing.
Have you raised funding? If yes, then we would like to know the details. If no then please tell us if you are looking to raise.
Yes, we have raised funding and built small partnerships thought which we are sustaining our small scaled projects. There are several organizations those have contributed from Eureka Forbes, Antony Waste Handling Cell Pvt Ltd., UN-Habitat & Narotam Sekhsaria. The Government occasionally supports us too. But being said we still haven’t been able to raise an funding that we are currently capable of executing for the benefit of the people.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? Why do they have that? What’s the reality?
We do not face any misconception in this field apart from the normal stereotype, which people have regarding an NGO. But any misconceptions are clarified by visiting our website and seeing our work.
What gets you excited about this company?
We have seen APD’s success in Mangaluru through partnering with the local civic body and waste collector Antony Waste Handling Cell. It’s exciting to see how much we’ve been able to inspire citizens and the Government to take charge. Mangaluru is only the beginning for us and we plan to use our success stories to inspire partners in other states to work with us. It is going to take time a lot of struggle, but we are focused, organized and very passionate about building a healthier India.
Tell us how a day in your life looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you get up till you hit the bed at night.
I wake up early and start the day with exercise and prayers, as they are my key strengths and driving force. I start the day with reviewing the affairs of the business and scheduling my time table according to that. In the evening, too often I find myself working until late. And sometimes, I might find myself reading or watching a TV show. But, I make sure that I get at-least well deserved rest with 7-8 hours of sleep which helps me in keeping me energized.
Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?
Since we are a not profit organization, we don’t have a big team to carry out all our work. In the Management department, we have only 12 people and I over look all the departments for smooth functioning.