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Old paper mart in a tech world

JUNK COLLECTOR: S.Jacob in his shop Photo: S.James

JUNK COLLECTOR: S.Jacob in his shop Photo: S.James   | Photo Credit: S_James


Your chance to throw waste into your computer and get paid is now here

In a city like ours, which lacks efficient waste disposal systems and has a changing profile of waste disposal patterns, a website to solve this trouble at a click is always welcome. allows you to sell anything from your old newspapers and milk covers to worn-out computers and antiques that you feel are just eating away space in your sleek, modern house.

As S. Jacob walks around in his dingy room strewn with waste paper and plastic, he instructs and orders his labourers on a Bluetooth headset to reach a particular destination to collect materials on time. His ears are so attuned to conversion that he hears waste as wealth.

“Punctuality translates my hard work into money,” he says.

Jacob took an interest in his father’s waste paper business when he was unable to clear his plus-one examination. Initially, his father collected and sold waste materials just like any other dealer on the streets. But Jacob had an urge to be different. He opened a shop over three decades ago at Palaganatham. Business was good. In fact, till 10 years ago, he collected seven to eight tonnes of waste per day that earned him Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 40,000 per month.

With the changing profile of the city residents and their preferences, business began to slow down. Competition was also tough. When Jacob was about to give up the business and look for another way to make a living, his son Sam came to his rescue.

All Sam did to boost business was to start a webpage, It became an instant hit. The three-month-old website has widened Jacob’s customer base with around 200 registrations, besides the 50 to 60 phone calls he receives daily.

“After this website launch, I almost collect one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half tonnes of waste materials in the city and its peripheries,” he says.

Once a customer registers online or by phone, Jacob promises to reach the person’s home within 24 hours. Daily, on an average, he collects waste materials and goods from 20 houses. Recently, he bought a van so that he could reach more houses. As soon as Jacob’s employees reach the spot, they quote a price for the materials and products. If the seller is happy with the price, they have a deal.

Whenever Jacob finds electronic products that are in good condition or need minor repairs, he repairs them and sells them second hand. “I just keep a minimum margin profit on the second sales, as people from lower strata of the society opt for these second sale items,” he says. If he finds these items beyond repair, he dismantles them, segregates the parts and sells them to junk dealers.

Jacob’s business does not end with junk. He also buys and sells antiques, and some of his customers come from Karaikudi and nearby areas. Though he collects waste materials and goods only from Madurai and its suburbs, he sometimes travels to nearby districts to buy unique and antique pieces of art.

Antique collection

Recently, he acquired a huge teak cupboard fitted with five locks of rust-proof iron. “This kind of cupboard is very rare and it is 100 years old,” he says. “It has a huge and separate space for jewels and documents. Besides, it is unique because it maintains the quality of all ornaments we keep, especially the silver. ”

Some of the other items he has found are a stainless steel guja that has retained its lustre, a brass two-storied tiffin box with two spoons that also serve to keep it sealed, and a couple of jewellery boxes, one of which has a mini alarm system.

“I sell these antique items only to special customers who have a real love for these,” he says. “When I buy these products, elders at home shed tears.”

In an essential but often overlooked business, Jacob has successfully connected himself with the new and reconnected himself with the old.

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Printable version | May 23, 2018 3:11:40 PM |