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YoungPlanet: Could this app help stop toys ending up in landfill?

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With Christmas fast approaching, most parents and relatives are in the throes of swallowing a wish list containing the latest toys and gadgets, scratching their heads at just what a L.O.L Surprise! Glamper Playset for £99.99 is. 

But this year has seen a green movement in which more Britons are concerned about the environment meaning those plastic throwaway toys might be on the naughty list.

Founders of YoungPlanet, Jason and Emma Ash, say that children only end up playing with a handful of toys and that something more sustainable needs to be done to stop items ending up in landfill.   

They point to data that claims the average British 10 year-old has around 238 toys but uses just 12 daily. 

Wasteful: Data shows that children have hundreds of toys but only play with a handful

Wasteful: Data shows that children have hundreds of toys but only play with a handful

Wasteful: Data shows that children have hundreds of toys but only play with a handful

It means that millions of toys are left unused around the country, destined for landfill or collecting dust in the loft.

The toy industry is worth nearly half-a-billion pounds in Britain creating a money pit for parents and relatives. 

Jason and Emma believe they have created an eco-friendly, money saving solution to the waste and expense of kids toys through the launch of the YoungPlanet app a year ago.

The ‘cashless platform’, which has been piloted in Hackney, now has more than 2,000 users that have launched the app 50,000 times to exchange hundreds of unwanted products – all for free.  

It’s not just toys that can be exchanged. With kids aged 0-4 years old costing more than £14,000-a-year to raise, other items such as buggies and bottles can also be listed.  

Helping parents who want to save the planet 

Emma and Jason Ash are the founders of the YoungPlanet app, which encourages families to exchange unwanted goods for free. This is all in an effort to save money and ensure that fewer unwanted kids stuff lands up in landfill

Emma and Jason Ash are the founders of the YoungPlanet app, which encourages families to exchange unwanted goods for free. This is all in an effort to save money and ensure that fewer unwanted kids stuff lands up in landfill

Emma and Jason Ash are the founders of the YoungPlanet app, which encourages families to exchange unwanted goods for free. This is all in an effort to save money and ensure that fewer unwanted kids stuff lands up in landfill

Jason, 45, says: ‘As parents, we all strive for the best for our kids, but the impact on the planet’s resources is huge and growing. 

‘We wanted to create a solution for parents to be able to provide a rich experience for their kids by enabling them to have access to a variety of toys and products, while saving on costs and reducing our depletion of the earth’s resources.

‘We all are becoming aware of the impact our own living has on the planet, so we wanted to create a way to give parents a solution to a life with fast-growing children accumulating a house full of unused stuff.’

Jason says the concept evolved after they attended garage sales in the suburbs of New York in America. 

‘Freddy, our youngest, was so enamoured with this tin truck that instead of charging us the seller gave it to us for free. He said it was nice to see someone else enjoying it.’

He adds: ‘In its simplest form YoungPlanet is a hub for children’s stuff that’s looking for a new home. 

‘The main driver is around exchanging free stuff but with a cloak of doing it for environmental reasons.’

Jason admits that YoungPlanet’s mission has also been catapulted by an increased awareness following Blue Planet’s showcase on plastic pollution in the world’s oceans as well Greta Thurnburg’s activisim.

He says: ‘Waste is not cool and people feel like a super hero when they’re doing something about it through our app.’

The YoungPlanet up went through a pilot in Hackney, London with families exchanging goods for free

The YoungPlanet up went through a pilot in Hackney, London with families exchanging goods for free

The YoungPlanet up went through a pilot in Hackney, London with families exchanging goods for free

Re-inventing the wheel?

Jason’s aware that they are not the only ones to come up with such a concept. 

Families can, after all, exchange goods for free or sell their second hand items through online marketplaces like Freecycle, Facebook marketplace and Gumtree.

But this hasn’t stopped him creating his own version, which he believes does it better. 

He says: ‘We are not the first to do this and we won’t be the last but nor was the Model T car the first and last car.

‘When it comes to Freecycle we’ve used it extensively and we like it. 

‘But it’s difficult to use and it’s also not specific.

‘The key thing for YoungPlanet is that we are hyper-focused on waste and raising children and this changes the whole interface of the app and how we market it.’

Jason adds that an element of gamification has also been added to the app to incentivise users to commit to being environmentally conscious.

‘What we did and within each of the profiles every item you place on the platform you get a point. If you are bidding with other… the highest point gets higher up to the top.

‘So the more you give, the more you get. It’s not a hard rule, but when choosing who to pass it on to, we encourage givers to look at who has given the most and who is closer to you so that you don’t need to pay for postage and packaging.’

Expansion plans

YoungPlanet allows parents to give away a variety of items which includes anything from clothes, to toys to some 'big stuff' items like cribs.

YoungPlanet allows parents to give away a variety of items which includes anything from clothes, to toys to some 'big stuff' items like cribs.

YoungPlanet allows parents to give away a variety of items which includes anything from clothes, to toys to some ‘big stuff’ items like cribs. 

The founders of YoungPlanet are now looking to expand the app’s range and have raised their initial £325,000 target through crowdfunding platform, Crowdcube.

The funds raised are to be used to expand into London and Bristol in 2020, with ambitions of reaching one million households in the next three years.

Jason explains: ‘Following London and Bristol we’ll launch in Bath, Oxford, Cardiff and get cities linking with one another, national with North and South. 

‘Then we’ll probably move onto cities like Stockholm and Vancouver. 

‘We look at how open cities are to tech and being green – that’s how we choose them.’

Jason says revenue will be derived largely from native advertising on the app and subscription services as the YoungPlanet community grows.

He assures that he won’t charge parents to use the platform: ‘It will always be free to exchange goods. 

‘There are two revenue streams. We are hoping in next two to three years we’ll have a million [users] on the platform.

‘Average usage is sky high but within that once you have the people we’ll have contextual advertising to monetise. 

‘We want to do that cautiously though as we want it to be high quality.

‘Another way is through a business to consumer and business to business subscription model. We would look at an Amazon Prime type subscription that offers free postage.’

Raising money is always difficult. The tech side of it and building it has been difficult too. I’m used to making chocolate and apple juice.
Jason Ash – founder, YoungPlanet 

He adds that the B2B model would help corporates in getting their employees that aren’t working in central locations or working from home to get involved in the community.

Jason explains: ‘We’ve seen remarkable interest in that. It would deliver big tranches of users to the platform. 

‘If a manufacturing company has an agenda around waste and employees that are decentralised you can combine those things to create a corporate community.’

Loyalty to the platform may be rewarded as well in the future.

Jason adds: ‘This would involve compounding the “more you give the more you get” concept, where super users benefit more. 

‘They may get a monthly stipend to get a weeks’ window on a new listing for example.’

There is a week left of the crowdfunding which you can look at here. Investing in a start-up via this method can be risky.

Crowdcube says raises like this are targeted exclusively at ‘investors who are sufficiently sophisticated to understand these risks and make their own investment decisions.’

Using powers for good

Prior to launching YoungPlanet, Jason’s wife Emma enjoyed a career in PR and marketing having worked at LVMH and been a director of Stella & Dot UK.

It’s not the first time that Jason has dabbled with entrepreneurship. He has a private equity background and was managing director of cidermaker Orchard Pig before it was sold to international drinks business C&C for an undisclosed sum. 

He also worked in marketing roles at Unilever, Mars and Cadbury.

Founders Jason and Emma Ash pose on holiday with their young sons who helped inspire a business based on the free exchange of goods and saving the planet

Founders Jason and Emma Ash pose on holiday with their young sons who helped inspire a business based on the free exchange of goods and saving the planet

Founders Jason and Emma Ash pose on holiday with their young sons who helped inspire a business based on the free exchange of goods and saving the planet

In spite this varied and colourful career history it’s only with this business that Jason feels like he’s contributing something back to society.

‘If I am really honest, I wanted to use my powers for good. 

‘You get to a certain point in your life when you’re financially solvent and you want to see what social impact you can make.

‘It’s something the world needs. There doesn’t need to be as much waste as there is.

‘There doesn’t need to be a conflict between business and social good. 

‘Selling soft drinks and sugar is great but what good have you done?’ 

While the company has achieved its crowdfunding goal, Jason admits its there’s still a lot of challenges to managing this business.

He says: ‘Raising money is always difficult. The tech side of it and building it has been difficult too. I’m used to making chocolate and apple juice.

‘The business is not recession-proof but one thing in our favour is that the free stuff element becomes more appealing as people become financially challenged.’

His advice to other entrepreneurs looking to do something similar is to surround yourself with the best people. 

He says: ‘This is so you can easily ask for advice – but you don’t always have to take it.

‘Plus you really have to believe in what you do. What we’re doing at YoungPlanet is new and interesting and provides solutions to a problem. 

‘It provides a social platform compounded with the “why” of why people should do it while also making it fun and simple to do.’

 

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SMALL CAP SHARE IDEAS: SDCL waves the flag for energy efficiency as an alternative to renewables 

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Wind and solar power might be the main sources of renewable energy, but they are not the only options.

Jonathan Maxwell, chief executive of Sustainable Development Capital, believes a far bigger bang per buck can come from energy efficiency.

Maxwell is the manager of SDCL Energy Efficiency Income Trust (SEEIT), the UK’s first listed fund to specialise in combined heat and power (CHP) and rooftop solar projects.

SDCL Energy Efficiency Income Trust (SEEIT) is the UK's first listed fund to specialise in combined heat and power (CHP) and rooftop solar projects

SDCL Energy Efficiency Income Trust (SEEIT) is the UK's first listed fund to specialise in combined heat and power (CHP) and rooftop solar projects

SDCL Energy Efficiency Income Trust (SEEIT) is the UK’s first listed fund to specialise in combined heat and power (CHP) and rooftop solar projects

‘So much attention is paid to clean energy through renewables, but we have to focus on energy efficiency.

‘If power can be provided on pure commercial merit and be cheaper, cleaner and more reliable, that’s exciting.’

That was a reason the trust listed on the main market a year ago.

‘It was a really strong message that this business has matured and has good future growth prospects,’ says Maxwell.

From a carbon efficiency perspective, these projects work just as well or even better than renewables, he says.

Moreover, being on-site they offer the additional benefit of reliability and security at a time when electricity usage is growing and the grids in many countries are under increasing pressure.

For example, the huge upsurge in data usage means that from almost a standing start data centres on their own are forecast to account for more than 5 per cent of the world’s electricity usage by 2023.

That is more than all the electronic devices in the world currently and before the electric vehicle revolution starts in earnest.

Energy efficiency projects can play a significant part in meeting this demand, says Maxwell.

The technology has developed hugely over the past ten years and now offers a real alternative to buying power from the national grid for businesses and large users.

Tesco has just started to install solar panels on selected supermarkets through a partnership with SEEIT.

A recent contract at a Citigroup data centre, meanwhile, is being used as a blueprint as a power solution by others across the ICT (information and communication technology) sector.

The huge upsurge in data usage means that from almost a standing start data centres on their own are forecast to account for more than 5 per cent of the world’s electricity usage by 2023

The huge upsurge in data usage means that from almost a standing start data centres on their own are forecast to account for more than 5 per cent of the world’s electricity usage by 2023

The huge upsurge in data usage means that from almost a standing start data centres on their own are forecast to account for more than 5 per cent of the world’s electricity usage by 2023

Maxwell believes this is just the start and as the technology proves itself, especially in critical environments, the use of on-site energy-efficient CHP boilers will soar.

‘They typically provide cheaper, cleaner, greener energy.’

A growing awareness of lower carbon emissions by companies is also driving a surge of interest. Maxwell says he has been surprised at how important carbon emissions have become for the corporate sector.

‘Companies going green are an incredibly important driver.’

Add in the reliability issue and it’s easy to see why Maxwell believes the time is right for energy-efficient CHP projects. ‘They [CHPs] are cost-competitive, green, and the first line of defence against the grid’s problems.’

Power prices are not an issue for Maxwell. This business is driven by technology, he says, and that means it will remain competitive against any alternative power source.

Even the best-combined cycle gas turbine loses half of the energy it generates, but that is much better than the UK grid where efficiency is 38 per cent.

An on-site CHP system, however, where the heat generated is used rather than ‘dumped’ can see 75 per cent – 85 per cent energy efficiency.  At Citigroup’s data centre, for example, the heat produced from the generator is used to cool the centre.

On-site users also do not have any of the transmission and distribution costs associated with the grid. In short, it’s ideal if the end game is cleaner, cheaper, energy, says Maxwell.

SEEIT raised £100million when it listed, of which £57million was used to acquire a seed portfolio from Sustainable Development Capital.

Since then it has raised a further £172million with the £100million received from the latest round in October to fund a portfolio of nine Spanish assets acquired for €150million.

Target returns for the trust are 7-8 per cent a year and with its half-year results SEEIT re-affirmed plans for a dividend of 5p this year to March 2020 rising to 5.5p in 2021.

At 107p, the yield currently is 4.7 per cent, while the shares trade at an 8 per cent premium to the latest net asset value calculation of 99p.

Going forward, Maxwell expects ICT and data centres will feature heavily in the future portfolio. 

Healthcare, too, will be another key market. Barts in London recently signed a flagship CHP deal but so far only 5 per cent of UK hospitals have on-site generation.

The CHP market has potential to grow 2-3 times, while in rooftop solar ‘half of the world’s lights still need to be changed,’ says Maxwell.

‘We have a good first-mover advantage,’

 

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Tariff hikes likely to double telcos operating profit in FY21: Report

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The Supreme Court order on the AGR puts a burden of Rs 1.47 lakh crore on the industry that has been bleeding for years and sitting on a debt pile of close to Rs 4 lakh crore

The steep tariff hikes, effected earlier this month by the battered telcos which held prices at rock bottom levels for nearly five years, can help more than double their operating profit to Rs 60,570 crore in FY21 from Rs 29,450 crore in FY19, says a report.

It is a “structural positive” for the sector which has been weighed down by weak cash flows and mounting debt levels, leading domestic ratings agency Crisil said on Monday, adding the hikes are a good opportunity for the industry to “repair its financials and become sustainable”.

In the aftermath of the adjusted gross revenue order by the that favoured the government view, all the major telcos hiked subscriber tariffs by up to 40 percent, starting with the prepaid customers.

The order on the AGR puts a burden of Rs 1.47 lakh crore on the industry that has been bleeding for years and sitting on a debt pile of close to Rs 4 lakh crore.

“The crucial part now is pricing discipline and extent of down-trading from current plans to cheaper ones by subscribers. That will determine the kind of net gains that telcos will make in the near-term,” said Sachin Gupta, a senior director at Crisil.

The industry’s debt to operating profit ratio will come down to 4.6 times from the present 7.5 times, if the operating profit improvements indeed happen as expected, the agency said, adding the top three players presently owe Rs 3.3 lakh crore to the system.

The average revenue per user, arguably the most widely tracked number by analysts, will go up by 25 percent following the price hikes to Rs 145 next fiscal from Rs 116 earlier, the agency said.

It said 80 percent of the additional revenue will flow straight into the operating profit given the high operating leverage at which the operate.

The agency said its analysis shows every Re 1 added to the Arpu adds about Rs 1,000 crore to the industry’s operating profit, and going by the same, the overall operating profit will double to Rs 60,570 crore in FY21 from Rs 29,450 crore in FY19.

The tariff hikes would accelerate SIM consolidation and curb subscriber additions, it added.

On the AGR, it said its base-case assumes a payout of Rs 50,000 crore in license fee arrears by the industry.

“Any additional liability will stretch their balance sheets and necessitate fresh equity infusion and support from sponsors to maintain credit profiles,” another Crisil director Nitesh Jain said, adding he has not factored in the 5G spends.

First Published: Mon, December 09 2019. 20:30 IST

Source: Business Standard

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PSBs turn profitable in Apr-Sep FY20, post aggregate profit of Rs 3221 cr

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State-run lenders had posted aggregate operating profits during 2017-18 and 2018-19 of Rs 1,55,603 crore and Rs 1,53,871 crore respectively

(PSBs) returned to profitability in 2019-20, posting an aggregate profit of Rs 3,221 crore in the first half ending September, Minister of State for Anurag Singh Thakur said in Parliament on Monday.

PSBs had posted huge losses in 2017-18 and 2018-19 financial years due to heavy provisioning for non-performing assets and other contingencies, according to the minister.

State-run lenders had posted aggregate operating profits during 2017-18 and 2018-19 of Rs 1,55,603 crore and Rs 1,53,871 crore respectively.

However, they made aggregate provisions for NPAs and other contingencies of Rs 2,40,973 crore and Rs 2,35,623 crore in FY2018 and FY2019, respectively, he said in a written reply in Lok Sabha.

This resulted in aggregate net losses of Rs 85,370 crore and Rs 81,752 crore in 2017-18 and 2018-19 respectively.

“Further, PSBs have returned to profitability in the current fiscal, reporting an aggregate profit of Rs 3,221 crore in the first half of the current fiscal,” Thakur said.

Citing data of the Reserve Bank on global operations of PSBs, he said their aggregate gross advances increased to Rs 68.76 lakh crore as on 31 March 2014 from Rs 25.03 lakh crore as on March end 2008.

As per RBI inputs, the primary reasons for the spurt in stressed assets have been observed to be, aggressive lending practices, wilful default/loan frauds/corruption in some cases, and economic slowdown, the minister said.

He was responding to a question whether the losses in public and private sector have been caused by increasing frauds.

The Asset Quality Review (AQR) initiated in 2015 by the RBI for clean and fully provisioned bank balance-sheets revealed high incidence of non-performing assets (NPAs), the minister said.

The RBI has issued various guidelines on safeguards on frauds, misappropriation, embezzlements and defalcation of funds for Urban Cooperative (UCBs), he added.

“Further, a reporting mechanism has also been put in place by RBI, exclusively to monitor frauds reported by UCBs.

“UCBs have also been advised to constitute a special committee on frauds headed by the chairman for monitoring and following up cases of frauds involving amounts of Rs 1 crore and above exclusively, while audit committee of the board is required to monitor all the cases of frauds in general.”

He said the government has initiated host of measures to prevent frauds and as per inputs received from PSBs, they impose penalty against erring officials after due process including dismissal/removal from service/compulsory retirement from service among others.

Further, where an element of fraud is observed, complaint is lodged with the police or the Central Bureau of Investigation, he added, citing banks’ input.

First Published: Mon, December 09 2019. 20:35 IST

Source: Business Standard

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