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Indigenous models of
Circular Economy


Research Areas

  • Affordable Housing
  • Indigenous Models of Circular Economy in India
  • Sustainable Campus
  • Sustainability Talks

Affordable Housing

In India, there is a mismatch between the shortage of housing and the presence of a large stock of vacant houses, especially in the affordable housing segment. The estimated housing shortage in India is 18.78 million and heavily skewed towards the country’s poorest socio-economic group. On the other hand, according to Census 2011, the percentage of vacant houses in the country increased from 6.3 in 2001 to 7.5 percent in 2011. The percentage of vacant houses in the country increased from 6.3 in 2001 to 7.5 percent in 2011. To explore the reasons for this mismatch between vacant houses and shortage of houses, the Anant Centre for Sustainability is committed to undertaking research on the ‘Paradox of Vacant Houses in India’ in selected cities in the country.

The first research was undertaken in schemes for the Economically Weaker Section (EWS), Low Income Groups (LIG) and Middle Income Group (MIGs) in Ahmedabad during 2019 to determine the reasons for vacant houses in the city. Our primary research in Ahmedabad involved in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with residents of 498 apartments across 50 housing societies built by the private sector and government after year 2010, besides interviews with Resident Welfare Associations, brokers and developers in the city. The findings from the research reveal that some reasons for vacant houses in Ahmedabad are specific to the dynamics of the city and some to the development of housing schemes by the government of India and the private sector.

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Indigenous Models of Circular Economy in India

The circular economy is a resource-efficient manner of life that produces no waste. All materials involved in the process are consumed, recycled or reused. There are several authentic Indian enterprise models that are intrinsically circular, driven by resource scarcity. But these models are lesser-known by the world. They are often found in the parallel economy, therefore less documented and hardly ever showcased.

To draw attention to these models, the Centre for Sustainability at AnantU gathered subject-matter experts from academia, consulting firms and industry for ‘Industrial Symbiosis Round Table’ to discuss industrial symbiosis – a challenge and an opportunity, on 14 of December 2019 at AnantU campus. The discussion was followed by a research project that discovered traditional Indian practices of the circular economy and analysed the design perspectives that can be scaled as business models. The research presented ways in which India’s intangible heritage in the domain of sustainability can be preserved and given a new life.

Know more about Industrial Symbiosis Round Table

Sustainable Campus

The Anant Centre for Sustainability is responsible for transforming AnantU into becoming a sustainable campus. The University has pledged to become plastic-free. The centre has taken steps to establish waste management practices such that all our waste is minimised, segregated, recycled or reused. The centre is responsible for ensuring that sustainability is embedded in the student curriculum, values, and everyday campus life. We believe that the learnings from our activities can be leveraged to benefit other educational institutions who have the will to transform into sustainable campuses. The centre records and documents all the actions taken in this field, measures the impact generated, and disseminates information in the public domain. Know more

Sustainability Talks

The centre has conducted multiple activities to introduce students to the idea of sustainable design. The centre collaborated with design festival, Bengaluru ByDesign for two consecutive years, 2018 and 2019, which curated design thinking, innovation and sustainability through creative events. These events comprised workshops and lectures by industry experts and academics of international repute along with an exhibition on the built environment.

Currently, the centre periodically organises interactive workshops on waste management to introduce staff and students to the magnitude of waste challenges.

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Reports and Projects

  • Report:
    Industrial Symbiosis in India – Challenge or Opportunity
  • Report:
    The Paradox of Vacant Houses
    in India: City Series
  • Project:
    Anant Mobile COVID-19 Testing
    and Oxygen Auto-rickshaw
  • Project:
    AnantU COVID-19 Recovery Centres
  • Project:
    AnantU Corrugated Cardboard Beds
  • Project:
    AnantU COVID-19 Communication

The development of industrial ecosystems is dependent on the availability of an adequate supply of raw materials and its sustainable use. The rapid growth of industrial estates and the flow (or lack of it) of materials within these estates raises important questions around resource efficiency. Indeed, companies within Indian industrial estates violating waste management rules is a perennial problem. Further, it is much more challenging to attain a closed-loop system of material exchange within an industrial estate in India. However, our research also found early attempts of industrial symbiosis in some cases and a well-entrenched informal waste management system that currently overrides all formal material exchanges.

The study finds that the biggest challenge for successful industrial symbiosis within industrial estates to be the lack of trust and cooperation among companies to network, communicate, and exchange materials. On the other hand, we found that there were interactions amongst several company managers on issues related to the environment, water pollution, waste management, infrastructure and management of the industrial estate, which could lead to an environmentally favourable decision on exchanging waste materials for utilisation. There were also several informal interactions during commuting, events and casual engagements amongst company managers.

Report is available here


The report examines significant determining factors of vacant houses in Ahmedabad in the context of the mismatch between the shortage of housing and an abundance of vacant housing. The report identifies several reasons, some that are endemic to the whole country, some that are specific to the dynamics of the city and the state and some to a particular building type (government vs. private). The report enumerates the reasons that make decent housing and dignified living conditions difficult in the cities. The report delves into statistical analysis of the housing situation such as the condition of the houses, ownership, government schemes among others in the context of urban and rural areas. Further, the report gives measures such as longer-term financing options, higher taxation of vacant houses among others to make housing available for all. The report highlights determinants of vacant houses such as lack of infrastructure, delayed documentation, exorbitant rents among others and offers solutions to solve these issues.

Report is available here


Anant Centre for Sustainability has developed ‘Anant Mobile COVID-19 Testing and Oxygen Auto-rickshaw’, an affordable, compact, effective and contact-free mobile facility for COVID-19 testing. The facility is also equipped with oxygen supply for emergencies as well as advanced X-ray technology. The auto-rickshaw, designed in two variants – one which only collects samples and other with an x-ray testing facility, allows easy door-to-door access and facilitates testing of nearly 500 people in a day. The facility is designed for COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms. Both the versions of the auto-rickshaw are equipped with a stretcher and oxygen supply, which enables swift and hassle-free transportation of patients to the hospital.


Anant National University has tied up with various stakeholders to set-up COVID-19 recovery facilities across the country. As part of this initiative, AnantU transformed the existing infrastructure such as apartments, community halls into COVID-19 recovery facilities to provide temporary hospitals with ICUs and quarantine centres. These centres cater to all segments of society and will treat patients with mild symptoms of COVID-19. Till date, AnantU has transformed the following spaces into a COVID-19 recovery facility

  • Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Development Studies in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, into a 20-bed facility
  • Built a 100-bed facility at Dongri’s Najam Baug, 250-bed facility at St Xavier’s College and 350-bed facility at MP Mills Compound in Mumbai
  • Rajkot Municipal Corporation Hall, Rajkot into a 75-bed facility


AnantU has developed laminated corrugated board bed, side table and foldable divider as an affordable alternative to beds available at the hospital. These beds are sturdy, waterproof, easy to produce, assemble and transport and can also be easily disinfected. The centre chose this material as it is cost-effective, environment friendly, can last up to 10 years. The University has collaborated with a local manufacturer and design firm to produce these beds which cost between 8 to 15% of the price of the conventional items. The products are also laminated so they can be spray disinfected and are not affected by cleaning.


The Anant Centre for Sustainability has conducted numerous conversation around the use of sustainable approached such as effective waste management, waste segregation and many others. The centre is actively involved in research and publishes research reports, multimedia products, create and teach relevant course work and implement projects. Besides, the centre has come up with various innovations in the wake of the COVID pandemic such as visors, corrugated cardboard beds and side tables, auto-testing mobile oxygen van and COVID-19 recovery centres which received massive coverage across all the publishing houses.

Centre Collaborators

  • Terwilliger Centre for Innovation in Shelter (TCIS)
  • Habitat for Humanity – India
  • Saltech Design Labs

Terwilliger Centre for Innovation in Shelter (TCIS)

Terwilliger Centre for Innovation in Shelter (TCIS) – USA, is an independent entity set up within Habitat for Humanity International to deal with a market-based approach and create an impact on 100 million lives. It functions independently of Habitat for Humanity with its budget and team. TCIS has set up and manages several funds for investing in housing ecosystem start-ups, including the much-lauded Micro Build Fund – which has led to the development of commercial paper by Credit Suisse for investments in the affordable housing space.

AnantU partners in research on areas of mutual interest with TCIS. The areas of cooperation may include, subject to mutual consent, any desirable and feasible activity that would further the goals of each institution.

Such interaction may include cooperation in a variety of joint academic and education activities such as:

  • The impact of accessibility to housing microfinance on low-income families
  • Which materials or services have the most impact in creating a vibrant housing ecosystem
  • How to integrate sustainable technologies in low-income housing construction


Further, both organizations are keen to develop and conduct modules for capacity building in the affordable housing space. The capacity-building platform would be open for students and faculty members to work with the portfolio companies of TCIS.

Habitat for Humanity – India

Habitat for Humanity – India (HfHI) is one of the largest organizations working to provide decent shelter to families. HfHI sets the stage for families, volunteers, donors, and supporters to come together to build suitable homes that provide the foundation for a better life.

HfHI and AnantU anticipate that a number of initiatives will occur during the period of this MOU. The key objectives of this exercise would be to address the issue of 30 million uncomplete homes and their possible solutions. The focus would be on the self-build space, which accounts for 60 percent of all home construction in India.

To fulfil the above-mentioned objectives, scope of the work is classified in key heads such as:

  • Volunteering Programme: Assistance to each other with Construction, Technology, Innovation & Design to the affordable housing by sending their students/staffs on the field for volunteering programs.
  • Knowledge Hub and Workshops: Facilitate and host key research workshops to enhance the efficiency of the housing projects.
  • Research and Development: Undertake research, assessment, development of tools and resources that facilitate dialogue and synergy of best practices between different operating models and stakeholders.
  • Research Aspect: To conduct joint action-based research such that it is implemented in field-level, policies and practices. These researches shall make an impact in creating awareness within the areas worked upon and the public, in general.
  • Publishing: Case studies and innovation may be presented in national/international conferences and published in reputed Journals and Magazines.

Saltech Design Labs

Saltech Design Labs is a leading technology start-up that re-cycles and up-cycles plastic waste into commercial products for use in the construction industry. It has secured multiple rounds of funding and is in the process of launching several innovative solutions to recycle legacy waster and ocean plastics.

  • AnantU will provide design support to Saltech to develop new products using its technology.
  • Saltech will conduct workshops and classes for AnantU students on plastic recycling and will provide the platform to have a hands-on experience in producing products on Saltech machines.
  • Both parties would be focusing on design competitions and exercises to create new products that can be mass-produced and taken to market.

Anant Centre for Sustainability Team

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