TARA Machines: Just another (eco) brick in the wall

TARA Machines markets low-cost green technology solutions for building construction, waste recycling and hand made paper production.

This section on Social Innovation is made possible with the support of Deshpande Foundation India.


The construction sector in India has witnessed rapid growth over the last decade, directly and indirectly employing 17.5 million people in 1999-2000 and 44.2 million in 2009-2010, besides contributing a steady 8 per cent to the nation’s GDP. The sector also contributes significantly to climate change. Owing to the shortage of affordable, good quality, eco-friendly building material, the sector depends on material resources and energy to produce and transport building material across large distances as well as in the construction of buildings.

The challenge of providing sturdy, safe, well-functioning homes is magnified in the wake of natural disasters when old homes, unsuited to the vagaries of climate, are lost. Rebuilding efforts are often undertaken by displaced communities using their own resources and with whatever material is most easily available. Such material may not often be weather resistant or appropriate for home construction, leaving them in harm’s way once again.

It was in the context of the need for affordable housing that the Development Alternatives Group was founded in 1983 with a focus on technology innovation for home reconstruction during earthquake relief operations in rural India. The group comprises Development Alternatives, which engages in scientific research and innovation as well as communication and policy influence. Also part of the group is TARA—Society for Technology and Action for Rural Advancement, which practices green business incubation, on-the-ground implementation of eco solutions and provides technical support services.

TARA Machines logo

TARA Machines logo

The group recognized that housing for the poor must be not just cost-effective but environmentally sustainable as well.

With its establishment as a credible large scale provider of affordable, eco-friendly disaster-resistant construction material during reconstructive efforts, the Development Alternatives Group began to look at branching out its efforts beyond the scope of disaster relief and rehabilitation.  TARA, as the incubating engine for micro-enterprise based decentralised models, aimed at providing basic needs of the BOP population. Its work in the development of market systems and enterprise development has led to the establishment of Development Alternatives’s own green businesses, designed to take low carbon, energy efficient solutions inclusive growth in areas such as rural housing, renewable energy, water management, sustainable agriculture, waste management and recycling.

The for-profit social enterprise develops and offers a wide variety of green building technologies for entrepreneurs to purchase and set up for their rural construction businesses. These innovative technologies provide ‘Waste to Wealth’ business solutions for an expanding network of enterprises in the Small and Micro Enterprise (SME) sector in India. Through this process, the organisation aims to provide the ‘means for creating sustainable livelihoods’ on a large scale and thus to mobilise widespread action to eradicate poverty and regenerate the environment.

TARA Machines creates profitable enterprises across the country through the sale of technology and machines that convert industrial waste into building materials such as roofing tiles, floor pavers and fly ash bricks. It commenced operations in 2009 and has since set up over 300 entrepreneurs across India who supply to local markets in 26 states. TARA Machines seeks to provide locally based customised solutions to the entrepreneur based on his market information and his materials.

The overall approach in TARA Machines’ technologies is that they are small-scale, decentralised, and eco-friendly in nature. These technologies also create employment for local communities, offering an alternative source of income to the seasonal agricultural lines of work available in rural communities. It has thus helped in creating sustainable livelihoods, especially for the marginalized and rural poor.

Fly Ash Brick Making Machines

Fly Ash Brick Making Machines

TARA Machines’ main product offerings are: Eco-concrete Technology, Eco-Kiln Technology, Fly Ash Technology and Paper Recycling Technology.  A great advantage to TARA Machines was the pioneering work of Development Alternatives in facilitating a policy environment that favoured eco-friendly construction material and in promoting a market where alternative building technologies were accepted and in great demand. For example, the rising price of red brick and strict control over the purchase and sale of soil have given rise to a growing demand for fly ash bricks.

Similarly, government policies favouring green technology and subsidies to entrepreneurs have also helped increase adoption. The incubation and scaling up of all clean technology solution is undertaken by TARA. The benefits of the technology accrue to the local workers in terms of higher remuneration, skilled jobs and longer work season.  The company is committed to ensuring that its customers’ business remains profitable and supports them with a package of pre and post sales services.

The pre-sales services are mainly to help the entrepreneur understand his market and to determine the kind of product he will create to supply in the market, to understand where his finance will come from, and how profitable his business can be. This includes testing of raw materials, recipe and mix advice, profitability advice, assistance with funding, site layout and machine setup. TARA Machines also provides pre-sales training and capacity building services to entrepreneurs. New entrepreneurs are provided hand-holding for some time and assisted with information about green business opportunities, different construction and production techniques, and necessary linkages for their development. These measures are also supported by robust after-sales service so as to engage the customers and help them throughout the lifetime of the business.

TARA Papermek

TARA Papermek

The entrepreneurs benefit from reduced breakages and higher profits. TARA Machines also tests materials like soil and industrial wastes for technical suitability; thereby minimising risks for entrepreneurs. The equipment and accessories are supplied according to the customised needs of the buyer. After the delivery of the equipments, TARA Machines provides services for installation, commissioning and training of workers to operate the equipments properly, special training to product fabrication team to convert recycled paper into paper products. The training for routine cleaning, check-ups and general maintenance is also provided by TARA Machines.

TARA Machines provides proper know how of the technology and process and also build the capacity of local workers by providing on job training to the community to operate the machines. The company provides on the job training on-site to entrepreneurs, site supervisors and labour on quality protocols and procedures to follow in machine maintenance processes. This is included as part of the machine package.

The geographical focus of TARA Machines is on the least developed states of India, also called the BIMARU states where huge social transformation is required. With the cost of traditional building materials rising continuously, using waste as a primary input allows the materials created with the help of TARA Machines technology to be extremely affordable. Through the sale of its technology packages to entrepreneurs across the country, TARA Machines hope to transform the whole building material market. Established institutions such as the Institute for Infrastructure and Human Resource Development (IIHRD) in Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Gramodaya Sangh in Bhadravati, Maharashtra, have adopted these solutions to set up similar social enterprises.

Eco-Concrete Technology:

It makes efficient use of energy intensive materials like cement and steel, making their building components and products locally produced, cost effective and of high quality. The portfolio includes tiles and pavers.

BrickMek Technology:

Innovated by Development Alternatives, TARA’s BrickMek technology produces smooth and sturdy fly ash bricks using industrial wastes that act like internal fuel and reduce the consumption of external coal. This technology in conjunction with TARA EcoKiln produces eco-bricks and reduces carbon emissions (approximately 15,000 tonnes of carbon reduction per annum from 30 machines). Moreover, the technology is user friendly and can be easily used by diverse, small scale rural entrepreneurs, who can set up a small unit at an affordable cost of $10,000 and earn considerable profits from the first year of operations.

The machine can be operated by local workers, even women, with some initial training. The training provided to the local labour builds their skills and capacity. Engaging of local workers generates year-round employment in the area; it mitigates the rate of migration of the traditional communities to far-away places in search of jobs and the subsequent dislocation of their families. The machine enables the local workers to contribute to the small scale industry with reduced drudgery.

The TARA BrickMek in conjunction with the TARA EcoKiln ensures reduction in coal consumption for firing of the bricks by 25-30 per cent. In use with traditional firing methods, the reduction in coal consumption is 12-15 per cent. Approximately 600 new green jobs have been created so far and the number is increasing rapidly. TARA BrickMek-moulded bricks command a good premium, from $5.6 – 8.9 per 1,000 bricks, thus offering a complete solution for quality brick moulding, particularly for the small scale entrepreneurs.

Paper Recycling Technology:

It is based on cutting edge innovation designed to produce high quality recycled paper at a micro to small scale. As part of its Greenovation technology initiative, TARA Machines has developed a unique set of machinery targeted at micro and small enterprises for preparing high quality recycled files and folders from waste paper, especially office stationery. The recycling systems are designed for institutions at the scale of waste generated, also allowing enterprises to custom design the grade and quality of finished products. TARA handmade paper is marketed in national and international markets. The target consumers for the PaperMek range are companies, schools, colleges, institutions, governmental and non-governmental enterprises, welfare societies and common interest or community groups all of who can set up and operate their own recycling unit. Through this, TARA hopes to raise environmental awareness in rural and urban areas and provide employment opportunities to self-help groups. TARA’s paper recycling systems are also in use in the National Institute for Visually Handicapped and the Samarthanam trust in Bangalore, where they provide livelihood opportunities to differently able people by converting paper and cotton waste to high quality paper and paper products.

TARA’s PaperMek technology is specially designed for operation by school children and demonstrates all the critical steps involved in paper recycling. These units are operational in over a hundred schools in India. TARA’s own handmade paper unit provides employment to many women in India’s Sahariya tribal belt and increases the skill set and providing secure livelihood support systems to these rural populations.

Through Development Alternatives, TARA Machines has been involved in policy decisions at the government level in the states of Orissa and Bihar. That has helped the company understand the shift taking place towards green technology leading to a growing market and increased engagement with the state. In the case of Orissa, certain policy decisions by the government have helped further the demand for eco-friendly building material. The Orissa government’s stringent coal norms and the ban on use of laterite stone have given an impetus to TARA Machines’ technology and material. The company has also received support from an order mandating all government buildings within a 100 km radius of a power station to use fly ash bricks. Support from the Bihar government has come in the form of its initiative towards becoming a Low Carbon Economy by adopting cleaner construction technologies. In partnership with Development Alternatives, the Bihar State Pollution Control Board has organised workshops to spread awareness among entrepreneurs about the use of eco-friendly construction materials. Bihar is a state where about 22,000 tonnes of coal is used to make bricks, adding to the state’s carbon emissions. The brick industry is also an important source of employment for the rural economy, employing mostly migrant workers in a seasonal manner. Most of the workers hail from the poorest sections of society, have their labour rights exploited by unscrupulous contractors, and find themselves out of work in the rainy season. A list of all fly ash enterprises will be available on Bihar government website.


The Social Innovation Sandbox is a series chronicling novel solutions across the country that are seeking to transform life quality for the millions at the base of the pyramid in India.

DF LOGO HIGH RESOLUTIONThe series is supported by the Deshpande Foundation India that is based out of Hubli and is building a nurturing ecosystem for entrepreneurship, innovation, and local, grassroots efforts so that young people can transform this growing country.




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