There are millions of unwanted mobile phones in the UK, sitting in draws and gathering dust. Macclesfield-based Eazyfone, which makes a business out of the refurbishment and resale of yesterday’s handsets, reckons the number is more than 100 million.
Given the age of the industry, the size of the UK market, the typical upgrade cycle, the advancement of technology and the fickle tastes of consumers, 100 million seems a conservative estimate.
Eazyfone recycles second-hand mobiles, regardless of age or condition, and pays cash for contributions. Its motives are altruistic, it says; it is helping the environment, and chipping in to educational institutions and charitable organisations for contributing sack loads of old handsets.
But its motives are also commercial. As new Eazyfone managing director Nick Brown, appointed in the New Year, explains: “Our green credentials are strong, but we’re also a commercially minded organisation. If we’d just focused on the environment, we would have quickly gone bust, and ultimately wouldn’t have helped the environment at all.
“So, at the end of the day, we are not concerned about how we appeal to people – whether it is a green trigger, a charity trigger or a cash trigger – as long as we are taking in stock of old phones.”
Since its launch in 2001, Eazyfone has relied heavily on venture capital investment. It is still to produce great returns; still to prove conclusively there is commercial mileage in eco-friendly business in the mobile industry. However, it broke even for the first time in March, taking more than £1 million in the month, and expects to double turnover this year, to around £10 million. It would be the second year running its turnover has jumped 100 per cent.
It’s now taking more than 1,500 units per day – 40 large sacks, plus numerous smaller courier deliveries. Things are beginning to look up, suggests Brown.
“Recycling is good for the world, but if you can’t make money from it no one will do it,” he says. “We went through the break-even barrier for the first time in March. Before that, every month was a loss.
“We will make a small loss again this year, because the first six months were loss-making. We expect next year to be a profitable year, but the aim will be to ensure we invest in new activities and initiatives so we can keep doubling. That’s the plan – we require more equity, another £4-£5 million, so we can expand and make much more of this. We want to set up similar businesses across the world.”
Eazyfone divides its business into four units, branded according to the channels it takes handset donations from – Envirocharities works with charitable organisations, Fones4schools and Envirostudents work within the education sector, and Envirofone works with the public. It fixes and refurbishes the handsets it collects, and re-sells them to the UK dealer channel, or else exports them to the Far East.
Full story in Mobile News – Issue 413
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