Letter from India: How Poop is Becoming Big Business for Small Companies

Letter from India: How Poop is Becoming Big Business for Small Companies. by Devyani Singh, The Dialogue, January 27, 2017.

An excerpt: Small businesses can help governments and corporations build reliable value chains and introduce new services into local markets. They create employment in emerging markets, and increase access to goods and services that could potentially improve the lives of the underserved. toilet-696x387.jpg

Business solutions

A fascinating example of a business solution to the sanitation crisis in India is Samagra Sanitation. Founded in 2011 by Swapnil Chaturvedi, famously known as “Poop Guy,” Samagra is a small business working at the intersection of design, technology, and behavioral science, to tackle the issue of open defecation in 140 locations in Pune, India.

Samagra operates in urban slums and has so far built more than 300 toilet seats with more than 150,000 daily users, almost half of which are young girls and women. Samagra designs, manages, and renovates community toilet blocks in partnership with the municipality, which pays for maintenance and utilities like water and electricity. Each block is run by local women who act as Kiosk Managers (or “Loo-Preneurs”) and is regularly cleaned by Samagra’s “Cleaning Force.”

Slum dwellers can use Samagra toilets for free, but those who pay for usage get access to value added services or “LooRewards” such as mobile tops-ups, bill payments, banking, and health services. The cleaning staff also receives 100 percent of the revenue collected. In this way, the impact of Samagra goes beyond better sanitation to give women in these communities a means to earn a stable income.

Changing Perceptions

What is often missing from even the savviest of entrepreneurial efforts is a systematic process for conceptualizing a business model that replicates global best practices. Enviu, a developer of innovative social businesses from the Netherlands, is working to harness the power of business in India by co-creating impact businesses that can drive system-change. By leveraging the experience and knowledge of its network across the globe, Enviu works with local businesses to develop what it calls “bottom-up solutions”.

Read the complete article.

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