Issue: December 2017
 
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Cover Story
When one buys a product the first thing one check is the price tag. Is it within my budget- is the only query one asks oneself most often. Very rarely...
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  Consumer Protection in India: Genesis and Recent Developments by Shri D P S Verma
  The author opines that the Government of India has taken a number of steps for the protection of consumers’ interest, but there is still a long road ahead to ensure effective consumer justice
  Keeping Pace with Technological Dynamics by Shri Sitaram Dixit
  In this article, the author has said that understanding consumer worries and expectations about the digital medium and striving to find ways to build trust is by itself a big challenge for policy makers
  Justice Delivery for low Income Consumers by Shri BC Gupta
  The author opines that it is high time for Administrative and Judicial Authorities / Institutions involved in the task of consumer
  Consumer Inclusion in Financial Services by Shri G Sundaram
  He opines that there should be appropriate controls and insurance mechanisms to protect consumer assets, including deposits
 
 
  Product Innovation: Making Sanitation Accessible to All
By Sarthak Akshay
Introduction

Today, sanitation in India has become a revolution in the wake of Swachh Bharat Mission launched by the Prime Minister almost three years ago. Sanitation assumes a great role when the impact on people is concerned.Lack of sanitation leads to physical and cognitive stunting in children, leading to a less potent and productive workforce. Poor sanitation practices also leads to a loss of lives due to a range of water-borne diseases, for e.g. Diarrhoea, which kills over 100, 000 children every year in India. For women, especially, the practice of open defecation poses a great threat to their safety and dignity. Avoiding defecation for long hours in order to avoid venturing out during dark hours can also lead to several health issues.
Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan targets to make India open defecation free by October 2019. It is noteworthy that, from October 2014 to July 2017, the number of people practicing open defecation dwindled from 550 million to less than 320 million. The number of individual toilets increased to over 3 million and community toilets increased to over 1 million. Most rural households in India have access to a pit based toilet structure which is not connected to any sewage pipelines. There are nearly 178 million rural households, of which 62 per cent households are using a community or household toilet. 45.3 per cent of households reported usage of sanitary toilets. There are still nearly 55 million households, of low to middle income households in rural India, who do not defecate in the open but have access to unsanitary toilets.

Behaviour Change for Hygiene Products

There is a serious need to bring about behavioural change among the masses to encourage usage of toilets. By and large, people in rural areas avoid toilets due to unclean conditions and as sanitary cleaning products are neither very accessible nor affordable. Usage of just water to clean does not work properly, especially when water itself is a scarce commodity in several areas. So the focus should be on finding an affordable and accessible disinfectant for rural masses. Also any product formulation that facilitates accelerated decomposition of sewage would greatly benefit households as it would reduce the household pain around emptying of pits.
The maintenance costs required for upkeep and cleaning of toilets has created a pressing need in the market for a low cost effective cleansing product. We believe that a dry toilet cleaning powder (enabled with rice husk + enzyme + fragrance) in rural areas can be a cost effective solution.

Existing Products: Are they Sufficient?

The existing liquid toilet cleaners in the market are generally high quality products with high cleaning standards at the prevailing market prices, which is usually very expensive for the rural customers. Other cheaper alternatives, such as toilet acid and existing powders, are acidic in nature which does not help in accelerating decomposition of sewage. In addition, acids also pose a health risk to the population owing to their hazardous fumes. Due to this, these solutions may be incompatible with rural toilets.

Innovation in Toilet Cleaners

The need of the hour is to innovate a cost effective toilet cleaning solution which offers powerful cleaning, strong germ kill and prevents bad odour for low to middle income rural families and also contains enzymes for shortened sewage decomposition process. The disinfectant should have robust properties for germ kill. The enzymes should aaccelerate the decomposition process, which is particularly important for single pit toilets. The pits can be cleaned earlier and toilets can be reused sooner, with the release of a pleasant fragrance.
Rice husk is an agricultural by-product that is typically burned in large quantities, often leading to hazardous smoke and pollution in rice growing areas. Rick husk is extremely abrasive and has moisture absorption and odour absorption properties which when combined with enzymes can create an effective cleaning and disinfectant solution. Moreover, due to its alkaline nature, the husk only accelerates the decomposition process, creating a clear value proposition for rural consumers. A dry toilet powder with the above base formulations will go a long way in meeting cleansing requirements for customers and due to the inexpensive nature of raw ingredients, it is likely to be an affordable proposition for customers.

Potential on Domestic and Global Scale

There are 46 countries where less than half the population has access to an improved sanitation facility. The countries in South Asia and Northern and Central Africa have the poorest sanitation conditions in the world. Since rice husk forms the core ingredient of the new range of sanitation products, regions that are quite rice-intensive in their cropping patterns, such as Central Africa and South Asia (where also the poorest sanitation conditions exist), can be a great source for supplying this ingredient locally at a significant scale. This just goes to highlight the cost effectiveness and potential scale of such a product innovation.

Reaching the Households: Distribution

The eventual result should be that chains such as Farmers co-operatives, rural sanitary marts, public distribution system and local self-help groups become the capillaries of distribution of sanitary products so as to make them reach the last mile consumer and rural households through an aggregator distribution system.

From “Open Defecation Free India” to “100% hygienic India’’

We have described the impact of Swachh Bharat Mission in creating a nationwide consciousness in building toilets. The focus, going ahead, must move from building toilets to continued use and upkeep of toilets. The pillar of ‘behaviour change communication’ must be incorporated at all levels. For e.g. school modules for children must stress the importance of hygiene to build this mental thought from a young age. Every rural household with a new toilet construction under Swachh Bharat must be given incentives and material support to maintain and clean toilets from time to time, under local supervision if need be. Marquee programmes such as Mann Ki Baat, conventional media such as TV, radio, print media, video on wheels (Swachhta Raths) and non -conventional media such as stalls/exhibits at folk theatre shows, haats, melas, post-cards etc should work in tandem with the concerned government to drive sanitation messaging through to the last household to facilitate the change in an individual’s psyche.

About the author:

The author is a professional Consultant and banker with 6 years of experience with Deutsche Bank and on Projects for the Gates Foundation. He has worked across functions in digital finance, sales and general management, having international experience in Singapore and Philippines. Currently, he is pursuing MBA at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad.


 


 
 
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