Issue: October 2016
Cover Story
Textiles’ – the word brings up images of beautiful drapes – cotton, silk, chiffon, lace. Whether it is the material draped on the figurine of the lady...
  Tapping Sustainable Energy Alternatives
  The second lead article, which is also focus article, is written by Shri N Bhadran Nair. Citing a report of the World Health Organisation, the author has advocated for tapping sustainable energy alternatives
  Financing Renewables in India
  The third article is written by Shri P C Maithani, Adviser, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. He has focussed on renewable energy resources
  Steps to Achieve India’s Solar Potential
  The special article is written by Sumant Sinha, Chairman and Managing Director of ReNew Power. He opines that India must also honour its global commitments on curbing greenhouse gas emissions
  Product Innovation: Making Sanitation Accessible to All
By Sarthak Akshay

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 individuals 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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