A toilet is now not just a toilet. Be it in an urban or rural setting, this existential cubicle is fast transforming into a sustainable economic enterprise. Innovative toilet-retail combos that market hygiene products, food & groceries and other services, while also collecting health data, are leading many to comment that the toilet could be the next frontier of organised retail.
Innovation is the name of the game in the sanitation economy. The Toilet Board’s accelerator programme, which was set up in 2016, has been acting as a springboard for entrepreneurs who can think out of the box when it comes to commercially viable business ideas related to the toilet. Their scope may include innovative sanitaryware infrastructure, products & services, toilet resource collection, treatment & transformation (circular resource recovery and up-cycling to water, energy, nutrients); and digital applications for sanitation and preventive healthcare. Each year Toilet Board selects innovators and provides them with a 12-month mentorship, partnership and visibility to accelerate their growth in the sanitation economy. Innovators can now apply for the 2021 Accelerator.
Here are some of the sharp innovations that became part of the Toilet Accelerator cohort, or were considered by the program.
Wowlet provides audit and maintenance services to toilets in public spaces and those belonging to commercial establishments such as restaurants. Besides, it is creating a network of managed toilets through a mobile app, which ranks them based on available facilities. The app enables users to locate the toilet closest to them and doubles as a branding platform for the commercial establishment. Set up in 2017, the startup has so far tied up 14 toilet locations in NCR, where it is also putting up retail kiosks for marketing hygiene products. According to founder Akshay Punjabi, Wowlet aims to tie up 20 audited toilets each month in 2020.
PadCare Labs has developed Sanicure, a smokeless sanitary pad disposable machine for installing in toilets. The device is odourless and features a pathogenic lock to prevent infections from spreading. It shreds the pads instantly and in a safe manner, thus making the life of the waste picker easier. This startup aims to address the problem of safe disposal of menstrual products, the lack of which is a major cause of UTI and girls dropping out of school.
PeeBuddy, launched in 2015, is India’s first female urination device that enables women to stand and pee in unfriendly toilets. Users do not need to wipe dirty toilet seats or hover over the WC to avoid catching infections like UTI. Recommended for use during medical conditions such as pregnancy, spinal injuries, arthritis etc. Peebuddy is a funnel-shaped device made of waterproof coated paper, which can be carried in the purse and disposed of after use.
Also Read: Sanitation is the New Growth Engine
Eram Scientific Solution
Eram’s eToilet is an unmanned, electronic and connected toilet catering to the public sanitation market. This unique product is addressing the challenges of hygiene and sustainability of public sanitation, and bringing the whole cycle approach, from entry to waste treatment. eToilet is built on a convergence of the latest technologies, which make it cost-effective and suitable for the geographic and demographic patterns of any location. Its steel body ensures it is vandalism resistant and completely recyclable, while Internet-based sensors monitor its condition 24×7 and provide critical health data.
Toilet Integration (Ti) Bus
Ti Sanitation Centre is a one-stop answer for women looking for safe, clean toilets. This toilet on wheels comprises of WC, Indian pan, shower cubicle, sensor taps, a panic button for emergencies, digital feedback system, and trained female attendant. The bus has solar panels that power its lights. It can be simply connected to existing urban utilities and drain lines that lead to sewage treatment plants. It’s a community toilet on wheels solely for women, which also retails health and hygiene products. The founders aim to develop Ti as a mobile digital health centre for women.
GARV toilets are smart portable modular enclosures made from stainless steel, which can be grouted to the ground and placed together to form a block. They are fitted with solar panels and battery packs that power their LED lights, exhaust fans and sensors inside. In the absence of sewer lines, their bio-digester tanks can safely treat the waste. ‘Toilets for Her’ models feature sanitary pad vending machines and incinerators. RFID and IoT sensors automate the flushing system to clean the floor and lavatory pan before and after every use. Besides India, Garv toilets are being installed in Ghana, Nigeria and Bhutan. The founders aim to serve 1 million BoP users daily by 2020.
The Tiger Toilet digester is a low-maintenance and effective means of faecal waste treatment right at site. Based on vermi-filtration, the digester is a safe and affordable sanitation solution for low-income families. This is a retrofit mechanism suited for single-pit toilets and is offered in FRP and concrete. The tank need not be emptied for 10 years, and the system is more effective than twin pit latrines and septic tanks. The worms digest 90% of faecal waste in less than a day, and the treatment is marked by the absence of smells and complete digestion of faecal sludge.
In 2015 Saathi started manufacturing biodegradable and compostable sanitary pads made from banana tree fibre, which provide a rash-free sustainable experience. Banana fibre has properties of high absorption, and their use sustains the social benefits of banana cultivation. After the fibre is extracted from the stems of the banana tree, the residue is fermented and used as fertiliser. These pads degrade in less than six months of disposal; nearly 1,200 times faster than plastic pads. The sale of Saathi pads in urban markets subsidises their sale in rural areas. They are perfume and chemical-free and unbleached.
Lootel Café is a smart public toilet coupled with a food retail outlet. Consisting of 6 unsex cubicles with facilities for the disabled, the toilet café provides clean washroom services using a pay, use and redeem concept. The toilet voucher can be redeemed at the café. Other features include air-conditioning, Wi-Fi and cleaning after every use. This innovative business, currently operating in Indore, is being offered as a franchise.