Serial entrepreneur and innovator Abishek Nath has taken upon himself the task of reshaping the urban landscape as well as civic behaviour of citizens. By setting up a business of public toilets called LooCafe, he is offering safety, luxury and sustained public convenience never seen before in the country. In a detailed video interview, he explains the business of LooCafe.
LooCafe is a chain of over 350 public toilets that are maintained by a well-trained and highly motivated team of workers. Each of the toilets is equipped with sensor-based devices that enable the team to keep a watch over their water and stink levels, footfall, and usage patterns. The maintenance team comes equipped with supplies and tools, and follows a beat protocol to manage a set of toilets.
What however makes the toilets unique is that they are coupled with a point of sale, that may be a tea and snack vend, small supermarket, or ATM.
LooCafe is a part of Ixora Corporate Services, a company that Nath set up in 2016 to offer facility management services to shopping malls and commercial buildings. Ixora manages all the LooCafe installations, and also constructs them and sells them to urban local bodies.
According to Nath, who is CEO of Ixora, the business of LooCafe is run on a sustainable model where the running and maintenance expenses are recovered from revenues of the point of sale. Users do not have to pay for accessing the toilets. This profitable enterprise is enabling Ixora to give out franchises to investors. The first franchise, with Madurai-based Thooya Innovations, has already been announced for the regions of Chennai, Puducherry and Karnataka. A LooCafe has also been set up at Dal Lake in the city of Srinagar, J&K.
Each LooCafe is a sustainably built structure, designed taking into consideration pedestrian priorities, changing urban landscape, and local usage patterns. The building is actually a refurbished shipping container that fits in separate toilets for men, women, and disabled, besides a point of sale. “We have used the concepts of modularity, as in Lego, so that the toilet can be expanded and shifted whenever required in future,” says Nath.
Other features of this urban concept include CCTV cameras outside to check vandals and ensure user safety, sanitary pad dispensers and disposal equipment, perforated flooring to drain spilt water, pressurised faucets, etc. “Our inspiration is the Swiss knife, which is compact yet rich with features all around it. The LooCafe is a similar structure, replete with functionality and convenience.”
“After Sulabh International we are the largest public toilet entity in the country. Besides 350 toilets that are operational, another 150 are expected to be in place in next 45 days, taking the number to 500. We aim to expand our network to 1,000 locations within this year.”
Nath says that going forward IoT technology will be incorporated to set up a cleaning command centre, that will monitor every toilet remotely. This will enable Ixora to predict maintenance issues and ensure that the facilities are always spick and span under all circumstances. “We believe that we are inculcating a sense of hygiene and pride among our citizens, as they see their lives becoming safer and healthy with a LooCafe nearby.”