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This Social Startup is Solving India’s Infamous Sanitation Problem

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India, the world’s second largest population, has always had a dismissive performance when it comes to sanitation. While the situation is still average in urban areas, the rural blanket of the country is the one in which owing a toilet is still considered a luxury rather than a necessity. According to experts, the reason for this huge urban and rural divide when it comes to sanitation can be traced back to India’s historic caste system, where people thought if one had to have a toilet it had to be very fancy and expensive.

Seeing the sad performance of India in the global sanitation index, a number of companies are sprouting in the Indian startup market to cater to this problem and provide some quick as well as long fix solutions. One such social venture trying to make a change is Svadha.

A WASH startup (acronym stands for Water, Sanitation & Hygiene), Svadha is said to be the only company that is meticulously working towards driving an unorganised rural WASH market to a solution-driven organised sector. The startup aims to make people forgo of the old caste system belief about toilets and make them realise that toilets are for everyone, irrespective of which caste, class or religion you belong.

toiletssvadhaAccording to Forbes, currently, India’s rural sanitation market can be estimated to be worth approximately $25 billion. Out of this total figure, about $10 to $14 billion is from the demand for rural toilets alone.


Founded in the year 2014 by Garima Sahai, a former lawyer and World Bank specialist with expertise in international human rights laws, and social activist KC Mishra, Svadha is supported under the Toilet Board Coalition’s first Toilet Board Accelerator program 2016. Sahai and Mishra initially began their Svadha journey in 2012, two years prior to formally launching, by running a series of pilot tests.

As part of the Toilet Board Coalition's accelerator program, Svadha held a workshop with members from Kimberly-Clark, Accenture, and Intellecap in April to discuss key focus areas for scale-up preparation and how to further push their marketing efforts.

As part of the Toilet Board Coalition’s accelerator program, Svadha held a workshop with members from Kimberly-Clark, Accenture, and Intellecap in April to discuss key focus areas for scale-up preparation and how to further push their marketing efforts.

India can make a concrete improvement in its sanitation woes by employing good business solutions. Modi government’s ‘Clean India’, Swachh Bharat mission is pressing for substantial actions–recognising the very fact that business has a crucial role to play at innovation at all level.

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Social startup Svadha offers rural consumers number of sanitation solutions – right from sustainable waste management solutions to proper brick and mortar buildings with latrines. These solutions are sold through locally based entrepreneurs who have been well trained by the startup to follow up with all the post-sale management and repairs. The startup’s packages cost ranges between $27 to $230.

According to Svadha, the success of their business lies in building a good network of local entrepreneurs who can be trained by them to become a “one-stop” shop for consumers who are looking to purchase and maintain their sanitation product without having to run around to different small vendors with unreliable stock.

Svadha’s Sahai believes that they have managed to get through such a highly subsidised sector mainly because they’re supporting the local entrepreneurs instead of competing with them.

Since India’s staunch social caste system still prohibits toilet construction, especially in rural areas, Svadha decided to take the matter head-on by entering the market from a largely tribal Indian state, Orissa. Currently, they are trying to work their way into the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, which currently have the worst figures for open defecation in the country.

According to Sahai’s statement to Forbes, the mail dominance factor that exists in India is also one of the main reasons for the sad state of sanitation in the country. The males in the country predominantly believe that is not as important for them as it is for females to have a toilet. This is the very reason that Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, states with male dominant societies that prohibit women from expressing themselves, have unfortunately fallen way behind when it comes to sanitation.

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Sahai further backs this claim by stating that statistics have shown that the percentage of available toilet and sanitation services is much higher in South India where matriarchal societies have existed for generations when compared to Northern India.

Irrespective of the part of the nation, the one common issue that the country on whole faces is the severe lack of toilet facilities. Svadha’s mission to make sure that each home in India has one toilet of its own, rather than depending on community toilets. They also aspire to make a statement by proving to the entire world that providing toilets and maintenance for their products isn’t just a free service, but they can also make good money from it.

Svadha’s plan is to reach operational break-even by the end of next year and reach cash-flow break even and scale up by the year 2018.

Via Ambika Behal@Forbes

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