Can sanitation be a profitable business - how can an entrepreneur make money through operation and maintenance of public toilets (question from India)?

  • Paramita
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Can sanitation be a profitable business

I am looking for any information / case studies on how an entrepreneur can make money through operation and maintenance of public toilets? What are are the barriers, challenges? Some which I have found are that they are closely intertwined with enforcement of land use regulations, bye-laws concerning public advertising, clearances for clubbing services that are enforced by different departments/ authorities.
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  • muench
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Re: Can sanitation be a profitable business

Dear Paramita,

Could you tell us a bit more about the background to your question? I couldn't tell from your forum profile who you work with.
What do you mean by "clearances for clubbing services"?

It seems that in India the public toilet sector is large and booming. I am not sure how many operators can run them with a profit or if they are more run under not-for profit NGO schemes or corporate social responsibility projects. It would be good to get some clarity on that.

I know that the Gates Foundation has supported a few public toilet initiatives in India. Perhaps the best known one is the one by eram Scientific with their eToilet. Thankfully, they have kept us updated on the discussion forum with their progress. You find find the links to the threads here:
www.susana.org/en/knowledge-hub/projects/database/details/115

Eram developed India's first electronic public toilet, the 'eToilet', with unique automated features to maximize user experience (e.g. payment mechanism, doors, washing mechanisms). In this project, Eram proposes to refine the eToilet by minimizing water requirements, improving sterilization mechanisms, and reducing necessary power consumption. The final eToilet will be a completely standalone system, integrated with high-end technologies, that is sustainable in terms of cost and efficiency.


Then there is the work by Samagra:
- Bridge Funding for Samagra During Business Model, Growth Strategy, Organizational Development: www.susana.org/en/knowledge-hub/projects/database/details/567
- Learning from existing commercial product services (Operating toilet blocks in India with a reward system):
www.susana.org/en/knowledge-hub/projects/database/details/30

Also what do you think of the Public Toilet Management Guide that GIZ has developed in India? See here: www.susana.org/en/community/integrated-c...nt/public-sanitation

Is it useful for you?

Regards,
Elisabeth

Community manager and chief moderator of this forum via SEI project ( www.susana.org/en/resources/projects/details/127 )

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Independent consultant located in Brisbane, Australia
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Twitter: @EvMuench
Sanitation Wikipedia project leader: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Sanitation
My Wikipedia user profile: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:EMsmile
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  • Paramita
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Re: Can sanitation be a profitable business

Dear Elisabeth,

Thank you for the response.

I work with the National Institute of Urban Affairs, New Delhi.

I was trying to understand why more entrepreneurs are not entering the sanitation business.

By clubbing services, I mean, say having a gym on top of a toilet or a facility for selling mobile phones in a toilet complex. In that case, the toilet is categorized as a "commercial" land use. If the toilet is located in an area designated for residential land use, then such activities may be designated as "commercial" and approvals and clearances are required, which is not simple and fast.

I have spoken to some operators who say that even getting an advertisement for a toilet is not always lucrative.

I know about Eram and Samagraha. They are also facing challenges in up scaling.

I have also seen The public Toilet Management Guide by GIZ, and also the one prepared for cities of Andhra Pradesh. I would like to know why is it not being used? Is it because most ULBs don't know about it?

Regards,
Paramita
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  • shrikantbhate
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Re: Reply: Can sanitation be a profitable business - how can an entrepreneur make money through operation and maintenance of public toilets (question from India)?

Dear Paramita,

I was just reading your comments on Susana forum, I think there are various reasons for public toilet business not becoming lucrative. Firstly there has to be political will to understand that this is a basic requirement in a city closely related with health and cleanliness of the city and must be provided by Local body without considering the financial gains.

Secondly as you rightly suggested that some small business activity can be generated from it so that some revenue can be generated for the maintenance of the facility. We can think of giving this facility to a SHG so the members of the group will look after the upkeep and sell some items or food items to the users/ people staying nearby. We can also think of providing bio gas facility so that energy will be generated in the form of bio gas on which some production can be generated and then it will become self sustaining initiative. Of course this depends on availability of sufficient land.

Many innovative ideas can be implemented provided our Govt's and policy makers consider it a very serious business and not think about political gains. This seems quite impossible as of now so our ladies will have to continue to suffer for the non availability of good rest room facilities.

No change is possible unless politicians think beyond themselves, most comprehensively about our whole country in a holistic manner. we are working in this field for many years and do keep in touch so that we can exchange more ideas and try to implement them wherever possible. My e mail, id is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

-- Prof.Shrikant Bhate. Architect and Social Entrepreneur. D-9, Durvankur Society I,Panchavati. Pashan. Pune 411008. R:020-2589 9527 Mobile:91-09890440648
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  • muench
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Re: Reply: Can sanitation be a profitable business - how can an entrepreneur make money through operation and maintenance of public toilets (question from India)?

Dear Paramita,

You wrote:

I have also seen The public Toilet Management Guide by GIZ, and also the one prepared for cities of Andhra Pradesh. I would like to know why is it not being used? Is it because most ULBs don't know about it?


I wonder about the same thing. I had asked some questions about it here on the forum:
forum.susana.org/170-shared-toilets-comm...a-platform-available

I even e-mailed some people in the background but nobody was able to give any answers about it yet.

I am guessing that this is either because the guide is not user friendly. Or because the guide was produced with a project budget and the budget ran out just when the guide was finished, and there was no money left for any roll-out or dissemination activities, and the main authors left to do other things. This is just my guess, I hope I am proven wrong. Time and time again we see wonderful documents and guides being produced who don't unfortunately gain much traction on the ground.

Perhaps you could investigate further within your network in Delhi and tell us what you find.

Regards,
Elisabeth

Community manager and chief moderator of this forum via SEI project ( www.susana.org/en/resources/projects/details/127 )

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Independent consultant located in Brisbane, Australia
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Twitter: @EvMuench
Sanitation Wikipedia project leader: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Sanitation
My Wikipedia user profile: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:EMsmile
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