We live in a country where near about 60% of the population doesn’t have access to toilets. For those who have, the experience of visiting public toilets remains nightmarish.
While dearth of safe and hygienic sanitation facilities continue to plague rural India, the urban space suffers owing to the neglected conditions quality of such facilities.
Leaky or un-adaptive toilets, outright filthy washrooms are a common affair on the Indian sanitary landscape. Be it a workplace or on the go, Indian women carry on with their struggle, or are forced into painful contortions to shun physical contact. The only option is to wait till reaching home.
Social consciousness, however, has germinated an inchoate industry, offering an array of solutions to deal with India’s public sanitation. Innovative designs, based on fundamental scientific approach and exclusive products, are making the situation easier and convenient for women who work and travel.
The products include handy sanitizer sprays and funnel-inspired contraption that will help women avoid making uncomfortable postures while using dirty toilets.
Peesafe and Peebuddy are the Indian start-ups helping women deal with their intimate hygiene through unconventional solutions. In 2015, Vikas Bagaria launched PeeSafe, an isopropyl alcohol (IPA)-based spray that kills the bacteria in toilets.
In 2015, Deep Bajaj and Co-founders Mohit Bajaj and Deepak Thareja patented an idea for India’s first ‘female urination device’, called Pee-buddy. The device helps women avoid contact with dirty toilets.
Problem -solving Remains the Key for a Successful Businesses
In an exclusive interview with Entrepreneur India, Bagaria and Bajaj elaborated on problem solving, innovation and entrepreneurial strategies to address social issues. The duo agreed that problem solving lies at the core of entrepreneurship.
According to Bagaria, who started his first venture in 1997, growth, profits and problem-solving ability should be the key to the entrepreneurship. “Problem-solving aspect does play a role and must be seriously followed. As per current trend, good solutions should be the key for a successful start-up,” he added.
#3 Basics for Entrepreneurs Solving Problems
Bajaj believes to rely on business sense than gut feel. “Gut feel is good, but it should not be pursued at the cost of business survival. Business has to make commercial sense and find customers. Sometimes, entrepreneurs in spite of knowing that their product does not have market viability tend to ignore the fact and carry on promoting the product. This is suicidal for business and hence every entrepreneur should be open to pivoting the model as and when circumstances demand.” he shared
He is also all for service over sale. “Business must be customer-focused and not based on simple hard-sale model. Loyal customers are the best ambassadors,” opined Bajaj.
“Feedback,” he maintained, “is critical for growth.” “To keep growing, you need constant improvement. For that to happen, business should be open to feedback,” asserted Bajaj.
Bagaria feels that young entrepreneurs full of energy, ideas and hungry for growth have all that takes to make a venture successful. “But often they lose focus and start making mistakes by chasing investors, instead of innovating on their process to solve the real problem. An entrepreneur should pay attention to customer feedback, team work, remain humble. These will take care of all other aspects of business,” he cautioned.
Scopes for Innovation Women Health and Hygiene Sector
“Though a lot of buzz is there, I feel there is still a lot of scope for innovation and improvement in the women health and hygiene sector,” said Bajaj. “Women are travelling like never before. While they multi-task (managing work/home/social commitments), they face many problems which are unique to them. We are trying to solve some of them (Dirty Toilets / Sanitary Disposal/ Menstrual Challenges etc), but there are many others, which need immediate attention across level (right from BoP to Upwardly mobile millennials),” he asserted.
Bagaria feels that a lot of funds are now available for serious ventures. In India, women health and hygiene sector needs more help from both ecosystem and govt. “Sanitary and hygienic products should be taxed low. But under GST, it is placed at a high bracket. Sanitary napkins and other menstrual hygiene products are pegged at 18% where this should be tax free. I wish more and more people especially men should become vocal to initiate ventures into women health and hygiene. The rural India needs the most and there is an immense opportunity in this sector,” he added.
Blend of Innovation and Initiative is the Secret Sauce
Bagaria strongly vouched for the age-old adage, ‘Necessity is the mother of innovation’. “There are many issues which we see across that need to be addressed, especially in rural and semi-urban space. India lacks good R & D facilities, grants and support necessary to innovate. With better funds and improved research and development, we can see a lot of innovative ventures coming through,” he appealed
“Innovation in isolation doesn’t work,” Bajaj maintained. “There are times when you don’t need innovation as much as you need initiative. We all can see problems, solutions are also there but no one is willing to take the initiative to bridge the gap — in such cases initiative becomes more important than innovation. While in many situations, innovation becomes a must. I feel in Entrepreneurship you have to spot the issue and see it through till the end,” he wrapped up.