OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Solution to Sanitation Crisis in India

To provide One Stop Solution to Sanitation in rural homes in selected states of India.

Photo of Mathew Mattam

Written by

Providing one stop solution to sanitation in rural homes in selected states of India.

… Due to bone TB, Rajaram was forced to live with disability. He would be carried by his son for defecating in the open. To avoid this embarrassment Rajaram would eat less so he would defecate once in 2 to 3 days. Today with a toilet in his home, his life has transformed.

…. So also many women, adolescent girls in India  eat less and  control themselves so that they wait for darkness to defecate in the open; lack of toilets in homes  is  a threat to their security as well as health.

…Jewelry is often considered most precious to Indian women and she would hold on to it at any cost. But for Pappy, a marginalized rural women from Jahangirpura village in MP, constructing a toilet at home became more important than her jewelry. She decided to mortgage her silver jewelry for building a toilet.

  1.  Introduction.

Diarrhoreal diseases result in an estimated 1.8 million deaths each year ( WHO 2005). Among children younger than five years of age diarrhoea accounts for 17% of all deaths ( United Nations  2005).  Poor sanitation specifically lack of access to safe toilet impacts on health in three ways;

    a) Premature mortality, that is lives of children lost due to diarrheal and related diseases; b) cost of health care ie cost of treatment during episodes of illness which are the result of poor sanitation;  c) Productivity losses ie, productive time lost when people fall ill or care-givers look after the sick family members.

Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) of the World Bank has estimated the total annual economic impact of inadequate sanitation in India in 2006 at staggering Rs.2.4 trillion ( 53.8 billion dollars). This economic impact is equivalent about 6.4% India GDP for the reference year ( 2006).

Almost 594 million people defecate open in rural India. If rural India is to be completely free from open defecation,  90  million toilets need to be built over period of four years. Government provides an incentive of Rs 12,000 for toilet as part of Swachch Baharat Mission. If this is minimum required for a single toilet then the total cost of Toilet construction in India is Rs. 1080,000 Million worth business. In Madhya Pradesh alone there is requirement of 8  million toilets to make the state open defecation free. Since the government of India has considered Swachch Bharat Mission (Gramin) a priority and an achievable dream by 2019 there is a scope to develop enterprises around toilet construction  and improve the lives of millions of poor in the country.

At present the government of India construct 10 million toilets per year (as per mdws sbm (g) portal 2015-16). If this trends continues it will take 10 years to make India open defecation free. During the 10 years the loss on exchequer by way of cost of medicine and malnourishment will be too high.

  The present rate of construction does not help in any way to achieve this and this requires private entrepreneurs to step in. Experience of providing technical support to implementation of Swachch Bharat Mission program in sixteen districts of Madhya Pradesh during the last two and half  years, suggests that absence of sustainable supply chain which can  deliver a known number of toilet per year is a major constraint. Although the SBM (Gramin) program  now provides for the first in the history, to build a complete toilet with superstructure, progress towards achieving full saturation is not satisfactory.

Though the district of Panna set a target to construct 30,000 toilet during financial year 15-16, they have achieved a coverage only of 13,000 (mdws online portal). Not all of these 13,000 toilets which are being built are fully functional because of technical defects in construction.  The supply chain presently is fragmented which means that 11 types of materials required to build a complete toilets, each of them have separate supply chain. Therefore, even if in principle, a rural household without toilet can build, in reality going to 11 material dealers and contract a mason and laborers. Even when the panchayat which is the empowered institution takes up the responsibility they too have to follow the similar process. if on the other-hand a supply chain consisting of one stop solution provider is developed, a huge efficiency is resulted in terms of reduced time and cost. 

The supply chain involves entrepreneurs as well as skilled and unskilled labourers. Therefore by creating the above supply chain two objectives can be achieved simultaneously- generate employment and encourage small entrepreneurs and improve livelihood options  and at the same time achieve improved sanitation coverage. YouthAid Global Services Pvt Ltd  ( here after proposes to support the government mission to bring a halt to sanitation crisis in the country. Though we are a private limited company our vision is to reduce poverty and inequality and transform people's lives through socio- economic empowerment. 

  1. Challenges to make India Open Defecation Free

Though government is providing incentives through the village panchayat as well as directly through  beneficiaries, these incentives are not reaching all. Especially the early adopters of sanitation who built toilets for Rs 500 almost a decade before. They are the poor, Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribal, whose toilets are already defunct and are deprived of increased incentives from the government. They are required to be supported through INGOs, Corporates etc to ensure minimum facilities of sanitation. They are more vulnerable to diseases unlike the rich and urban population.

  1. Leach pit a solution to rural sanitation crisis

The Swachch Bharat Mission (SBM) provides funds as incentive for the low- cost “leach-pit” toilet but proposes that people must build their own toilets as per their own preferences. While this approach appears sound in theory, experience of the last two decades suggests that this “do-it-yourself” approach will not work. In order to achieve the goal of a country free from open defecation in a finite time period (by 2019) an efficient supply chain is absolutely essential. If this supply chain is operated and managed by private sector there will be obvious efficiency. This aspect has been studied recently by the World Bank, and other international agencies (SNV Consultants, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among others) in Asia. Management experts from Deloitte Consultants have been studying the situation and have come up with the concept of “Turn-key solution providers”, who can constitute the supply chain.

The role of private service providers in accelerating rural sanitation program in five Asian countries- Bhutan, Laos, Cambodia, Nepal and Vietnam- has been documented by the IRC and SNV lately, and they draw important lessons from their work. The importance of making risk and investment on Enterprises (SMEs) has to be a core part of a business model for sanitation programming the part of small and medium enterprises.

  1.  Supply chain for toilets in Madhya Pradesh: 

In the district of Barwani, there has been delays in constructing toilets lack of materials and trained masons. Volunteers of stepped  by facilitating between community and the suppliers with the help of district administration. This has contributed to make few gram panchayats free from open defecation.  The need of the time is to operate in scale. So also I along with a consultant  had an action research in supply chain gap analysis in the district of Sehore and there after engagement of private entrepreneurs resulted in 100% target achievements ( mdws sbm portal).  

  1.  Our Experience as turn-key solution provider 

In Mahad block of Raigad district of Maharashtra has piloted this  with the support of Swades Foundation. Already two Villages have been made saturated  with toilets  as well as to use them. Though the terrain is hard and difficult to reach  masons and labourers are contributing  with  a team of 20 masons 40 labourers are engaged in constructing toilets since January 2016; this can be scaled up further with additional inputs and support.

  1.  The proposed Business Model 

No Business model will be successful because of grant in aid. Therefore this proposal seek the cost of facilitation and technical input cost and probably with a seed fund to initiate the enterprises. While the capital will be raised separately so that make it a viable business model. This proposal therefore focusing  to develop a sustainable supply chain. One supply chain in a state is led by Technical  Support Unit facilitating  5 satellite units led by entrepreneurs and each satellite unit will have 10 masons and 20 laborers working in a cluster of 5 and  will link to the central unit.  These 5  units together will cater to the demand for the toilet in the  district or blocks.  Based on the progress the requirements of mason as well as labourers can change. will nurture the central enterprise and  through them will identify the entrepreneurs for each  satellite units considering various aspects such as their current entrepreneurial capacity, a viable catchment area, logistics such as road conditions and materials market. will also attach a mentor to support in terms of technical and other monitoring purposes.

The SBM Gramin program provides incentives  for houselhold toilets, estimated 80% rural household in the districts will be covered by this. The remaining 20% who are not eligible for incentives  need to be supported. Corporate houses  and INGOs  are now obligatory to provide social development fund and India Sanitation Coalition has been formed with corporate funding to fill similar gaps. These groups along with INGOs are now  reaching out to remaining 20% of population.  The demand created through the incentives available under the government program supplemented by private sector and INGOs will be serviced by the proposed supply chain. will help to establish the supply chain and strengthen them in the following ways

        a) by providing technical support by building the capacity to build toilet following a menu of technical designs; b) management support by connecting them through the material market, identifying network of masons and unskilled labourers who will actually build toilets at the decentralized or satellite  locations; c)  marketing support by providing the entrepreneurs and network of masons marketing tools; d)  Mason training  and finally e) Seed capital-  to kick start their operations.

Each of the 5  constituents of supply chain  entrepreneurs and 1 centre unit  led by will work with a set of 20 masons and 40 labourers who will be a captive labour force together they will be able to build 120 toilets therefore each supply system  will achieve a construction of 720 toilets per month in each supply chain system. The proposed supply system will deliver the following

  •      One  supply chain system led by and supported by 5 entrepreneurs. This supply system is comprises of 120 masons and 240 labourers ( in which 20 masons and 40 labourers become one unit, including for the central unit).
  •      Each supply system will have 6  supply points- 1 centre unit  plus 5 satellite supply points led by entrepreneurs.
  • Each supply system will construct 720 toilets per month and 8,640 will be built per year.

We are proposing 5 supply chain systems ( with total 25 entrepreneurs) who in total will build almost 43, 200 toilet per year. Assuming some system loses we commit 43,000 toilet per year, reaching to 43,000 households ( 5.2 per households)  benefiting 2,20,000 population and two years reaching 2,40,000 population.

The  incentive available for the standard twin leach pit toilet model complete with super structure is Rs 12000/- Experience of construction through private entrepreneurs suggest that an entrepreneurs profit margin for each toilet can range form Rs 250 to Rs 500 depending on site condition and distance from the market etc.  Even if we assume the lower margin of Rs 250 per toilet, the  minimum profit that the one  supply chain centre  will generate estimated at minimum of Rs1.75  million. Each satellite  unit ( an entrepreneur)  will earn Rs 290,000/.  5 supply chain system  will earn a profit  Rs. 8 million per year.  Beside generating employment for 600 mason for minimum 300 days of work results to 180,000 and 360,000  labour days per year, which means 250 million labour wages alone.  Besides this activity will also require substantial amount of material which will also generate employment for a huge rural population. Institutional capacity. is a starts up incorporated in the Company Act in November 2015 and we have a seven staff and 60 workers presently with a turnover of Rs 2.5 million by end March 2016. We are hopeful to reach Rs.20 million worth company by March 2017. But with this support we can reach new heights as sanitation solution provider in the country. Finally we like to share that we have a very experienced team who have expertise in managing huge sanitation projects in the country. I personally managed 3 million pound project in Madhya Pradesh ( Rs.300 million) to accelerate toilets access in the state during 2014-20016. 2014-15 the state constructed half a million toilets while in 2015-16 the state constructed 1 million toilets ( mdws sbm portal of Madhya Pradesh). A great achievement which I contributed or can attributed  to. This project will be another mile stone. Another achievement of mine is to managing a Guinness World Record of 2 million children handwashing for the Panchayat Raj and Rural Development Department of Government of Madhya Pradesh.( see Guinness world record of most people washing had at multiple locations- 2014 October 15) 

How would you describe the stage of development of your idea?

  • Piloting completed

How big or scalable is the potential of your idea?

This model can operate in scale. There is scope to scale within the states as well as other priority states in in India. Initially we will focus in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh and slowly move to other states where open defecation is high. This model is reached out at least 20% of household without toilets in each district. The total facilitation cost required for each supply chain system ie 1 central supply point and 5 satellite will require approximately Rs 3 million including technical and marketing support for two years. will mobilise capital support from other agencies and its own contribution. Initially we will target three states including Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and within six months we will move to Rajasthan, Orissa or Jharkhand based on the identification of entrepreneurs . At the end of the second year the model can be extended to additional districts in these high priority states.

Explain the sustainability aspect of your idea

This model will work with carefully selected persons having entrepreneurial instinct and who will be trained in the specific business model including the technical, managerial and communication aspects and in the larger business enterprise management process. While small amount of seed capital may have to provided as support, the selected and trained entrepreneur will have to mobilise capital for running the business with some hand holding support from' Technical Support Unit. The entrepreneurs will be guided to work efficiently so that they will generate a minimum margin on each toilets without sacrificing quality. Marketing support will be provided by during the first year only. After which they will be encouraged to invest through their own resources on marketing tools. The business model is will be refined in continuous consultation with the selected entrepreneurs. They will also be encouraged to diversity their products and services over time. The surplus generated by them should be adequate enough to sustain them in the business. As mentioned earlier an entrepreneur can make a profit upto Rs.290,000 per year

What types of financing would be required for your idea to be successful?

This proposal requires two types of financing. Capital support for the entrepreneurs and facilitating, management and marketing support for As mentioned earlier is also in consultation with other social development funding agencies to raise required fund for the entrepreneurs. requires Rs 3 million for developing and managing one Supply Chain System in one state for a period of two years which means Rs 15 million for the entire proposal for two years facilitation. While Rs 3 million ( for each supply chain system comprises of 5 satellite units and one central unit facilitation cost is being sought as grant in aid), the capital support for the entrepreneurs or for the central unit ( Rs.1 million per unit ) will have to be raised as soft loan which the entrepreneurs will pay back to respective lenders. This assumes of course that the interest rate should be reasonable so that entrepreneurs will be able to pay back. Therefore the interest rate cannot be more than 2-3% annually. will negotiate with such support organisations to facilitate soft loans for the entrepreneurs.

If you are proposing to partner with other organizations, please explain their role and reason for partnership. is presently working with three national and international partner agencies- Swades Foundation, WaterAid in India , CYDA ( both in terms of hardware and software supports). The partnership focuses on improving sanitation in Raigad district through supply chain which is very similar to be proposed initiative. Swades foundation is generating demands and providing support to households to build toilets. provides toilets in the respective beneficiaries in Raigad. It will also enter into partnership with technical support agencies such as Development Alternative etc. for raising venture support for the entrepreneurs . will enter into partnership with various agencies like Acumen India, India Sanitation Coalition, and other INGOs etc. There are also opportunities to find partnership with organisations having similar idea in this IDEO Competition. Our expectations form partner is that they should play an active role in the initiatives. In this particular case, developing business model for sanitation promotion is an emerging area and there are not too many successful case-studies and clear cut norms for engagement with private sector.

In-country experience

  • Yes, for two or more years

If you have been operating in India, what has been your focus?

As Chief Executive Officer of I have twenty seven years of experience in the developmental sector including the last seven years experience of implementing sustainable sanitation program in the state of Madhya Pradesh as part of WaterAid in India. During this period I also had sufficient exposure to learn best practices from 11 high priority states in the country and participated few international workshops including WEDC and Stockholm World Water Week. During the last 2 years and half I have been testing sanitation marketing strategy and developed enterprise with success . This was part of WASH intervention nested within the larger Health Sector Reform Program supported by Dfid in India . Our experience of partnership with government of Madhya Pradesh has been extremely satisfying. With our support the state scaled up from half a million toilets in 2014-45 to 1 million in 2015-16 ( MDWS sbm portal). This experience will be valuable in the proposed project.

Is your organization currently legally registered in India?

  • Yes

What states or districts will you target/are you targeting within India?

Yes. We will target specific districts within those states identified as high priority in terms of WASH poverty within India. If we consider the sanitation crisis in India it is predominantly in 8 states ie. Mahdya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Orissa. While we have selected Raigad in Maharashtra, we have not selected districts in other states. It will be decided in consultation with other stakeholders like district administration.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I started my career as a student activist in 70's and youth activist in 80's and social activist in 90's and then moved on to work with WaterAid in India to operate programs in water and sanitation sector. Though I feel social inequality still exists, economic empowerment is more relevant today and so I decided to focus on business models. Being part of WaterAid , I became aware of the problem during my field visits. When I saw women and adolescents squatting on the open road side, I felt I need to do something to solve this issue. If a toilet provided near their home, it is not only an issue of dignity but also save time and ensure their safety. I then continued to work on this area and now I feel this can be developed into a business model. Both Government as well as Non-government have their own weakness in terms taking Sanitation at scale. But I am convinced that mobilising and motivating entrepreneurs we can resolve the issues of WASH poverty in the country.

Is this a new or recent idea for your organization? How does it differ from what you are already doing?

This idea has come from my experience in Madhya Pradesh. Last two years I did a study on supply chain gaps in one of the districts in Madhya Pradesh supported by a consultant. I saw that contractors as well as people purchase materials from 5 to 6 shops. I tried to experiment by identifying vendors asking them to store most of the materials. So there are now vendors providing most of the items under one roof. While this helped somewhat it did not solve the entire problem. On the other hand the limited work that we had done with total solution providers appeared to yield better results. The project had to end before I could scale up the limited pilot. One stop solution is different from contractors. Contractors are interesting is selling the products and not solving a solution. One stop solution is providing quality toilet and with follow up support. So I decided to initiate this concept of Promoting One Stop Solution Providers. This award is an opportunity for me to scale up.

What are the two or three biggest risks for your idea and how will you manage the risks?

1. Identifying source of capital for the start ups will be first challenge, while it is planned to apply to several agencies to seek funding support, the concept may not appeal to many traditional funding organisations. We are building actual cash-flow analysis to convince them. 2. Governance issues where we will be operating. Timely payment from government system. We will dialogue with top officials like collectors etc before we undertake this mission in respective districts and explore the possibility of signing an MoU with government or Panchayats to ensure that our investment is not blocked and timely support is provided. 3. Lack of trained masons, there is a possibility of low quality -toilets constructed. We propose to train young people as masons and monitoring with a technical team with On field training can also mitigate these risks. 4. Ensuring usage of toilets. Behaviour change tools will be used to motivate use the toilets.

How would you propose to track or record the households or customers reached?

1. YouthAid will develop mobile based apps to report and record and track the toilets constructed. 2. We will have the list of each household where we have provided the toilets. We can provide one photograph along with the beneficiary. 3.We will upload the list of beneficiary in our website.

If you had two years and $250,000 USD in funding, how many households or customers would you reach?

It is estimated that 720 toilets are being constructed in one Central Unit ( with 5 satellite units) per month. There will be 8640 toilets per year per Supply Chain system. If 250,000 dollars available we can support 5 similar supply chain units in five states and will be able to construct 43000 toilets. So there will be five YouthAid Central Supply Chain units and with additional 25 satellite units in five states which will reach out to 86, 400 household in two years . We can consider 86,000 toilet as two years target. Since supply chain system is designed in as a sustainable model it will go on delivering beyond two years also and increasingly more households will be reached. $2.9 will be the initial investment per household. I feel we should be given five years time there will be 200,000 toilets and per unit cost is less than $ 1.25 per household of five members each.

How would you propose to invest $250,000 USD if you received philanthropic/grant funding support from

As mission ODF we have an idea to move in scale in speed, we have the following plans. 1. Strengthening the existing Technical Support Team in comprises of market, supply chain and technical experts. 2. Establishing desired units in respective states with entrepreneurs being identified as potential actors. 3. Entrepreneurial Capacity building Processes 4. Technical Capacity Building of Entrepreneurial 4. Quality Assurance through monitoring and handholding support through a Mentor 5. Improve technological options like Bio-toilets, Eco-san toilets- optional 6. Seed capital- if necessary 7. Mason training 8. Market support 9. Travel and other management costs

What type of support beyond grant funding are you most interested in?

Surely we need support in terms of Business Analysis, Sharing best practices, developing business models etc. We will be happy to get linked to financial institutions, engineering support in terms of opting for technological options. This is a passion for us we have started the initiatives, still associating with organisations like and similar organisations we consider a privilege.

Does your organization have Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) approval?

Being a Private limited company we do not have FCRA registration. However I am one of the trustees of Centre for Youth Development and Activities, a youth development organisation which has a FCRA. or if aims at creating a consortium with this fund, with agencies who have FCRA we are willing to collaborate and associate with them too. There are various options to go ahead with this project. It is also possible to become part of few ideas part of this competition itself.
View more

Attachments (2)

Open IDEO.docx

Attached document is an initial thought only, however the idea has evolved during the refinement stage and articulated below.

Process Note- Supply Chain Process in Sehore.docx

The proposal is based on experience in Sehore. A process Document attached


Join the conversation:

Photo of Mathew Mattam

Thanks Derek for your observations. There are many other challenges to it now from motivating, especially men to use it, as traditionally they assume they feel comfortable to defecate in the open. At the same, there are issues like who will bring water so that men use the toilets... very often it is women and young girls who fetch water so that men use the toilets.  A lot of sensitization activities should also continue along with quality toilet at home. So ensuring water closer to toilet is also important. Thanks for your observation. 

View all comments