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

Get-a-Loo: A Market based Approach to deliver Sanitation to the Poor

Strengthen the private sector’s capacity to supply sanitation products and services to poor households in urban India


Written by


  • Nearly 60 percent of the world’s open defecation occurs in India
  • Consequences of poor sanitation in cities are particularly challenging given space constraints and high population density
  • In notified slums (slums registered by the municipality), 17 percent of the population is without access to improved sanitation; in non-notified slums, it is 51 percent
  • In urban slums, apart from OD there is significant OD in disguise (household toilets directly discharging into open drains)
  • Contrary to popular belief, there is a significant demand for toilets
  • Size of the toilet market is estimated to be INR 500-700Bn (USD 10-14Bn)
  • The urban sanitation market is however highly fragmented


  • Strengthen the private sector’s capacity to supply sanitation products and services to poor households;
  • Stimulate households’ demand for sanitation services

Proposed Activities:

Understand the urban market

Undertake a market assessment in Delhi and Agra for:

  • Better segmentation of population to identify the diverse segments of those at the bottom of the pyramid  
  • Understand how to convert Latent Demand into Effective Demand in these segments
  • Supply Chain Assessment: Understand the existing market to assess opportunity for market based supply

Design affordable Sanitation Package

  • Research to identify affordable sanitation products and service that can be produced and sold locally
  • Product prototyping:  Iterative testing of prototype; Users feedback  
  • Design final products and production process

Design and Test Business Model:

  • Develop the Business Model/s and supply chain: Design potential delivery models
  • Develop engagement of micro-finance and other financial institution/s, financing models including creative use of govt. support & subsidy
  • Test and Refine the model and production process

Proof of Concept:

  • Identify and engage existing enterprises
  • Provide Business Training
  • Support selected Enterprises to overcome market barriers
  • Beta Test with Early Entrants

Promotional campaign:

  • Work as a Market Maker to conduct market-building activities to get the models started and create an enabling environment for the market to grow
  • Undertake Behavior Change campaigns for toilet construction
  • Branding and marketing for promotion

Expand and Replicate:

  • Engage with new businesses and support early entrants
  • Support expansion of existing enterprise business; replicate & instil competition
  • Address early entrant’s market barriers

Enterprise led business:

  • Kick in exist plan
  • Transit from social franchising to enterprise led promotion

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

  • Conceptual Development

How big or scalable is the potential of your idea?

The potential is for entire urban India consisting of over 6000 towns and cities and 377 million people. The project will be piloted in two cities – Delhi and Agra having slum population of 1.8 and 0.84 million respectively.

Explain the sustainability aspect of your idea

With the best intentions, the Government cannot, on its own, address the sanitation challenge in its entirety. The private sector has an important role to play in meeting the sanitation needs of the country. The size of the toilet market is estimated to be Rs. 500-700 Billion (USD 10-14 Billion) with an estimated Rs. 80-210 Billion (USD 1.6-4.2 Billion) as household or customer financing. A major portion of this market will depend on the private sector to cater to its needs. By strengthen the private sector’s capacity to supply sanitation products and services, the proposed idea can exponentially expand and become a viable and sustained effort.

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

Will require a combination of funds and a package of financial services. This includes grant fund for technical assistance which will cover several key activities including market analysis, designing the business model, training and skill development of the partner enterprises, behaviour change communication, supporting the market maker etc. Secondly, seed funding will be required to bring in Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs) and/or constitute Self Help Group lending, and in devising and operating customer financing mechanisms. Given that toilet funding is not a traditional income-generating loan area for MFIs or the Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs), a credit risk guarantee fund may also have to be created to increase their interest and involvement.

If you are proposing to partner with other organizations, please explain their role and reason for partnership.

Partnership is essential for the scalability and sustainability of any activity. We propose to partner with several types of institutions and agencies. The first set of proposed partner organizations will be government agencies such as the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) or the Agra Nagar Nigam who are responsible to upgrade the infrastructure of the city including the slums. Their involvement is critical for program implementation, policy reform and in reprogramming governmental programs and projects. Other set of state organizations include the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) who are in-charge of managing the cities and service provision. Their engagement is critical to implement the program on the ground and to synergize and leverage the programs and activities of the ULBs. A key partner will be the MFI/s who will be associated for providing the financial service package/s. Efforts will be made to access CSR funds. For CSR funds, the contributing private sector corporate/s will be program partner/s. Last, but not the least, the communities in the settlements where the activities will operate will be one of the important activity partners.

In-country experience

  • Yes, for two or more years

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

Urban Water and Sanitation including provision of community led toilet construction, designing and implementing decentralized wastewater treatment system, water kiosks and community managed water supply in low-income settlements, livelihood and health programs particularly for women, formative research on toilet use and OD, Behaviour Change Communication, partnering with state governments and city authorities to improve municipal service provision and use of GIS/MIS based planning, monitoring and management systems to improve service delivery.

Is your organization currently legally registered in India?

  • Yes

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

We are already engaged in six cities and towns in India. Of these, we propose to pilot the activity in the cities of Delhi and Agra along with existing government, private sector and community based partners.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Centre for Urban and Regional Excellence (CURE) is a not-for-profit, development organization that works with urban, informal and low-income communities, seeking to innovate and un-think inclusive development. In particular, CURE strives to achieve three goals; one, reconnected urban societies that take rightful decisions to ensure sustainable urban development; two, strengthened local agencies with capacities for community engagement, participatory planning and development; and three, evidence building from the ground up for people-centered planning and development of cities. CURE’s strength lies in its communitarian approach. CURE believes that community participation is a ‘powerful organizing ideal’ – the scaffolding that fosters sustainable development in and of communities. It seeks to build real and meaningful participation in cities that can contribute to local development planning and design.

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

CURE has over 10 years of experience on WATSAN in urban low-income settlements. It has provided sanitation solutions in slums of several cities through participatory processes, and working with several partners including the communities and the city authorities. The experience has led to the germination of the present idea. CURE continues to focus on WATSAN issues in urban areas. This initiative will address the urban sanitation challenge that requires both new technology and new management approaches. The initiative aims to strengthen the sanitation supply chain and develop sanitation providers that offer an increased array of choices in technology options using viable business models.

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

The risks involved relate to the business model and supply chain, engagement of microfinance and other financial institutions and the finance mechanism. We propose to undertake a rapid market assessment to identify the diverse segments of the BOP to understand how to convert latent demand into effective demand, undertake supply chain assessment of the existing market to understand the current situation and identify the opportunities for market-based supply. We will also undertake research to develop approaches to engage microfinance and financial institutions and design innovative financial instruments. For developing the business model we will look into four key aspects: the products and services including the value proposition of the business; the customer segments, the delivery channels and the relationship to be developed with customers; the key activities that the business will execute and resources needed to create value; and the cost of doing business.

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

Specific M&E plan for the project to track progress and evaluate the impact will be developed. Based on a log-frame, key indicators will be framed to track progress. A baseline study shall be undertaken in each pilot city. An existing mobile phone based software to generate local data and an MIS/GIS platform for real-time monitoring will be used. The data will be linked to a web-based MIS supported dashboard. The impact assessment will be undertaken during mid-term and at the end of project.

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

We propose to reach 5000 odd households. We believe that this is necessary for testing at scale to show robust results and to increase the potentials of take-up of and in identifying ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the key programmatic components and operations regarding the eligibility of the application of the model and its benefits. Apart from core funding from, we plan to tap some of our existing partners and other resource groups. These include USAID/India, with whom we have an on-going program, and potentially TATA Trust and D S Group of Industries for CSR funds. We would like to ideally have a three year program which is what , we believe, is required and practical for testing the validity and potential outreach which increases the chance of uptake and going to scale. We would like to explore all the funding options from different streams to be able to engineer such a time-line, if possible.

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

The amount will essentially be used for market assessment, designing and testing the business models, designing of financial processes and instruments, capacity development of the enterprises, supporting market operations etc. We hope to be able to leverage the support of some of our existing and/or new partners for other technical assistance areas and some other cost components including part of the management and administrative costs.

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

Support will be required for linkages to financial institutions for developing the financial package, processes and access to micro-finance; and engagement with the state governments and urban local bodies to promote the idea.

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

Yes, CURE has a FCRA account (5 years).


Join the conversation:

Photo of Tagba Assih

a very good idea I think. Solving sanitation problem for poor is really a question of efficient market building. I suggest to elaborate more about micro-finance model you are going to use

many thanks

View all comments