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Svadha WASH business: integrating design, entrepreneurs, ICT & quality suppliers

Svadha is establishing an organized rural WASH market using its Ashoka-awarded PIE (Participatory, ICT-enabled and Entrepreneur-led) model.

Photo of Jessica Brooks
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In today's global scenario of WASH solutions provision to BoP (Base of the Pyramid) market, the value chain has been inefficient, ineffective, and lacking the catalyzing mechanism to reach universal access. Svadha's Ashoka-awarded PIE model has been recognized by the Toilet Board Coalition as one of the 4 disruptive models, globally, in the space of sustainable provision of WASH solutions using market forces.

The gaps in the rural sanitation space we’re addressing are Accessibility, Availability, and Affordability and Information/Knowledge of “COMPLETE” QUALITY WASH solutions

Problems in India’s rural sanitation sector without Svadha:

Demand side

  • Lack of customized choice- as local markets do not offer all-in-one WASH solutions
  • Rigid Price - $60 for a pit latrine to a minimum of $400 for toilet with complete closet
  • Lack of Awareness: still unaware of the disastrous consequences of open defecation

Supply Side

  • Low-quality products: Huge presence of counterfeit but costly material with consumers having low awareness on the quality and on how to build comfortable, sturdy toilets
  • Fragmented market: A highly disorganized, fragmented sanitation supply chain, with each player working in silos to their core competencies and lacking coordinated action to solving water, sanitation, and hygiene issues.
  • Lack of one-stop shop availability of the necessary products and materials to build toilets and ensure proper toilet and hygiene maintenance in local markets.

Svadha’s approach:

Svadha creates an organized WASH market by connecting an army of last-mile entrepreneurs with first-mile product and service providers. Solutions are tailored for BoP customers through design research and negotiating directly with suppliers to deliver quality products at fair prices for households. By leveraging ICT and an army of village entrepreneurs, Svadha transparently delivers complete WASH solutions at the doorsteps of BoP customers.

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Key Aspects of Svadha:

  1. Unique user experience: Solutions are adapted to the different budgets and evolved to meet different needs and aspirations like comfort, privacy, social status, and good health
  2. Complete WASH solutions at a single shop, guaranteed quality at affordable rates, easy access, and sustained availability through entrepreneurs
  3. One-Stop Shop for entrepreneurs:– Entrepreneurs receive the complete package of WASH products and services like: Svadha total (complete toilet elements); Svadha quick (pre-casted toilets); Svadha green (bio-toilets); Svadha care (sanitation plus hygiene products and water) at their door-step, working capital financing at highly competitive rates, hand-holding for business support, business marketing and consumer awareness support, and training on innovations in lieu of service fee
  4. Quality and Affordability: Svadha directly deals with manufacturers, surpassing the distributors/dealers resulting in affordable product pricing with guaranteed quality
  5. Efficiency and Transparency: The technology product – WASH software as a service (SaaS) provides complete integrated WASH solutions to rural market via ICT enabled BaS Mobile application. It offers end-to-end enterprise mobile platform for research, CRM, e-commerce purchasing Kart, analytics, cataloging, and warehouse management. The first version of this product (termed "Sanitool") has been launched and piloted. This is against the current status quo wherein all stakeholders operating in this space either follow an unorganized value chain (e.g., local dealers) or a value chain wherein all aspects are managed manually and in a piecemeal manner resulting in high transaction costs, inefficiencies, and limited reach. The benefits of using a cloud-based mobile application include:
  • A significantly large number of entrepreneurs (globally) can be reached in much shorter time. These entrepreneurs are the key interface who provide complete WASH solutions to end consumers.
  • Both entrepreneurs and end consumers will have easy accessibility, availability, and affordability of quality WASH solutions with complete transparency of pricing, material and transaction costs
  • Enhanced accessibility of information on WASH to help improve sanitation and hygiene habits.

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

  • Scaling phase

How big or scalable is the potential of your idea?

As of February 2016, Svadha has achieved a stable model in Odisha, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh with 120 entrepreneurs and 10,000+ households (~50,000 people) served with high quality, complete WASH solutions. Svadha aims for rapid expansion Pan-India in order to provide livelihood opportunities for 8500+ village entrepreneurs/year and reach about 150,000+ households (~750,000) over 3 years. Svadha is also now catering to global requests in Latin America and Africa for franchise partnerships. Svadha’s WASH Software as a Service (SaaS) Platform currently under development will help rapidly drive Svadha’s model globally.

Explain the sustainability aspect of your idea

The production and delivery process has been designed to offer high-quality and affordable products to end-consumers while simultaneously allowing the entrepreneur to be profitable. By dealing directly with manufacturers and surpassing the distributors/dealers, Svadha offers affordable product pricing with guaranteed quality to entrepreneurs. These conditions have allowed the creation of a local, commercially-viable supply chain and thus a sustainable solution for WASH. Svadha is piloting a variety of products and diversified channels with leading global R&D firms like Firmenich, Lafarge, and Tiger Toilet biotoilet technology (awarded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) in order to strengthen the organized WASH ecosystem, expand our entrepreneur base, and ensure financial sustainability. The Svadha Green channel is currently testing bio-toilets to provide a longer-lasting and thus more environmentally sustainable waste management option.

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

For our Pan India expansion, Svadha is seeking scale-up financing from grant awards and equity investment financing from impact funds. The financing will be utilized in focused efforts to implement our existing Pan India Strategy which will include identifying and establishing franchise partners, establishing the partnership and ecosystem in the new geographies, and R&D (research and development) to customize WASH products and services to local geographies and the diverse BoP market. We are especially interested in support of our current WASH Software as a Service (SaaS) platform development.

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

Svadha operates as an ecosystem integrator by leveraging key strategic, technology, and resource partnerships. Our current key partnerships include World Toilet Organization, Unilever, Toilet Board Coalition, Hystra Consulting, technology and manufacturing partners, and 40+ civil society organizations generating household demand. Svadha is seeking additional partnerships that can help expansion in other states of India by being or recommending franchise partners, linking households to financial services, and uncovering more in-depth insight on demands and constraints in the diverse BoP market. Specifically, our ideas include: • Explore consumer financing partnership based on MFI network • Explore model replication opportunities in India via network of potential franchise partners • Critical inputs in Svadha’s R&D - especially on innovative pre-fabricated toilets customized for rural households and technology input for our WASH SaaS up gradation process

In-country experience

  • Yes, for two or more years

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

To date, complete sanitation solutions – including toilet and personal hygiene products and toilet insurance – have been our primary focus. We are now piloting additional sanitation adoption aspects like fragrance for toilets, environmental-friendly bio-toilets and water services.

Is your organization currently legally registered in India?

  • Yes

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

- Currently expanding in Odisha, Maharashtra, and MP - Next plans: Expand Pan India starting from further penetration in Maharashtra and exploring Western and Southern States like Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh) - In early conversations to replicate through on-the-ground franchise partners in other countries (e.g., Haiti)

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Garima Sahai (CEO): I am an economist-lawyer by education, and a development professional with experience spanning for-profit companies, an NGO and The World Bank Group as a Results Measurement Specialist. My passion for WASH developed during field visits to peri-rural and remote villages in India wherein I realized how the lack of basic WASH access prevents individuals' ability to achieve their potential, particularly for girls’ safety and dignity. Svadha’s core team has highly professional team members driven by passion and equipped with diverse skills and work experiences, collectively including global WASH research, core rural business management, sales and marketing, expertise in ICT for BoP, and rural consumer behavior analysis. Our team includes 5 Managers and 7 Officers in Operations; Sales and Marketing; Supply Chain; CRM; and R&D, Social Impact Measurement, and Public Relations.

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

We are constantly iterating. Most recently, we are launching efforts to maintain our entrepreneur sustainability - namely diversification of our product mix (e.g., introduction of biotoilet); business growth services like consulting and an accounts management system; and holistic well-being services like health insurance so the full family will see a value of our association rather than only the entrepreneur.

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

1. Market Risks - Designing appropriate and acceptable products and services for the consumers continuously and ensuring acceptability in the market is a big risk. We are minimizing risk by developing products, services, and marketing with feedback from consumers on their user experience. 2. Human Risks - Retaining a talented workforce in a social-oriented organization is a big risk, compared to the average compensation in the private sector. We have mitigated that risk by giving the market based compensation to the team. To maintain entrepreneur sustainability, we are providing other services to them like business consulting, an accounts management system, health insurance, and “We Care” communications where the full family will see a value of our association rather than only the entrepreneur. 3. Financial Risks - There is always a chance of losing in the market. We have minimized this risk by diversifying our product mix with complementary products.

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

We will track our consumers with our mobile- and tablet-based ICT platform.

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

In 2 years, we can reach at least 200,000 households - or approximately 1 million end-consumers. Key assumptions: - Moderate growth to select best entrepreneurs - Increase in sales per entrepreneur - Increased efficiency to improve Svadha's profit/loss - average of 5 members per household

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

We would invest in 3 areas: 1. Rapid Pan India expansion – breadth (across India) and depth (enhancing livelihoods, penetration into much needed pockets of rural India) 2. R&D – - Of products: Development of innovative, high quality products including prefabricated toilets; products for children, elderly, and disabled; products to enhance user experience of toilets to drive user adoption; enhanced skillset kit for masons in toilet construction. - Of channels: testing more channels to reach more market segments and bring in more stakeholders to enhance their livelihood opportunity and dignity/social status (e.g., women-led entrepreneurs in Svadha Care channel, mason-led channel for provision of WASH products and services as Svadha Vastukar channel). 3. WASH SaaS development – upgradation of our ICT platform to WASH Software as a Service (SaaS), which would be a one-of-its-kind technology platform to offer end-to-end enterprise and consumer services.

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

R&D Support, marketing and communications specialists, and linking with other organizations as scale-up partners

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

No, FCRA is only for non-profits. We are a for-profit social enterprise, and there is no problem in getting funds or award money.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Sanjay Joshi

Hi Jessica - upfront congratulations having been selected for the award. Awesome. We too as Shanti Life India Foundation - had applied and reached the final round but then the bestrew selected. 

Shanti Life India Foundation primarily aims at ensuring the poor women have access to micro credit to build their toilets and bathrooms. Currently, we have invested in 200 loans. I would be interested to come study your model. Could you please let me know how can I connect - with / where? Thank you and congratulations!!!

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