Why the ‘Toilet Entrepreneur’ could be the next big initiative
Article published in Economic Times http://blogs.economictimes.indiatimes.com/et-commentary/why-the-toilet-entrepreneur-could-be-the-next-big-initiative/
I was at recently concluded 14th World Toilet Summit (WTS) hosted in New Delhi on 19th – 20th Jan 2015. The summit is organised by World Toilet Organisation (WTO). UN has announced 19th Nov as World Toilet Day, the foundation day of WTO that India has adopted with full zeal and motivation.
There are two versions of WTO that we understand – for economists WTO means World Trade Organisations and for others WTO means World Toilet Organisation. Why the other WTO is more important for India? UNICEF estimates around 600 million i.e. half of the India population defecate in open. Open defecation is a gender neutral issue – men, women, children, old age people, all of them defecate in in both rural and urban areas. Railway tracks and open field are usual places where we must have witnessed open defecation while traveling by trains or elsewhere. It is quite evident, open defecation leads to unhealthy surroundings, diseases and malnutrition. It is a crisis of unprecedented proportions.
Prime Minister Modi has called for elimination of open defecation in his Independence Day address. He has made it as mission mode activity under Ministry of Urban Development. Under the ‘swatch bharat abhiyaan’ PM has taken a personal agenda to build over 100 million toilets in India in next five years. World Toilet Summit reinforced the need to build toilets in India. Jack Sim, Founder of World Toilet Organisation (also known as Mr Toilet) said, “Toilet should be a sexy subject of discussion rather than a taboo; toilet should shown as the way we show our Luis Vuitton handbag. Toilet owners should have bragging rights.”
As a strategy consultant, in my opinion, 100 million toilets is a great business opportunity for entrepreneurs. To build these many toilets, we need to develop a huge supply chain that can service the demand & supply all over India. Imagine to setup a toilet in one home – one need to build a room, water supply, maintenance, soaps/cleaners, disposal mechanism …. the list is endless. There are 543 Lok Sabha constituencies (or 676 districts) in India. Every district will need approx 500 new entrepreneurs who can supply/manufacture sanitary hardware for the new toilets. The Toilet revolution itself would generate around 25,000 new entrepreneurs and further provides 1 million jobs for plumbing, maintenance etc.
The Ministry of Urban Development should setup a “Toilet Entrepreneur Training Centre” where grassroots entrepreneurs from urban and rural areas can be trained on how to setup and maintain toilets around the country. The training centre can also become the facilitation centre to expand the knowledge about toilets. This way, not only we will solve the problem of sanitation and open defecation; we will provide employment opportunities to hundreds and thousands of people.
India is on the historic cusp of ending open defecation. Behavioural changes are required for people to adopt the toilet. Let me reiterate the slogan of ‘Toilets before Temples’ given by Mr Modi. We need clean toilets in our temples, our homes, our offices, our school and everywhere else we go. We need to proudly adopt the next generation Toilet Entrepreneur.
Professor Nikhil Agarwal is President of Cambridge Global Partners and Founder of Entrepreneur Café www.entrepreneurcafe.org