When I was a young girl, I remember vividly our trips to the airport. It was a five or six hour drive to go from Pune, where I grew up, to Mumbai where the big airport was. No where along the route was there a safe and clean toilet that we could use and so we would stop at five star hotels and try to sneak in and use their toilets without being noticed. Sanitation should not cause us to scurry into hotels avoiding eye contact – we all have a right to safe clean sanitation and hygiene.
Years later, I was working as an engineer in the auto industry and feeling dissatisfied in my job; I wanted to shape something, to produce something meaningful that was sustainable. Living in India, we’re confronted with the reality of poor sanitation on a daily basis – the demand is so high but the supply of sustainable sanitation solutions was so far behind it. Then, I met Rajeev Kher and we decided to build a company to provide feasible, affordable sanitation solutions.
Fast forward a number of years, and we now have a thriving business, 3S, that has provided sanitation services to over 10 million individuals. Pune is a dense city, there is no space for new builds and so in a meeting with the Pune Municipal Corporation we started brainstorming how we could provide more toilets for women throughout the city. The idea of retired city buses arose and then and there Toilet Integration (Ti for short) was born. We take the old buses from the city, use CSR funds to completely renovate and re-furbish them into beautiful restrooms for women; they include toilets, nursing areas, showers etc and are operated as businesses. We strategically place them throughout the city to serve the large populations of women on the go.
In the 2018 through the Toilet Board Coalition’s Toilet Accelerator, we are working with Unilever, Kimberly-Clark and Firmenich to refine our business model and prepare for scale. We had always been primarily a B2B company (business to business), but now we’re working B2C (business to consumer) and it’s incredible how much we’ve learned. To see how our mentors approach this project, and the long term planning and perspective that they can bring – not to mention the skills and experience around branding, marketing etc. To have access to these kinds of brains I know has been transformational for us already.
Firmenich has done ground breaking work in malodor and they sent us some samples to test in the buses. The bus attendant and I were astonished! We had never been in a toilet that smelled that amazing. We’re raising the standards, reducing the bias that high quality toilets are a luxury.
–Ulka Sadalkar of Toilet Integration or TI