Flushing Away India’s Sanitation Problems

Eram Scientific Solutions

3. Good Health and Well-Being 6. Clean Water and Sanitation 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 10. Reduced Inequalities 12. Responsible Consumption and Production Flourish Prize Finalist - For Business as an Agent of World Benefit - Weatherhead School of Management

Overview

India’s first electronic public toilet is a mission to bring a revolutionary change in the Indian public sanitation system with innovation, science and technology. The research and development group of ERAM Group has been innovating and developing solutions for the needs of the society. The technology focuses on clean energy sources, limited and recycled water usage, and clean waste treatment and disposal. The team promotes the safety of women and children, along with eradicating health issues that emerge with open defecation and creating a clean infrastructure in a developing country like India. ERAM Scientific’s e-Toilet supports both business profit and SDGs (Goal 3, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12)

Author

Vaishali Rocque

Vaishali Rocque

School

TIAS School for Business and Society

TIAS School for Business and Society

Professor

Mirjam Minderman

Mirjam Minderman

Innovation

ERAM Scientific is an innovation obsessed research and development division of the huge conglomerate, ERAM Group. Under the leadership of Dr. Siddeek Ahmed (Chairman and Managing Director of ERAM Group) and as part of their corporate social responsibility initiative, ERAM group has committed itself to a number of social causes. Improving health and sanitation, quality education, and women empowerment are a few of the group’s leading examples enabling positive societal changes.

The technological innovation of e-toilets begins with the pressing issue of public sanitation in India. India’s first electronic public toilet was installed in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala in 2014. The main features of this innovation are:

  • Fully unmanned and automated operations
  • Automatic flushing and floor washing
  • Easy to install and access (entry can be by a coin or access switch for toilets in schools)
  • Energy conserving, environment friendly and sustainable
  • Open 24/7
  • Complete standalone system
  • Recycling of water – minimizing usage of water
  • Revenue generating
  • Remote diagnosis with the help of GPRS
  • Waste management through sewage treatment plant
  • Safe for women

Flushing Away India’s Sanitation Problems

Inspiration

The vision of the e-Toilet innovation is: “to be a pioneer in developing pro-earth solutions in multiple domains and technologies to ensure a better, safer and natural world around us”.

The population of India is 1.32 billion as of 2016, of which 39.84% of the population practices open defecation. Under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 – clean water and sanitation; one of the main challenges in a developing country like India is open defecation. Open defecation leads to major health risks like water borne diseases - fatal diarrhea, cholera, hepatitis and other chronic illnesses. On a social ground, open defecation puts women’s dignity and safety at risk because women feel forced to relieve themselves in the dark due to the need of privacy. These reasons give rise to a challenge of achieving cleanliness, hygiene, women safety and ultimately an end to open defecation.

Open defecation is common in India because of lack of awareness, lack of toilets/public toilets (only 10,000 public toilets are functional for a population of more than a billion), poor maintenance and insufficient manpower to maintain the existing functional public toilets. Also, in a country like India, where women and child safety is a huge challenge, having a closed and safe toilet was a small part of a big solution. To ensure safety, well maintained toilets, and good health of all individuals in India a group of likeminded engineers from Kerala, developed a sustainable sanitation technology solution – e-Toilet, India’s first Electronic public toilet. One of the engineers was Mrs. Bincy Baby, now the Director and Chief General Manager of ERAM Scientific e-toilets. “And then I thought about the importance of technology in solving everyday issues. I believed that if technology is used in a smarter way, it could impact the lives of hundreds of people” says Mrs. Bincy. The main objective of this innovation was to provide self-cleaning, sustainable toilets across India.

Overall impact

The innovation of the e-toilet solution was developed with the idea of scaling up from small towns in Kerala to various other cities across India. “Public sanitation being such a taboo in the Indian society, it was first difficult to attract public to the already installed e-toilets,” says Mrs. Bincy Baby. To make an impact on the society, the need of the hour was to spread awareness about the e-toilets and simultaneously educate people and especially women about how the electronic toilets work. Once the mechanism was made known to the people, it was then an easy task to get people onboard to use these e-toilets. From its first installment in 2014 until today the number of e-toilets across India has been scaling up. ERAM Scientific has installed around 2800 e-toilets across 23 states in India, with about 15,000 users a day.

Business benefit

E-Toilet innovative solution has reached impressive heights with the help of ERAM Group and also attracted investments of about Rs. 200 million from various stakeholders. As part of their CSR initiative, Tata Consultancy Services has joined hands in collaboration with ERAM group to install the e-toilets on the campus for the employees. ERAM group has collaboration with universities like Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, California Institute of Technology, and London School of Economics to gain more innovative ideas. Collaboration with IDEO.org (an international design and consulting company) has helped them improve the existing design and the user experience with the e-toilets. All these technologies and innovations have made the business even more self-sustainable while creating a clean infrastructure for the country.

Social and environmental benefit

  1. Women safety – the e-toilet technological solution has addressed women safety risks by installing toilets for women exclusively. These comprise of She-Toilets and Smart she-toilets with sanitary napkin vending machines along with diaper changing counters for infants. (SDG 10)
  2. Public e-Toilets – well maintained, self- cleaning toilets for all members of the society men, women, and children. There are around hundreds of e-toilets installed in schools taking into account the hygiene, health and well being of the children. (SDG 3)
  3. City infrastructure – this solution has brought a paradigm shift in developing the infrastructure of India, resulting in cleaner cities and environment. (SDG 9)
  4. Water efficiency – limited consumption of water depending on the usage. (SDG 6)
  5. Efficient energy – sensor controlled lights with solar powered panels resulting in the use of conventional sources. (SDG 7)
  6. Waste disposal and treatment – anaerobic decomposition of waste and in later stages used as fertilizers leads to a sustainable solution.(SDG 6)

Interview

Mrs. Bincy Baby, Director and Chief General Manager – ERAM Scientific Solutions

Photo of interviewee

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Eram Scientific Solutions

Eram Scientific Solutions

Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, IN

Business Website: https://eramscientific.com/about/

Year Founded: 2008

Number of Employees: 51 to 200

India’s first electronic public toilet is a mission to bring a revolutionary change in the Indian public sanitation system with innovation, science and technology. The research and development group of ERAM Group has been innovating and developing solutions for the needs of the society. The technology focuses on clean energy sources, limited and recycled water usage, and clean waste treatment and disposal. The team promotes the safety of women and children, along with eradicating health issues that emerge with open defecation and creating a clean infrastructure in a developing country like India. ERAM Scientific’s e-Toilet supports both business profit and SDGs (Goal 3, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12)