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Quality Services for the Base Of the Pyramid

Whenever it comes to providing any services or facilities to the slums, most ideas tend to run towards providing low or substandard products on the basis that people at the base of the pyramid cannot afford any better and thus in some way do not deserve it. Most products that are developed for this segment are often inferior or low budget and sometimes do not satisfy the needs of the people they are trying to serve.

However, quality does not have to be synonymous to expensive and we are trying to achieve this in our provision of services to the people living at the base of the pyramid by coming up with simple ideas that can radically change the living standards of the community members and the way they deal with sanitation.

Take for example the simple idea of providing the right ambiance in a toilet. Most public toilets are dreary and unappealing places that people go to only when they have no other alternative and once there they cant wait to get it over and done with. Will the right ambiance in a toilet  promote a more positive attitude regarding sanitation and how people deal with public toilets. It may seem like a ridiculous idea that how a toilet looks can influence how people interact with it but human beings are visual beings and are often attracted to what is visually appealing.

We are thinking of changing how the toilet looks both on the inside as well as the outside. These include simple changes such as painting the toilet facilities an appealing color that is more attractive to the users. Our focus is primarily on women who are often the most affected by public toilets provisions and putting up additional add on to the facilities such as sanitary bins in every toilet cubicle for privacy, improving the lights in the toilets, painting the block in bright and lively colors or even having music playing in the background. These may seem like simple things but we are hoping that the overall effect can be felt by the user and they are more comfortable in using the facility and can keep it clean because they actually like being there.

We are also thinking of extending our services to include not only toilet cleaning and maintenance but also provision of bathing facilities. This is because most informal settlements have insufficient space to to put up bathing facilities and women are the most affected because they often lack the privacy that they need to do their ablution. One way is through converting the already existing toilet facility into a joint bathing and toilet facility. In this way, women can go to the toilet block and have a shower in the privacy of the cubicle. Additional services can include provision of water for bathing (hot water) or other sanitary products that they may need such as soap or shampoo at a price. This could also solve the issue of how to get people to pay for the service as a common attitude is that toilets should be provided for free but they would be more willing to pay for water to bath and thus indirectly can pay for both the toilet cleaning and maintenance of the toilet block.

The aim of providing such facility is to improve slum people's lives and to provide them with a complete sanitary experience. However with this idea, implementation will require considering many other factors  foremost is the cultural mindset of the people whose cooperation and acceptance is crucial for it to work. 

This blog is one in a series that documents the journey of Saraplast in setting up an inclusive slum sanitation venture.  To read more blogs in this series, click here

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Comment by Suzanne Krook on April 11, 2013 at 15:02
Hi Rajeev, it sounds like an interesting concept! One of the companies that received support through Innovations Against Poverty, Sanergy, has been successful in delivering high quality sanitation services along the lines you describe. There might be some useful lessons from their experience. Details of their project is on this website or you can look at their website

Good luck!
Comment by Mohammad Zakaria on March 27, 2013 at 4:37

I am negotiating a project on milk cooperative /biogas plant /organic agrobusiness where CSR presence has been conceived significant from climate, gender and poverty perspective. I am looking for more literature highlighting CSR during startup phase.

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