Banka BioLoo has set out to solve a dirty and embarrassing problem existing in India – the lack of toilets in half of India’s households. The problem of open defecation is not only humiliating for the 626 million people who don’t have a closed toilet but also for a nation that has the calibre of executing a Mars Mission but not the desire to provide basic sanitation facilities to its population.
Banka BioLoo, led by Namita Banka, is a human waste management company providing sustainable solutions for sanitation and waste water for rural and urban areas. It has set out to stop open defecation by installing bio-digester toilets at places where conventional toilets facility cannot be made available.
The bio-digester technology has been developed by DRDO and is used for sanitation in high-altitude military establishments such as Siachen. Banka BioLoo is one of the first to commercialise this technology, which could well meet the sanitation needs of millions of rural Indians.
A bio-digester tank is a multi-chambered tank with the provision of inlet for human waste and outlet for water and biogas. Biogas can be used for various energy intensive activities such as cooking, water and room heating. The pathogen-free effluent water can be drained without any environmental hazards or be used for gardening and agriculture.
Banka BioLoo’s biggest customer right now is the Indian Railways. The company aims to install these toilets at public places, rural areas, construction sites, hilly areas, urban slums and the areas where there is no sewage connection.
Seeing the spectacular success of Banka BioLoo one really wonders what motivated a woman to dare to venture into a male dominated sector and how did she get the idea for the venture. “I have been passionate about doing something of my own and used every opportunity that came my way. As you know we women have lot of responsibility which we have to keep in mind and use our extra time for our work. The idea came to me while I was working as a liasioning agent for a company selling equipment of controlled discharge toilet systems to the Railways. That’s where I came to know about the technology. Sanitation is a space every woman can easily associate with and I was no different. I connected easily to the needs of adequate sanitation and found myself at the right place,” replies Namita to the query.
Namita started her entrepreneurial journey as a jewellery designer. Her present venture took off after she moved to Hyderabad with her husband, Sanjay. Though Sanjay isn’t involved in the day-to-day operations of the company, he helps in the overall development of the company through his ideas, suggestions, critical analysis and by establishing partnerships. His multi-disciplinary education, including an MBA from Germany, and varied professional experiences has helped in supporting the venture. As with most ventures, Banka BioLoo also started with family savings, with Sanjay pitching in by contributing his salary to this project.
While talking to I See India, Sanjay candidly shared his experiences and contribution to this project. “I have learnt a lot on the way. It has honed my skills, helped me develop and increase my knowledge about the field of sanitation. I also wish to share one thing from my experience- if your spouse is running a venture, support it, be a critic, help in solutions and raise questions. All these will contribute to the growth and development of the enterprise,” he said. His remark underscores an essential requisite for the modern Indian society. It reminds me of a line in the NYT article The Good Men of India that went viral – A successful woman is very likely to have had a supportive male in her life: a father, a spouse, a friend, a mentor.
Namita’s relentless efforts have been recognized both nationally and across the world. Banka BioLoo has been selected as a finalist in the Artha Venture Challenge 2013 . It also won the Sankalp 2013 Healthcare, Water & Sanitation Award. She was recently named the Asia-Pacific Laureate at Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, in France and won the Changing Markets Awards at International Business Forum, Turkey.
Having successfully established a venture solving a grievous problem Namita has proven how a single person can create a positive impact. I ask her what according to her can an ordinary citizen do to solve the problems of India. “By believing that every drop counts and each one of us can make a difference,in any form. That’s what is going to help us sustain“, she replies.