Rajeev Kher is an MBA from Symbiosis, Pune who went on to do an internship in the US. The typical career path would have taken him to become a corporate hotshot but he had different things in mind. The time was 1999 and he decided to come back to India and make portable toilets to improve the sanitation situation in India. “The idea for SHRAMIK came up considering the need for providing organized and hygienic sanitation facilities for un-served settlements with a strong focus on cleaning and waste disposal and to cater to the huge population of India,” says Rajeev.
With no formal business model or precedent existing in this segment, it was an innovative business idea coupling business revenue with a strong social cause directly benefiting the users and society at large. There were a lot of barriers at the onset- Making people understand and accept the concept was one of the challenges at start. Promoting the concept of using portable toilets to people who are reluctant to spend money towards the cause of sanitation was and still is the single largest challenge.
“I went to USA, Europe to see the way it is operated there, followed the PSAI (Portable Sanitation Association International) standards, and most importantly creative thinking, which lead to surpass the challenges,” says Rajeev. Funding was another major challenge and getting a bank loan was impossible as the concept of creating mobile toilets didn’t seem like a profitable idea. Support from family and friends helped to initiate the cause.
But once the company was off the ground, there have been some significant achievements on the way:
- Setting up the manufacturing plant in 2006 is one of the biggest milestones, which helped in improving and maintaining the quality of the products and definitely the cost of the product.
- Investment by Aavishkar helped in expansion plans at various locations and maintain the quality of service. (Aavishkar took 21% stake in the company in 2009)
- Nomination from Portable Sanitation Association International (PSAI) as the 1st Indian/Asian on Board of Directors in 2010
- Invitation by former President of USA Mr. Bill Clinton for attending Clinton Global Initiative in New York City USA, 2010, 2011 gave a broader view to look at the business from global perspective.
The portable toilets have been used at various construction sites, religious gatherings, events and even tourist sites where formerly finding a clean toilet was a major issue. SHRAMIK manufactures as well as services portable toilets. The company currently operates in close to 10 cities and plans to expand to 30 in the coming years.
Team 3S consists of approximately 250 team members. 72% out of which work at Junior level, and rest work at middle management level. The problem is huge and other areas like maintenance of toilets at public places, slum areas and awareness regarding the same are some of the important problems in this sector. Ventures like SHRAMIK need to be given all the support possible to solve some of the grappling problems that cripple India.