This woman daringly entered men’s restrooms to make them waterless and odourlessBinjal Shah
EcoTrapIn from Tapu, founded by Neha Bagoria is an ingenious solution to make toilets waterless and odourless.
The image of a foul-smelling public toilet and a municipal tap meant to administer potable water right next to it haunted Neha Bagoria right when she was under turmoil about not creating enough impact with her technical prowess.
What was ironic was that the water used to clean the toilet would be freely flowing out of it inches away from the tap, while, sometimes, the tap itself would run dry. Water conservation and hygiene, thereafter, became her two pet causes and led to what we know today as EcoTrapIn, her ingenious solution to make toilets waterless and odourless.
Meet the gutsy innovator
Potable water scarcity and sanitation is a global issue – and in India, it is widespread not only in rural but also urban areas. She further observed that even though plenty of water was being used for cleaning toilets, it had a bad odour with yellow stains.
“I researched and found waterless urinal technology converts restroom into dry hygienic and saves tons of potable water too! That was the ‘aha!’ moment. Tapu started up with the innovation of waterless urinal technology EcoTrapIn,” she recounts.
At the time, the Porbandar-bred techie who held a Masters in Computer Science from Delhi was four years into her career in IT. A staunch Gandhian and follower of Swami Vivekananda’s school of thought – her job was not fulfilling enough, as she always felt that it served no larger purpose than her own.
Thus, she took the plunge when her research told her that waterless technologies in sanitation space – and specifically, waterless urinals – were an unexplored area, but had massive potential.
Tapu’s innovation journey into waterless urinal technologies was kickstarted with EcoTrapIn, whose first patented version was rolled out around six years ago. “The vision has been to save tons of potable water which is wasted in urine and convert stinky urinals into odourless ones,” she explains.
It has a “retrofit green technology,” so, existing, conventional urinals are converted to waterless, odourless ones. It gets fitted below the urinal bowl, and consists of an antibacterial inlet/outlet through which urine passes; and a float that seals the outlet once urine is drained out. The water and urine do not come in contact, and hence, the flush seldom needs to be used. One can thus, avoid touching the germ-infested lever of the flush altogether. And it saves 1, 67,900 litres of potable water annually, per urinal.
It also prevents the reaction between urine and water, thus curbing foul odour, scale formation, and drain pipe blockages. This touch-free product is completely green – in that it is also recyclable. It costs roughly Rs 8 per day, but saves 90 percent in utility bills - water charges, cleaning agents, plumbing, repairing service, electricity, battery, etc.
Breaking into a male bastion, literally
Even while she had the society’s best interests at heart – since her product was primarily meant for men's restrooms, Neha found herself in some rather awkward situations while she was out on the field to gather data and gauge the problem.
“Men shied away from discussing the issues surrounding unhygienic restrooms. Even when it came to checking installations, there have been many awkward instances where men are hesitant to enter their restroom as a lady is in there,” she recounts.
Within two-and-a-half years, it had amassed a suite of initial clients like the State Bank Of India and S.P. Jain Management Institute Mumbai. Based on their active feedback and testimonies, Neha got back to the drawing board and rolled out their second version, EcoTrapInPlus.
They brought about the pilot sales of this version with Arihant Industrial Corporation Ltd. and other companies and received many accolades for the technology.
Another version, EcoTrapInXtra, has even more robust tech, Neha tells us, and is ergonomically designed to fit into standard, coupling-based urinals. “It’s the easiest to maintain and install waterless urinal available in the market,” she claims.
It was mainly introduced to further ease up maintenance and has been commercially available since 2016. This version is used in prestigious offices too, like Larsen and Toubro Construction Ltd., Prayas Innovations, etc.
But the greatest form of validation came two years ago for the innovator-entrepreneur, when the Department of Science of Technology, Government of India supported and funded the latest version EcoTrapInXtra waterless urinal.
“This got us much exposure and awards nationally and internationally. We started the full commercialisation of product in last few months. In the last two years, our revenues have grown to 70 percent and we expect to register 300 percent revenue increase in the next two years,” she states.
It has mainly acquired market-share through dealers and channel partners and is also exploring international markets to cater to global demand.
“Most of our competitors' technologies are from abroad. EcoTrapInPlus and EcoTrapInXtra waterless urinal have an edge over them for being retrofit, with a minimal maintenance cost, good odour control technology, and less recurring expenses with low shifting cost,” she claims.
It now plans to set up a manufacturing factory for bulk production. “We plan to raise more funds in a few months. It's challenging to find investors with an inclination towards the environment but when we do, great things can happen,” she says.