Home / Opinion / Views /  Corporates can bring value to the sanitation ecosystem by partnering with SMEs

Corporates can bring value to the sanitation ecosystem by partnering with SMEs

Globally, the lack of basic sanitation facilities for 1.7 billion people with 494 million subjected to unsafe sanitation, leaving them susceptible to the COVID-19 virus and other diseases (Photo: Mint)Premium
Globally, the lack of basic sanitation facilities for 1.7 billion people with 494 million subjected to unsafe sanitation, leaving them susceptible to the COVID-19 virus and other diseases (Photo: Mint)

By focusing on SMEs, corporates give them access to their scaled-up supply chains, and a peek into the market trends, thereby also unlocking systematic demand. This in turn drives the manufacturing of goods, designing of services, and generation of data

As the sanitation economy grows significantly in India, the current ecosystem requires enhanced participation from corporations to ensure India achieves its SDGs by 2030. Multistakeholder participation, therefore, becomes a priority among private and public sector players to enable universal and sustainable access to water and sanitation. Globally, the lack of basic sanitation facilities for 1.7 billion people with 494 million subjected to unsafe sanitation, leaving them susceptible to the COVID-19 virus and other diseases are two unsettling realities that were highlighted at the peak of the pandemic and extended lockdowns. 

Combating the matter in question, the Indian Government aims to implement the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) 2.0 till 2026 with an outlay of 1.41 lakh crore. However, universal sanitation can only be achieved with greater collaboration where private companies, governments and NGOs come together to realize a shared dream. Along with the Union Government’s work, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are increasingly introducing appropriate technology and focus-driven people into the sanitation economy. As the sanitation economy is expected to grow significantly in the region, the ecosystem requires more support, participation, and investments from corporations. This market holds an untapped potential for leading businesses to explore and foster further growth. R&D and Investments are two vital keys that will yield solutions in improving access and availability of safe water and sanitation practices. Given their existing capabilities and expertise, another essential area of opportunity for private players is capturing, treating, and reutilizing human waste.

An interesting development in the industry reveals that various FMCGs, multilateral and leading non-profits, have encouraged leading restroom organizations to revolutionize their business strategies by using the Internet of Things (IoT) to offer clean and hygienic unisex public restrooms in India’s high footfall areas. The move has also raised commercial investments. Such enterprises stand testimony to the fact that entrepreneurs in sanitation can build scalable businesses, generating piqued interest from corporates to invest in sanitation. 

Role of Corporates in the Sanitation Economy  

Lack of proper sanitation services costs the world an estimated US$223 billion every year. A crucial statistic that must be remembered is that, for every dollar invested in sanitation, there is a 4.3 dollar return by way of reduction in healthcare costs. In a world where sanitation and health are so intricately linked, organizations need to focus on increasing investments in sanitation technology and innovation with an annual market value that could reach USD 6 billion globally by 2030. When one large corporation leads the way to support and investment in SMEs, others will certainly follow suit creating a chain reaction to achieve universal and accessible sanitation. 

One way to accelerate that process is for corporations to aid SMEs mobilize private capital alongside government and philanthropic funding in emerging and frontier markets, while also supporting them in scaling and networking to create further avenues for funding, investments, and partnerships. By focusing on SMEs, corporates give them access to their scaled-up supply chains, and a peek into the market trends, thereby also unlocking systematic demand. This in turn drives the manufacturing of goods, designing of services, and generation of data. The result serves as a platform for SMEs to innovate and address other prickling issues within the sector. 

The work is not limited to aiding SMEs through investments, corporates also provide the right guidance for growth, breaking into markets, quality, accessibility, and sustainable scalability. They share their valuable R&D platforms, data, and insights on consumer behaviour, digitized sanitation systems that optimize data for operating efficiencies, maintenance, along with consumer use and health information with the SMEs. This helps SMEs scale faster. With knowledge of proven methods to improve the supply chain, SMEs also possess resources to ensure last-mile accessibility of safe sanitation practices for every citizen. 

The government of India is already paving the way for corporations to invest in SMEs in the sanitation industry, through the ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’. India’s efforts toward universal sanitation have intensified, creating a conducive environment for SMEs to thrive driven by virtue of innovation. This collaboration between the public and private sectors has created a smooth playing ground to solve India’s sanitation challenges. With 229 million people still lacking access to improved sanitation in India today, this is a suitable time for increased collaborations between the said players. 

A relevant example of coordinated effort amongst different stakeholders is Mumbai-based Project Suvidha. Several Suvidha centres across the city have been set up in partnership with HSBC India, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and other non-profits to implement sanitation solutions at scale. This first-of-its-kind urban community hygiene and sanitation facility for urban low-income households in Mumbai, Maharashtra, has helped over 2 lakh people access clean & hygienic toilets and aims to save 35 million litres of water annually. There’s a lesson to be learnt here - the sanitation economy has the potential to transform cities, communities, and businesses and provide benefits across stakeholders. However, a nation as diverse as ours requires all key stakeholders like non-profits, government, corporates, and citizens to work in partnership to achieve India’s SDGs by 2030, and sustainable growth for all.

Priyanka Tanwar, Toilet Board Coalition India Chair and Leader, Communications and Corporate Responsibility, Asia Pacific and Greater China, LIXIL 

Catch all the Business News, Market News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates.
More Less

Recommended For You

Trending Stocks

×
Get alerts on WhatsApp
Set Preferences My ReadsWatchlistFeedbackRedeem a Gift CardLogout