Spearheaded by Siddhant Tawarawala, founder of Peeschute, he shares his trials and tribulations with the taboo people have around hygiene and urinating in public spaces.
An ‘Open’ Challenge to the Public, by the Public
Though open defecation has gradually decreased throughout the years, India is still struggling with the issue. 15% of the population is still defecating in public (World Bank Data reports). And this isn’t a small number. It translates to millions of people.
Being a very open issue, it is still a hush-hush topic. Solving this prevalent issue, we asked Siddhant Tawarawala on how he started with this idea and the motivation behind the innovation.
“I would say that anything related to your genitals is mostly a taboo topic,” he shares.
“It was from my personal experiences, I got this idea from a problem solving workshop during my college days. Urination and open defecation were one of the issues. So I personally face problems. While I used to travel a lot, it is a big problem over there. Six or seven people out of ten travelers used to face hesitation and problems for relieving themselves.”
Even though the government has been trying to curb this problem for decades through multiple programs, it takes a lot of time for the Indian population to adapt to changes. Breaking the habit is one of the crucial factors. Emphasizing this point, Siddhant adds.
“Many laborers don’t have a urinal facility. Laborers just find their place and try to relieve themselves. This is a shame. You see tourist places, you see temples, you see a lot of public places. They travel a few kilometers, may I guess, to find a ‘hidden spot’, mostly an open plot, where people just come to relieve themselves. And the whole area stinks bad. There are a lot of flies coming in. So we impact people, we impact places.”
Prototyping a Revolution, One Model at a Time
When it comes to sanitation, the idea is noble, but not very novel. There are many competitors in the market with the same idea. How is Peeschute navigating through it all and rising on the top?
“There are big brands that are big competitions, but there were no precise solutions which were targeting this particular problem of urinations. There would be companies in hygiene space, there would be companies in toilet management spaces. But coming with a consumer product which could be very handy and useful for all categories of people was something which was missing out in the market. And that’s what I picked up.”
“I thought that I’m ready to do the struggle and invest my time in whatever it takes, but I want to make something different which actually would make a change to the society.”
Further, he speaks on his enthusiasm over prototyping and considers it to be one of the most persuasive factors in bringing about change. One could say that devising a revolution does take a lot of trials and error before it takes root. He shares:
“We definitely did the competitive analysis, we definitely did the market analysis before getting into it.I think this (prototyping) is the most interesting thing I love to do. And this is the most important thing anyone should do. Because prototyping and pilot testing and consumer testing is one phase. If you do it correctly and take your time into it, the probability of the company becoming successful is much higher.”
“And we think that ‘okay, we’ll do it gradually’, but ultimately what happens is that the first impression is the last impression. And if even one person’s experience goes bad, chances are that this consumer might not give our product another chance.”
Necessity is the mother of invention, but she surely aborted a lot of ideas. Here are the ideas that Siddhant tried, tested and refused. He also shared how he went about his research and testing.
“We used balloons, we used condoms, we used ziploc bags, plastic bags and we tried out that because these were the immediately available resources at a very cheaper cost.”
“We produced hundreds of prototypes, gave it to different people in different geographies, with different age groups, with different genders, made a whole report out of it, what was the response and number of people who were satisfied.”
He believes that teamwork indeed makes the dreamwork. He shares:
“I had my challenges also because I was doing it individually, solely – I did not have a team. That’s where I think it took a lot of time. But if there would be more people involved, the time duration would have been much shorter.”
Challenging to Eventually Changing the Mindset
Siddhant shares that the foreign market is more receptive to new ideas and solutions. They are adventurous. However, the Indian market has been more skeptical towards change. Hence, the growth has been slow, yet promising.
“In India we definitely had challenges. The Indian market is definitely price sensitive. We also have people telling us why should I even pay for it? Why should I use it? I can pee anywhere. I’ll just go in the bushes and relieve myself. But in terms of impact and especially when we do the pilots of these Urinals correctly, we would impact a lot of the population.”
Analyzing the changing mindset of people, he shares his insight on the market:
“With protein powder as a category, it is now growing at a vast speed in India. But adaptation was very slow. All the menstrual products, especially sanitary pads, took almost 15 years to crack in India. Now you’re seeing the cups coming in. It took three to five years again to break down the market. But now these sectors are picking up. And I think it will be that kind of market because we are a large population influenced by each other.”
However, he has realized a true opportunity with tying up with the government and expanding this initiative to every level. He continues:
“While we definitely face challenges with the consumer, we find it easier to deal with the government because there is a big gap and the government has been trying to put efforts in improving the sanitation and public utility facilities -which in other countries has already developed. The government is absolutely positive about the way we are trying to bring new products and making urinals waterless, more hygienic, and infection-free. We are very positive about the government taking it into the masses. But the government has its own challenges. We all know the only single reason is that there are billions of people to manage and there are very few government officials to do that. So they are always overburdened with work.”.
“But we think if we get adequate support from the government, India would become a very good example in the world in the sanitation economy to revolutionize the urine solutions with what we are producing.”
Impacting the Human Experience as well as Marine
Peeschute is not solving only one part of a problem. They are making sure that their solution is sustainable and has a greater impact on the environment. He explores the multifaceted results they are trying to bring about.
“We say that we are not one product company. What we emphasize is the technology of solidifying urine and then we have done a lot of research to actually make it a recyclable thing. So if you see a lot of sustainability is happening, a lot of climate change impacts and startups are trying to do so. What we are proposing to the government is not the product, but what we are proposing is a proper Urinal solution. The whole Urinal which will use zero water and you can save around 3.5 liters water per use to flush 300 of your urine you waste.”
And if you calculate we are wasting hundreds of liters of water per day just to flush out urine and imagine this all goes into the sewage.Then you need other chemicals to purify that water you collect from the rivers. So this is a whole circular economic issue. People before the civil system actually used to recycle urine, used to put it in their farms, used it in their plants because there is a lot of nutrient content in it. What we are proposing to the government is that the proximity of the toilet facilities can be improved.”
Not only is Peeschute’s solution solving hygiene and environment issues in disposal, they are also repurposing urine by converting it into something more beneficial. Continuing from the previous statement, he adds:
“It can be improved in highways, it can be improved in public places, it can be improved in cities, it can be improved in rural areas. You could save a lot of water and this nutrient urine can actually be used into the agricultural farms to boost up lands which are getting dry or don’t have the productivity because of the chemicals and fertilizers put onto it.”
“And there should be a strong angle of water saving and reducing the discharge of fluid flown into the sewage systems and making the life of Marines better, making the life on land better. And this is what we see as the future. And again, we are not a product company, we are a technological solution company which is trying to address the whole problem of this circular economy and sanitation.”
Moving the Human Experience Forward
When asked on how his product is moving the human experience forward, he brought forward a very interesting point – Dignity. Not only is Peeschute used by travelers, but also in institutions like hospitals, old age homes, and more. He shares:
“If you observe the psychology of an old-age person or a grandfather or grandmother who are just very bedridden, they don’t want you to give a lot of trouble because you are already doing so much for them. So I’ve seen people who stay dehydrated, they don’t drink a lot of water because they are not capable of going to the washroom and they would be depending on a caretaker. So our products add a little bit of dignity to their life when they’re using it. During the night times, we have so many patients and so many people who just buy Peeschute and keep it beside their tables of their grandfathers and grandmothers.”
“We have made the lives of old age people better. And again, considering travelers and specifically females who are very hygiene concerned and who have gone through a UTI infection in their life, they know what pain UTI can get, we have made it better.”
Talking about his future plans, he adds:
“We are in conversations with the government of Himachal Pradesh. A lot of tourism is happening and with that a lot of open urination is over there. We are in collaboration with the National Highway Authority Ministry. The new highways have been built and a complete new vision to India is given through the strong connectivity.”
“We are already doing well in the healthcare and home care space. So we have a lot of collaboration with care homes. We have a lot of collaboration with doctors and hospitals, which suggest proper care as far as the travel agents and travel places are concerned. The government has built a lot of toilets, but the challenge is to maintain them, to make that particular place available with water.
Like I said, we are doing it more at the government level. Not with the product, but with the whole solution.”
Rapid Fire Round
- What is your go-to hobby when you aren’t working? – Watch food content on Instagram and Facebook all day.
- Name a person who inspires you the most – Aman Gupta, for now.
- Which book has a huge impact on your life? -The psychology of money.
- Which movie/documentary would you recommend to someone?-The Godfather
- What is success for you? – Success for me, satisfaction. It is my peaceful sleep. It is also my desires getting fulfilled. So success is self satisfaction for me in all languages.
- What’s your favorite part of your current job?-I think the creativity part is, again, the prototyping market testing and problem identification and giving the solutions to it.
- What is that one word that describes you the best?- I think it should be excitement. Excited. Always.
- A quote that drives you the most. -Live life like king size.
- What is a must in your travel bag? (Except for Peeschute?) -my laptop for sure!
- What, according to you, is the biggest hindrance to a person’s growth? -Their comfort zone.
- Instant meals or home-cooked meals? – Home-cooked meals
- What is the one thing that you want to achieve apart from the success of your startup?- Of course, my wife being 100% happy with me!
- Is there any topic or subject that you wish to learn more about? – Human psychology.