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Indian sanitation entrepreneur Mayank Midha one year later.

Myank Midha (left) gets go-ahead from Director of Waste Management for Urban Slum Projects in Accra. Photo: Mayank Midha/ GARV Toilets

A year ago when we interviewed Mayank Midha, he had just won the Sanitation Innovation Accelerator 2016 for his innovative public toilet concept. His GARV Toilets impressed the jury because of their superior design, use of smart technologies and cutting-edge business model. While Mayank has been successful in building public toilets in his home country India, Ghana offers him the first opportunity to pilot all three elements of his winning concept.

Thanks to a € 119,000 grant from the VIA Water accelerator, Mayank is constructing public toilets in two pilot sites in Ghana’s capital, Accra. The indestructible stainless steel toilets will incorporate sensors that send monitoring data to a dashboard. Renting out kiosks to small businesses will bring in extra revenue. Mayank especially appreciates the support from IRC Ghana sanitation consultant Kwame Asiedu Asubonteng who introduced him to metropolitan networks.

Expansion

GARV is on it ways to complete 332 installations, expanding staff from 22 to 50 this year as it ventures beyond its base in India and Bhutan. This expansion has in part been triggered by the VIA Water funded pilot in Ghana. This grant has been instrumental in opening up the West African market for Mayank’s business.

Mayank says he got a good response from municipal assemblies in Greater Accra and the Volta Region. There is an Expression of Interest (EOI) from four assemblies for public-private partnerships (PPPs). Outside Ghana, there are opportunities to work in the Nigerian capital Abuja and in the country's northern areas.

Diversification

Mayank’s company has adapted its standard design for public toilets to cater for schools and refugee camps, taking into account the needs of the disabled. With funds from Aga Khan Foundation and Coca Cola, GARV has implemented a school toilet block project for government schools in India. In addition, GARV and its partners are collaborating with the Red Cross and local government to provide public toilets in camps for internally displaced people in northern Nigeria.

Technical support

Mayank has a keen eye for opportunities to build his business. He soon discovered that the private sector offers special deals and technical support for start-ups like his. He found out how to get a discount for some of his smart technology - radio-frequency identification (RFID) reader and tags – from the Amazon Web Services (AWS) start-up deals. Then he managed to qualify for a 3-year support programme for 3D design software, which the Autodesk Foundation offers as part of their Technology Impact Program.

The way forward

Mayank is a firm believer in public-private partnerships (PPPs). GARV offers public toilets through two PPP models: BOT - build, operate, transfer and BOO - build, own, operate. PPPs are essential for scaling-up, says Mayank.

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