“Everyone’s day begins with the requirement of water and sanitation, so isn’t it easily the most important thing?” asks Namita, who heads Banka Bioloo, a one-of-a-kind environmental enterprise that is changing the way we see the average toilet. A textile science graduate from Lady Irwin College, Delhi University and a Post Graduate in Jewellery Designing, manufacturing and appraising, Namita is a first generation entrepreneur in her family. The initial brush with the business world began with diamond jewellery designing and manufacturing in 1999 in Surat. Wildly successful, the business continued for almost 8 years where she brought the concept of customized diamond jewellery that suited all pockets. The business was very revolutionary in the way that the dream of owning and wearing a diamond had become a reality with her clients of all strata, and making accessibility a priority is something she still continues to follow. While pursuing a weekend certificate program in Social Entrepreneurship at Center for Social Initiative and Management (CSIM) at Hyderabad in 2009, her mind opened to the wonders of social enterprise. “I came across social entrepreneurship and met people who inspired me to work towards betterment of the environment and people, and to also take it as a full- time profession. To be honest, it changed my outlook on how social enterprises work, and the faculty that we get to interact with has truly made it a turning point in my life.The primary idea that I picked up from them was the motive to connect with people and not earn from them.”
“Once we had to move to Hyderabad, I knew the existing business model of customisable diamond jewellery would not work for various reasons. So I came up with the idea of print cartridge recycling, and Cartridge Café came to being,” she says. But the idea soon went bust, as their franchisees had not marketed or supplied the products efficiently. Acknowledging her family’s roots in the Railways, she began pursuing the Indian Railways to adopt environmental friendly solutions and services to help effectively manage their resources. A persuasive nudge got her actively working with railway officials and vendors as a liasioner to improve the sanitation situation in the coaches by continuous monitoring and attending to the schedules of these toilets on daily basis, all for free.
This helped in improving the once-abysmal state of CDTS (Control Discharge Toilet System) and helped her bag the tender from the Railways for two years in a row, from 2011 to 2013. “The Bio-Loo idea came to me when I started my portable toilet rental service in Hyderabad in 2011. The bio toilet is a system which degrades human waste inside the toilet’s system itself, without having to go through many processes, and the method being used is the most ecofriendly way. Being a very economical idea, it’s also customisable for homes.”
They currently cater to schools, villages, resorts, construction sites, Indian railways and industrial factories. “I learnt that DRDO has a technology which can be utilized for treatment of human waste where one need not empty the waste collection tank, which in turn helps reduce the cost of transporting and disposing the sewage form the location.” This led her to convert her firm to a corporate entity in August 2012 and with the commissions she received, took a giant leap in setting up manufacturing units for Bio loos.
Currently exploring the possibility of including water-waste management in their already fruitful model of human waste management, Namita has her mind set on revolutionising the untapped potential of effective waste management through eco-friendly technologies.
“We’re also looking at solid-waste management, but as of now it remains tough to make it happen on a large scale level. Right now, we can only work with the Sanitation department of the Government to deal with the issue on a household level.”
Her milestones include winning the Sankalp Award for Excellence in Health, Water and Sanitation Sector, the inauguration of a bioloo project at DRDO Dhamra by the then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh and the Kovai Outstanding achievement award for Biotechnology. Also a finalist of the Cartier Woman’s Initiative awards, she represents India among 18 finalists and will contend for the award at Paris in October. As for her struggles she says, “I have received much flak for my being a woman in a Marwari household and starting an enterprise on my own. But it doesn’t get to me. I think the most important thing is to not heed to the hurdles in front of you but stay focused on the overall vision that you have.”