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'San+Co.' is a Social Enterprise Tackling Waste and Electricity

By: Tiana Reid - Published: • References: ssireview.org & changeobserver.designobserver
San+Co. is a start-up social enterprise working to transform how waste and electricity works in rural India. Already a first prize-winner at KIN Global, which is put on by the Kellogg Innovation Network at the Kellogg School of Management, San+Co. offers up an innovative solution to two crucial deficiencies: sanitation services and energy. How exactly does it work? Compact mobile toilets (which you can see in the featured gallery) collects waste in a cartridge that is transported to a facility that transforms it into fertilizer as well as electricity from the methane. In exchange, the family who submitted the cartridge of waste gets a rechargeable battery apt for cellphones and lightbulbs.

"People will pay for what they want, like a cell phone, but not for something they need, like a toilet, so our business model is based on making sanitation an aspiration," founder Swapnil Chaturvedi told Change Observer.

Stanford Social Innovation writer and social responsibility director for New York City's Alcoa Foundation Stephanie Wolcott outlines the various issues that San+Co. undertakes: "It provides a dignified, safe, and hygienic solution to a basic human need. Off-the-grid electricity translates to increased productivity for adults, extra study time for students, and additional safety. The fertilizer is an organic option for local farmers that helps increase their yield per acre. And the system reduces disease by keeping waste out of the local water supply." Furthermore, Walcott lauds San+Co.'s business model because it doesn't depend on infrastructure, and thus, is fit for rural communities.

As of June 2011, San+Co. had started up with 50 pilot families in Raipur, India and is still very much in its infancy but Chaturvedi hopes that soon "toilets [will be] as sexy as cellphones."

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