The shining wash-basins and spotless-clean mirror, neat and clean toilet seats, aroma of air freshener could trick you into thinking you are in a hotel or an airport. But in reality, it is actually a ladies toilet on board a scrapped bus of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and yet it so much more than a toilet - a 'partially mobile' sanitation centre, to be precise.
Two entrepreneurs from Pune - Rajeev Kher and Ulka Sadalkar - have launched this pink-colour sanitation centres - with a wide range of facilities. The usage charge is just Rs 5 and it is being widely appreciated. As of now, there are 12 such toilets in Pune - including in the popular Chhatrapati Sambhajiraje Garden and the historic Shaniwarwada Fort, but the duo want to scale it up.
These toilets have a huge wall mirror, two wash basis, four to five toilets - a mix of Indian and Western style. It has a TV screen that speaks about women's issues including tips for breast examination, literature on urinary infection, a sanitary napkin dispenser, a small clean cafe, where you can get biscuits, juices, soft drinks and so on. There is also a mini-examination room that can also be used for breast-feeding. Users can also avail Wi-Fi for 10 minutes. Almost everything is taken care of - in case of emergency there is a panic button and the whole thing is solar-powered!
For the two entrepreneurs, the idea draws inspiration from concepts such as sanitation, freedom, empowerment and ensuring basic rights.
They said it is "TI" - that stands for "she", "her" or a "lady" in Marathi - and gives it a larger meaning of "TI" that stands for 'Toilet Integration'.
"We have at least 100 by the end of this year," said Kher.
Ulka and Rajiv feel that public toilets cannot just run on grants, charity and donation.
"To run successfully and to ensure cleanliness, the model has to be self-sustainable," said Kher adding that clean public toilets are part of initiatives like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Smart City initiative.
They do all the groundwork to see that someone takes care of the capital expenditure and they generate the operational expenditure. To take care of capital expenditure, companies are offering CSR funds.
The two partners are also running —— Sara Plast Pvt Ltd —— a company founded in 1999 that focusses on portable sanitation.
"Pune is a growing city and lack of public toilets is an issue. After applying our mind and deliberations and interactions with PMC and the then municipal commissioner Kunal Kumar, we came with the idea of toilets on scrapped buses," he said.
Converting a bus into a toilet costs around Rs 8 to 10 lakh but at a higher scale and an assembly line, it would cost between Rs 5 to 6 lakh.
According to Ulka, getting such clean restrooms is something that surprises all.
Rajiv points out that constructing a permanent toilet involves many issues which are taken care of easily in mobile or partially mobile toilets like 'TI'. These also have two models - the sewage can be directly connected to civic sewer lines or mobile trucks can collect it and dispose of it in an adequate manner.