The Toilet Accelerator & Safi Sana Story
The Toilet Board Coalition sat down with the Cohort and Mentors of the 2017 Toilet Accelerator to find out a bit more about what they felt were the most valuable learnings in their journey together over the last twelve months and what they’re excited about for the future of the sanitation sector.
TBC: Hi Aart, could you please tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your role in the 2017 Toilet Accelerator?
Aart: Hi, I’m Aart van den Beukel and I am the Managing Director of Safi Sana. We were selected last November to join the 2017 Toilet Accelerator Cohort.
TBC: What are some of the new inspirations, insights or understandings that you’ve gained through your year working with the Toilet Board Coalition in the Toilet Accelerator?
Aart: For us this has been the opportunity to think beyond the traditional government approach and to think about different markets and opportunities. To work with industry however you have to understand their internal processes and that is not always easy. This is what we have been doing with the Toilet Board Coalition with some expected results towards the end of this year.
For big businesses, the commercial drivers are key. CSR is a different track altogether that can sometimes seem even trickier. We’ve seen that business decisions are often made primarily at local/plant level which can make decision making a slow and complex process. At the same time, we have been able to build a new network (Unilever, Tata, KCC, Camellia, Diageo) that we may work with in the future.
Our initial thought coming into the programme was that these processes would be easier and faster thus we would be able to have more progress sooner, that was not the case, we are grateful though to have had the TBCs support to help take us to where we have been able to go and we have great learnings to apply to these processes in the future.
TBC: What is your advice to the sanitation business sector?
Aart: My advice, hmm. It depends on who you refer to in the business sector. But generally the business advice is to get a clear idea on what is the demand of the client and see whether there is a clear match. If not, don’t go there. This is basically like in any business. But in the sanitation business margins are extremely thin and we operate in a very difficult market so try to keep the proposition simple (not an easy one). And last, I believe that local ownership is essential. A copy paste exercise will not work, so think about how to develop something that can be scaled but at the same time remains manageable.
TBC: Can you give us a glimpse of your vision for the future?
Aart: In the long run I believe that re-use models like ours, will work and become a standard. Not only for the sanitation sector more broadly also for other waste type, that is an ongoing trend. The financing mechanism will (slowly) follow that development, making blended finance for these public/private models, more attractive. We need to look at models that can be adapted to local market (input/demand), and can produce and offer a blend of energy and agriculture products in the right balance.
TBC: Thanks Aart!