Believing in giving 100% to her work, Namita Banka of Banka BioLoo puts in all her effort to start the business of promoting and developing innovative environmental friendly products and services for human waste management system
Banka BioLoo Pvt Ltd is a proprietary firm started by Namita Banka in 2008, which she incorporated in 2012. A glance at the company’s website paints a frightening picture of India’s poor sanitation. It says, India accounts for 58% of the world’s population of open defecators. What a shame! Ms Banka is determined to change these numbers. A science graduate from Delhi University, with a post graduate degree in Metal Designing, she also worked at jewelry designing and manufacturing for eight years at Surat, in Gujarat. After working for eight years in this profession, she gained the skill to look at things very minutely. But jewelry design was not her destiny. The turning point came in her life when she shifted to Hyderabad and set up Banka BioLoo. Always interested in working for the environment, she participated in several voluntary activities. To follow her passion, she did a course in NGO Management in 2009. After completing her course, she was attracted to the concept of social entrepreneurship and decided to work towards betterment of the society and environment. Being a woman, she understood issues related to sanitation and that is when she chose to do something about this. She initially associated with the Indian Railways to understand where and why there is a need for improvement in sanitation. She started monitoring and attending to the schedules of maintaining toilets in railway coaches on a frequent basis. This sanitation systems, is to be installed at places where conventional toilets facility cannot be made available. Banka BioLoo built, promote, manufacture and supply ELOO – The BioDigester toilets. This helped Namita in improving the state of CDTS (controlled discharge toilet system) and also won supply and service contracts.
Indian Railways, Shapoorji Pallonji, L&T, Wockhardt Foundation, International Paper, AP Education & Welfare Infrastructure Development Corporation, are some of the important clients of Banka BioLoo. The company has won many awards, including the prestigious Sankalp 2013 Healthcare, Water and Sanitation Award. Unfortunately, like many women entrepreneurs and especially social entrepreneurs, she is unwilling to discuss financial numbers but her works is extremely valuable to society.
Read the excerpt of her interview with Hitisha Jain of Moneylife:
Hitisha Jain (ML): What is the Banka BioLoo?
Namita Banka (NB): Banka BioLoo provides environmentally friendly and sustainable solutions for sanitation. Sanitation facilities in India are alarmingly poor with over 600 million people having no access to toilets. People are forced to defecate in the open. This practice poses health hazards, raises environmental concerns and leads to water contamination. We not only provide a toilet but also the “on-site” waste treatment facility. This ensures that the household is not dependent on external infrastructure for waste transportation and treatment.
Banka BioLoo specialises in human waste management. It uses Bio-digester technology, which decomposes human waste. The technology used for this is licensed by Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO). The Bio-toilet system developed by Banka BioLoo treats waste generated in toilets. The treatment occurs in the bio-tanks beneath the toilets.
The tank is fitted with bio-digesters, which decomposes 99% of waste in short time compared with conventional toilets. We also work towards converting tradition septic tanks into bio-tanks. It has proved to become a cost effective toilet and sanitation facility. It lessens environmental degeneration and it also creates better health conditions.
BioLoo for villagers Source: Banka BioLoo
Banka BioLoo uses the bio-digester technology and its various applications to provide eco-friendly sanitation systems and solutions across India, and notably to the Indian Railways to transform the night soil laden rail tracks to waste matter free tracks. The company’s offerings include bio-toilets (or bioloos) for families, public and community bio-toilets and bio-toilets for schools and institutions, bio-tanks for Indian Railways, bio-digesters (the bacterial culture) and bio-tanks, and upgrade of septic tanks to bio-tanks. We also service bio-toilets, and have entered into annual maintenance and operations contracts with different Railway zones. We have a bio-tank manufacturing plant and a bio-digester inoculation facility.
ML: Given your academic background and work, what led you to start Banka Bioloo?
NB: I was aware of the difficult situation, more so that we women face in term of sanitation in the society. When I came in contact with the Railways and they offered to associate with me on improving toilet technologies in trains, I saw a strong opportunity, in terms of business and otherwise, to raise the sanitation standards. Later, I began using the same for society, at large.
ML: What is the secret to your ability to run a successful business?
NB: One has to keep the spirits high, have a strong grit and determination to fight the odds – I too did the same. Hurdles, institutional or cultural, came my way but I marched on, and there was family support, which helped. I talked, discussed and expressed – that’s how issues would get highlighted and officers had to listen to us, and help resolve them.
ML: What makes you enjoy your work daily?
NB: I won’t say I have some magic wand and there is some mystery that exhorts me to work everyday. I do my duties towards society as a citizen. Concern and care for the cause of sanitation and the environment drive me and my work. I feel privileged to have been associated with such enterprising team, which in its small way wants to clean-up.
ML: How did you grow as a team? What helps in pushing your business forward?
NB: From a three member team we grew to over 80 at the end of 2013. We seek to keep the momentum going, building up the business. With various segments in place, we are working to provide cost-effective sanitation solutions. We have participated in events such as the Sankalp summit, Action for India and others that has helped understand the entrepreneurial aspects better.
ML: Why is it important to encourage entrepreneurship in India, especially among women?
NB: Socio-economic development of India is entrepreneurs-driven. Small enterprises play a key role in the growth: create jobs, provide goods and services at reasonable costs. Women provide the much needed diversity of thought and a spectrum. The problems faced by womenfolk could be better understood by a woman and she’ll be in a stronger position to seek and provide solutions. Consider the case of sanitation; we women are more vulnerable and susceptible in the absence of toilet facilities compared to men, and who better than I can understand. Taking the example of entrepreneur – we undertook the servicing of specialised toilets (CDTS) in certain train segments in 2012. The audit report of Railways, later, noted that the toilet’s functioning was over 95% after we took over the service contract.
ML: What was the main source of finance for your organisation while setting up the business?
NB: Ours is a private enterprise. Finances have been pooled internally by promoters and families. This has been complemented by bank credit and private debt financing. The Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) promotes women entrepreneurship by providing some benefits of loans. Exposure to education is one of the major opportunities for women
ML: What were the biggest challenges you faced as a woman entrepreneur?
NB: I, as a women entrepreneur, feel and have experienced that it is difficult for people to understand the seriousness of the whole business and we have to prove ourselves at every stage and bear with some of the toughest mindsets of people.
Technology can be an enabler but the grit to improve our ecosystem is something that keeps us on the toes. We see business as business, and if the same can provide benefits to the society and the environment, it gives us further sense of satisfaction.
My mother-in-law, a woman of substance in her own way, is my role model. She has been my motivator, supporter, visionary and above all pacifier.
ML: Last words for our women readers?
NB: Clear Vision, 100% dedication and commitment, No shortcuts, No expectation of extra benefit and complete patience to succeed.
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