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Case Code: LDEN120
Case Length: 12 Pages 
Period: -    
Pub Date: 2017
Teaching Note: Available
Price: Rs.400
Organization : Sanivation
Industry : Sanitation and Energy
Countries : Kenya
Themes: Sanivation/Sanitation/Energy Crisis/Kenya/Naivasha/Africa/Flying Toilets/Blue Boxes
Case Studies  
Business Strategy
Human Resource Management
IT and Systems
Leadership & Entrepreneurship

Sanivation: Transforming Lives through Sustainable Solutions

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In the African continent, 80% of the houses used either wood or charcoal as cooking fuel. Further, the number of wood fuel consumers in Africa was expected to increase from 2.5 billion in 2004 to 2.7 billion in 2030. Families followed the practice of cooking indoors with little ventilation, which led to hundreds of deaths every year. According to the World Health Organization, diseases caused by smoke inhalation from open-fire cooking had killed more people worldwide than HIV and malaria combined.

In Kenya too, most people chose between two archaic fuels to cook their food – charcoal or firewood. Both these were responsible for deforestation and indoor air pollution. In rural areas, almost 90% of the households used firewood for cooking and heating while in urban areas, 80% of the households depended on charcoal as the primary cooking fuel. The task of gathering fuel wood was performed mainly by women and girls, who spent almost one hour per day collecting wood. These women further suffered serious long-term physical damage from the strenuous work involved, apart from facing an increased vulnerability to physical and sexual violence. Moreover, about 15,000 Kenyans died from illnesses associated with household air pollution...

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In 2011, Andrew Foote (Andrew) along with another Georgia Tech grad, Emily Woods (Emily), incepted the idea of turning human waste into fuel while working on a research project. The pair developed a thermal treatment system for human feces. The idea was converted into a business enterprise – Sanivation – through which the founders later entered their work into a business accelerator in South America – Start-Up Chile. This idea incubated in the minds of Andrew and Emily when they observed that very little attention was being paid to the sanitation crisis while there was enormous progress on all other fronts. Such international progress in all fields except sanitation made them frustrated. While working in Chile, Andrew and Emily explored the sanitation space, and found that diarrheal disease was the second leading cause of death in the world in children below five years of age, and was attributable to poor and inadequate sanitation facilities.......


The founders of Sanivation knew from the beginning that given the lack of infrastructure in the small towns of Kenya, providing toilets or a treatment system would not be enough; they needed to bring about a systematic change in these areas. Therefore, the business model of Sanivation was to operate on an end-to-end service instead of providing just one component of the waste-treatment business....


The Sanivation initiative benefitted the people of Naivasha and surrounding areas hugely without contaminating the environment. As the company was operating at a 100% renewal rate for a monthly subscription, it showed that the residents were happy and satisfied with the blue boxes.....


In 2015, the project Sanivation received funding largely from an $8,000 prize from the 2015 Big Ideas@Berkeley competition in the Clean & Sustainable Energy Alternatives category. Analysts believed that the company would require more such funding to go forward. In fact, the biggest goal and biggest hurdle for Sanivation was scaling up its operations in different parts of Kenya and across the world....


Though the Sanivation business model was designed to be self-sustaining and self-financing on both sides – toilet service and fuel, various industry experts believed that the company would still face a number of challenges before its success in the future could be ensured....


Despite the challenges facing the startup, Sanivation helped to introduce healthy habits into the lives of the urban poor of Naivasha and nearby villages. Moreover, the company itself worked hard to improve its product to satisfy its customers. Toward this end, the Sanivation employees constantly asked their clients for feedback, based on which the company intended to improve and work better. Further, the team believed that open communication between the clients and service providers was very important and therefore, the waste collectors of Sanivation often asked the customers about their experience with the blue boxes. As Andrew said, “If we’re not doing a good job, our client is not going to pay the next month. By being beholden to our clients and delivering quality services to them, we always learn that keeping good, open communication channels is really important.” ..


Exhibit I: Overview of Kenya
Exhibit II: Amount Lost in Kenya due to Inadequate Sanitation
Exhibit III: Sanivation Team*