Search for Cases

Case Details

Case Code: LDEN146
Case Length: 19 Pages 
Period: 1970-2019   
Pub Date: 2019
Teaching Note: Available
Price: Rs.500
Organization : Sulabh International
Industry :Environment & Waste Management Services
Countries : India
Themes: Social Entrepreneurship/ Business Models/ Environmental Sustainability/ Social Enterprise
Case Studies  
Business Strategy
Human Resource Management
IT and Systems
Leadership & Entrepreneurship

Sulabh International: Providing Sustainable Sanitation Solutions

<<Previous Page




Pathak was born in 1943 to an orthodox Brahmin family in Bihar, a state in the eastern region of India. During his childhood and the formative years of his life, Pathak observed that women and girls in his family and his village rose early in the morning to go to the fields to relieve themselves. During the daytime, these women had to undergo the pain and unpleasantness of holding back the urge to defecate and wait until dark to answer the call of nature. A few years later, Pathak saw a young boy in his village left to die in the rain after being gored by a bull. Since the boy was an “untouchable” nobody took him to the hospital and the boy died...

Leadership and Entrepreneurship Case Studies | Case Study in Management, Operations, Strategies, Business Environment, Case Studies
Leadership and Entrepreneurship Case Studies | Case Study in Management, Operations, Strategies, Business Environment, Case Studies
PayPal (11 USD)



In the initial years, Pathak himself built around 50 toilets. When he finalized the toilet design, he came up with one that used very little water, had two pits between which users could switch easily to enable composting, and was customizable to suit local conditions. In 1969, he gave the technology to the state government of Bihar. However, since he was not an engineer, officials raised doubts over his design. In 1973, he came across a man in Arrah, a city in Bihar, who was willing to construct the toilet for demonstration purposes. In 1974, the government of Bihar finally overcame its doubts and supported the conversion of bucket toilets into Sulabh toilets within Bihar...


Another area in which Sulabh played a pioneering role was the development of the concept of community latrine by constructing public toilets on a ‘pay-and-use’ basis in the states of India. This was aimed at covering the cost of maintenance of the toilet complex. Pathak set up his first pay-and-use toilet in Bihar – a tough market where many people did not even pay for buying a rail or bus ticket. Surprisingly, he observed that people agreed to pay 10 paisa (one-fourth of a US cent) when they saw that the toilet was clean. On the first day of the launch, 500 people paid and used the toilets...


Sulabh launched the construction of toilets on a large scale for private households in Bihar. The government of Bihar had approved a 50% subsidy and 50% loan scheme for household installation of Sulabh toilets. Sulabh kept 10% of the overall cost as service charges...


Having set up several Sulabh complexes and individual toilets for homes, Sulabh entered into partnerships with tourism-related industries to provide toilet facilities at tourist sites. In association with the Department of Tourism, Sulabh set up toilets in Kollam in the southern Indian state of Kerala. The toilet facility in Jaipur, capital city of the western Indian state of Rajasthan, was completely air-conditioned and had sensor-based toilets. .


Sulabh provided the scavengers with alternative jobs realizing that they would otherwise refuse to give up scavenging or would starve. Consequently, several rehabilitation programs were started. In 1985, Sulabh started its first vocational training center in Patna, where young girls and boys were trained in several trades. This was followed by another center being set up in Mumbai in association with the state government of Maharashtra. .


According to sanitation experts, access to toilets constructed by Sulabh allowed women and girls to use the toilets with safety and dignity. Girls continued with their education in schools. The mortality rate in children went down as did the inhuman occupation of manual scavenging. .


While Sulabh was appreciated for tackling the sanitation crisis in India, it had to combat a few challenges. There were some reports that all its pay-and-use toilets were run as businesses. This discouraged people from using the toilets since the user charges were considered by many to be high. .


By 2018, Sulabh had set up 1.5 million individual toilets while 60 million government toilets were constructed based on the Sulabh design. More than 640 towns were made free from scavengers. .


Exhibit I: A Note on Manual Scavenging
Exhibit II: WHO’s Criteria for Constructing a Toilet
Exhibit III: Sulabh’s Two-pit Flush Toilet
Exhibit IV: Projects undertaken by Sulabh International Institute of Health and Hygiene
Exhibit V: Other Players Constructing Sustainable Toilets
Exhibit VI: Awards and Honours for Pathak