Working paper abstract

#2008-012

Playing in Invisible Markets: Innovations in the Market for Toilets to Harness the Economic Power of the Poor

Shyama V. Ramani

Sanitation is at the heart of not only environmental security but also food security and health. Today about 41% of the global population or about 2.6 billion people do not have access to toilets and about 42,000 people die every week due to drinking water polluted with faecal matter. The problem is most acute in India, China, many countries of Africa and a few countries of Latin America. Why is there such a crisis in the toilets market? How much of the present problem is due to a lack of supply and how much is it due to a lack of demand? What is the optimal role of the State, the firms and the NPOs? The present paper attempts to give some insight on the above questions through the case study of the market for toilets for the poor in India. It examines the toilet history and achievements of India, the innovations in the market for toilets targeting the group at the bottom of the income pyramid and the factors that influence the adoption and usage of toilets in an Indian coastal village, in order to infer answers to the above questions.

Key Words: Toilets, BOP group, Innovation, India

UNU-MERIT Working Papers ISSN 1871-9872