Every family deserves a toilet
You use one every day, and likely never realize just what a difference a toilet can have in people’s lives.
For the 40 percent of the people on the planet who do not have a toilet, acquiring one would mean keeping your one-year-old child from developing diarrhea and possibly dying from it. For your fourteen-year-old daughter, it would mean being able to defecate close to home rather than going out alone to the woods or a field, where she could be attacked. For you and your family, it would provide basic human dignity and reduce the number of days you are sick, so that you can continue to work and your children can be successful in school.
A strategy for selling toilets
At iDE, we use a human-centered sales approach that teaches sales agents to focus on selling to a customer’s problem, rather than selling on product features or price. Through a personalized conversation with the customer, the sales agent helps the customer identify all the issues he or she is encountering as a result of not having a toilet. Raising self-awareness about these problems intensifies the urgency and importance of resolving the problem(s) and helps the customer recognize the toilet as a viable solution to their problems.
Making it affordable with microfinance
Of course, part of the customer’s problem is poverty. For example, nearly 20 percent of the population in Cambodia is below the national poverty line, and this number is even higher in some countries in Africa. Under certain conditions, enabling households to finance the purchase of a toilet has the potential to increase sales fourfold at a market price of $50, decreasing per-toilet operating costs (e.g., marketing, transportation) by 70 percent at the same time. However, setting up partnerships with microfinance institutions is a long, iterative process that requires a lot of hands-on management. Sanitation financing is still a nascent field, and microfinance institutions may be waiting for more proof of positive business impact. iDE is exploring alternative methods of finance that overcome these operational and financial challenges.