Neha Bagoria On Why She Quit Her High-Paying Job To Make Men’s Loos Waterless And Odourless
- IWB Post
- March 12, 2018
“Our Indian scenario is not very supportive of innovative mindsets. We are stuck in this rut of just making money. Our parents, their parents, the current generation all come from this mentality. Le de ke 5% want to craft a career out of their passion nahi to for the rest, their passion starts and ends with money,” Neha said, with a sigh.
With the vision of avoiding tons of water being wasted, Neha Bagoria set up EcoTrapIn, under which she created a ‘retrofit green technology’ of making conventional urinals waterless and odourless. While many termed her goals as stinky, she turned a deaf ear to them and continued, not seeing herself as a woman breaking barriers but as a human being giving back to the environment.
From quitting a well-paying job to creating a wondrous technology and entering men’s restrooms without flinching, Neha has been every bit of a daredevil as I found her to be in our quick chat. Excerpts:
So, tell me, how did it all start?
I started my career in software with a master’s degree in computer science and worked in the industry for around four years. But my heart wasn’t in it, I kept changing jobs trying to find that spark, that connection, you know. I came to Mumbai courtesy of another job change and I finally realized that the career I am in is just for churning money. I wanted to contribute to the society directly and work in a high social impact area.
But what was it that triggered your current project into action?
Well, belonging to Rajasthan where water scarcity is a common issue. I have always carried this concern for water conservation and as I said, my desire to work in a high social impact area. So, I quit my job in 2010 and started doing research in waterless technology in sanitation space. At the end of my research of 2 years, I found that waterless urinal is an unexplored area with huge potential for water conservation and restroom urinals can be made hygienic.
When we flush, we waste 3-4 litres for just one time and even after that urinals are, more than half the time mostly stinking as water reacts with the chemical of urine and creates that deathly odour. After my research, I realized that there were technologies which, if joined and implemented correctly, could save lots of water and make the urinals odourless as well.
As your innovation is mainly targeted at men’s restrooms, has it ever been that you had to enter one?
Obviously! One can keep making innovations but unless they see how it works out in the practical field, it is all futile.
You must have raised quite-a-many eyebrows!
I mostly do my fieldwork on my own though I have people working with me. And my ‘field’ is the urinals. I must tell you this that I never entered those urinals with the thought that I wanted to do something daring, being a woman entering a man’s washroom. I remember my very first field being a Sulabh Shochalaya. If I talk about the managers or supervisors of these places, I’ll say that they are very helpful, they close the urinals to everyone so that I can carry out my work.
But after I install the device, the urinal has to be used for me to see if it works. Men who come into use the loo, find it difficult to pee in a woman’s presence. It sure becomes awkward but there has never been an instance where they are angered or fight to get me out, or they talk rudely to me.
And also they are your consumers, it’s them who use your EcoTrapIn devices, after all.
Yep and I never hesitate to ask them. Me being shy isn’t gonna help, it is only after I ask them that I know for sure if my installations make the urinals better or not. And tell us if after its instalment the toilets are better or not. Some are forthcoming with their feedbacks but some are hesitant, so we give them feedback forms. If they liked the product? What changes would they prefer? What other problems do they face in urinals?
In fact, many were curious enough to come forward and inquire about what work we were doing, how will it help and the topmost question, “Why, when I have so many other careers to explore, am I so concerned about these urinals?”
A query that led us to you. So, Neha, in the journey so far has your family supported your goals?
Initially? Ooh, it was difficult for them to accept, what for them was my sudden new interest. They were unable to understand my mission, like why would I leave a high-paying job for such a ‘disgusting’ dream. But I don’t blame them, after all, they grew up in this society as well. Well, to cut the story short, as I progressed through the years, they’ve become more and more supportive.
Her initial model was EcoTrapIn, which has been phased out as of now. The latest models are EcoTrapIn Plus and EcoTrapIn Extra. It is fitted below the urinal bowl and has an antibacterial inlet/outlet and a float. When the urine passes through the outlet, the float seals it once the urine is drained out, not allowing water and urine to come in contact. Because of this, the flush is rarely needed to be used.
It has three advantages, first that one can now avoid touching the germ-infested lever of the flush. Second, it saves 1,67,900 litres of potable water per urinal annually. And lastly, because the urine and water do not come in contact, the foul odour is curbed, no scale is formed, and drain pipe blockages are avoided. The product is also recyclable and costs roughly Rs 8 per day but if we look at the bigger picture it saves 90% in bills like water charges, plumbing, cleaning agents, electricity, and many others.
While such products are available in many other countries, such a product in India has been innovated for the first time. The clients of EcoTrapIn currently are in urban and corporates sectors like banks, construction companies, builders as well as in some government offices all over India.
In India, we waste gallons of water because for us it is the ultimate cleanser, how did you make people understand?
So true and yes, it proved to be difficult at times to make them see the error of their ways. So, we show them our research papers and those from abroad done on the same topic. And some are not ready to accept the facts even then, so to these people, I say that take a demo of the product and see for themselves if they are comfy with the changes or not.
Wise move. So, while the urban sectors are kinda sorted, are you planning to take your innovations to the rural places as well?
Definitely, and installing it there will be easy as well but when it comes to its actual usage, oh boy the awareness factor in rural areas is very very low. In places, there is not even a single toilet and we are talking about an eco-friendly urinal technology. Changing their habits, traditions are more like challenging their roots. But as we gain a wider reach, and with the government’s support, I fervently hope that I can reach the rural areas too.
Till the third version was released, EcoTrapIn was being funded by Neha personally. It was only when the third version, EcoTrapIn Extra was launched that the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research came forward to fund her project.
And we wish that your hopes come true. Tell me this last thing, Neha, people often dream but give up on it when faced with difficulties, what was it that kept you motivated?
I’ll give the credit to a very personal, yet very common and also a very hidden trait and that is being persistent. While everyone possesses it, our fear to display our confidence hinders it. If I have my heart into something then it becomes my vision and it is not something I give up on. My confidence sparks up automatically, and if it is stuck up somewhere, well I make sure to dislodge it with an army of stocked-up will power.