Dharanidhar Kumar has always been known as "DK" to his friends. But now he has a new nickname – The Toilet Seller.
DK lives in Sheohar District in India, and among other community development activities he was involved in, DK had been trying to help families construct toilets. The Government of India has a sanitation campaign – Swachh Bharat Mission – to make the entire country Open Defecation Free, and he was trying to support that.
But he kept running into obstacles.
The main challenge was availability of materials to construct better bathrooms. DK would have to travel to neighboring cities or districts to obtain the materials families needed. So although the demand for better toilets existed, DK wasn’t able to meet that demand.
Around the same time DK was struggling to keep up with his customer base, Water For People was identifying local entrepreneurs to provide with sanitation business support. DK was the perfect fit.
Water For People supported DK and nine other entrepreneurs with trainings about various toilet technologies and marketing techniques. They helped these entrepreneurs understand supply chain management and encouraged them to form a collective so they would have more bargaining power to obtain bathroom materials at good prices and keep them available locally.
"Water For People trained us not only in building a variety of toilets, but also equipped us with the right marketing techniques to sell them," explains DK.
Although it took some time for his new sanitation business – known locally as a Point of Purchase, or PoP – to take off, now business is booming.
"My business improved as people started to appreciate the importance of toilets," says DK. "I knew I hadn’t made a mistake getting into this business." His innovation has paid off.
On his busiest days, DK sets up his shop starting at 6 am and never closes down before 7 pm. The four masons he employs are busy with installations all day.
DK sees a transition ahead for his business. As local families build new toilets the demand could decrease.
"Now is the time for me to start storing high-end accessories, such as tiles, doors, taps, and other fittings for beautifying bathrooms," he says. "Also, since the town got electricity this year, now people want running water in their toilets."
DK’s marketing training has been useful as he grows his business. "When people come to me saying they want a tap in their bathroom, I say ‘why don’t you get some tiles, too?’"
Although DK’s Toilet Seller nickname started out as a skeptical joke about whether his business would take off, now everyone is appreciating the importance of what he does. And DK couldn’t be more proud of his innovation and the business he’s started and grown.
"I feel like I have contributed to the transformation of the country," he says.