By Machrine Birungi
After scanning through hundreds of photos of people squatting on toilets, an Indian product designer took the efficiency and comfort seriously and reinvented the form of a squat toilet.
Since Mr Satyajit Mittal from Pune created SquatEase, his toilet has received recognition, grants and awards from several international organizations. He recently received the prestigious Good Design Award from the Japan Institute of Design Promotion. His innovation was also recognized at the International Design Museum, in Munich Germany.
WSSCC spoke with the 27-year-old designer and founder at SquatEase to find out more about his creation and its impact on sanitation and hygiene.
WSSCC: What is a SquatEase toilet?
Mr Satyajit Mittal, founder of SquatEase: SquatEase is a squatting type of toilet with the elevated heel design on the footrest that reduces stress on the ankles, stabilizes the center of gravity when squatting down, and makes it easier to stand up again.
WSSCC: What inspired you to design this type of toilet?
Mr Mittal: I started developing this product in 2016 when I was a student at the MAEER’s MIT Institute of Design in Pune. As you might know, India is largely a squatting country and I interacted with a lot of people who used squat toilets to find out the kind of problems they faced. I also took nearly 400 photos of people squatting just to get an idea of the impact. I noticed that a lot of people squatted on their toes, and some people especially the elderly, complained of squatting related issues in connection with their knees, heels, back and ankles.
That’s when I started thinking of an idea on how to add an incline on the footrest of the pan. This is how I came up with the SquatEase toilet – a friendly and unique toilet that is both clean and comfortable.
WSSCC: The footrest of your toilet is not only elevated toward the heel. Its surface is also corrugated. Why?
Mr Mittal: One day, while visiting a school for blind children in Pune, I found out that many children, who are blind, usually count their steps to the toilet. But occasionally, when a toilet is occupied by some other users, walking and counting their steps from the door to the pan in another booth changes by a foot. Then, they end up soiling the area. So, we thought why not integrate floor markings on the toilet to help the visually impaired people to identify the right spot to turn and squat.
WSSCC: It sounds like you had in mind a toilet design that can be used by people that were left behind.
Mr Mittal: We designed our toilet for everybody and I believe it exemplifies the whole concept of “leaving no one behind,” and my motto: “a small change can create a huge impact.” For example, the unidirectional nature of this toilet makes it easy to control urine from sipping and messing up the floors. The drop area of fecal matter on the pan is very close to the outlet and close to the drainage hole. Even if it goes to Africa, or in the railways, it can be used.
WSSCC: Are there any benefits for sanitation workers? How does your toilet help them clean public toilets?
Mr Mittal: The way we designed the placement of the footrest on the SquatEase was that the drop area is right next to the drainage hole and you require less water in cleaning, especially in public areas where there is a lot of population. And again, our toilets are unidirectional, which means it’s very easy to clean this product. We spoke to a lot of toilet cleaners who were working at public toilets in Pune and one of cleaners told us that it was easier to maintain the SquatEase toilets.
WSSCC: How are you using the SquatEase toilet to support awareness campaigns on sanitation and hygiene?
Mr Mittal: We are heading to a direction where sanitation and hygiene solutions are all about the integration of multiple approaches. I meet people and raise awareness about our product but also talk about how using a toilet would ease their life. I want to discuss a bigger picture of good sanitation in their homes. You will be very surprised that a lot of young entrepreneurs are working on various products to help people in the sanitation and hygiene sector.
WSSCC: You are also a member of WSSCC. Can you tell us what it means to be part of WSSCC?
Mr Mittal: WSSCC has been creating important platforms to make sanitation everyone’s business. In particular, they have offered an opportunity for first-time innovators like me to be recognized. They have helped young entrepreneurs to choose a field like sanitation and hygiene, push them forward, get them necessary knowledge and equipment, and more work. It’s important that WSSCC continues to raise awareness of the sanitation and hygiene sector.
WSSCC: What are your future plans?
Mr Mittal: SquatEase is our first product. We want to push it at a larger scale. We are technologists. We know how to design a product, solve a problem and take it to the market. We want to keep innovating, and we hope to have WSSCC by our side.
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