Creating New Experience in Sanitation Landscape In India: Diago Ishiyama, Director of Marketing and Technology, SATO, LIXIL

With the entry of SATO in India, there is no reason for people for not obtaining safe, pleasant sanitation that they have always aspired to writes Ishiyama.


In the recent years, the sanitation landscape of India has undergone a massive shift. The entire nation hasaggressively focused on attaining the ODF status. Home to over 6, 00,000villages,it has not been an easy task for India. Besides the aspect of affordability, the biggest challenge has been bringing about a change inthe attitudes of people towards the concept of toilet and its use. Generations of Indians have not only been defecating in the open but have also passed this practice as an acceptable habit to their younger generations. This familiarity has ensured the continuity of this practice, and has prevented people in rural India to aspire for a ‘safe toilet’ experience.

Besides the socio-cultural stronghold, rural India struggles to access a safe toilet experience due to the non-availability of a low-cost solution that saves water and is easy and pleasant touse. A toilet system with such benefits would help people in the rural India sit-up and take noticeand, eventually,motivate them to change their mind-sets and behaviours to adopt safe toilet practices. A string of such benefits lies at the heart of why LIXIL innovated a revolutionary toilet brand called SATO. SATO line of productsmarks the emergence of a new approach in our collective attempts to eliminate open defecation, and provide safe toilet experience to first-time toilet users in rural communities.

SATO has been designed to address the needs of the base-of-pyramid consumers in peri-urban and rural communities, especially in developing countries.Every moment, SATO is contributing to drive United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 6, one toilet at a time.These inexpensive products carry the benefits of easy and quick installation, and easy maintenance,and fits in perfectly in the rural India context. Suitable for use with direct and offset pit installations, twin-pits, septic tanks, sewered connections, and other water-based containment systems, SATO toilets can also be utilized in new construction, or can be retrofitted into existing latrines to provide an easy, inexpensive upgrade. This phenomenon has brought about a noticeable behavioural change and has encouraged people engaged in the practice of open defecation to experience safe sanitation for the first time in their lives.

Toilets were not part of the initial household infrastructure. They were looked down upon, treated as tabooed places. People from lower classes were assigned to clean them, they were considered dirty, unhygienic places. Caste and other social constructs came into play– and toilets became synonymous with the same. Over the years several missions and programs have been launched with the intent of inculcating good and healthy sanitation habits in people. However most of these programs have been coerced down the throats of people who have previously been so accustomed to defecating in the open. It was and is a way of life to them. Generations of Indians have been engaging in this practice, passing it down as an acceptable means of eliminating bodily waste. While space constraints and affordability act as a cause of hesitation, the biggest challenge has been bringing about a change in the attitudes of people towards the concept of toilets and their use. Rural India has never been privy to the ‘toilet’ experience. Used to the mug and bucket approach, there is a certain familiarity associated with openly defecating. 

People in rural areas mock the toilet culture. Under coercion they have accepted toilets into their homes consoling themselves by using it as a storage space. Many do not understand why toilets have to be used, when vast forest area is at their disposal. So how does one influence behaviour, make people more accepting of toilets? The only way to do is showcase a direct cause and effect. Make people aware of the benefits of using a toilet by allowing them to see the results on their heath – monetarily, physically, and emotionally. Introducing them to a new concept, one that goes against what they have embraced for several years, there will be resistance. There will be hesitation, doubt and above all uncertainty. Comfort and convenience will be prioritised over the advent of new technological innovation, especially in rural India. Therefore educational awareness programs need to be put into place, awareness drives need to be conducted, familiarization trips need to take place. The Kito village in Uganda, Kenya embraced SATO after evidence based results were shared with the people. They realised that there is a direct co – relation between using toilets, cleanliness and disease control. Thus people realised that the toilet was helping improve hygiene, reduce the spread of diseases and promote a healthier and more comfortable living in Uganda.

In fact, for those who have previously built a toilet and have failed to maintain them, low cost toilet solutions have opened up a new realm of possibilities.   This is especially true for women, who walk several kilometres to access safe water, wait till sunset or sunrise to defecate without being stared at. Toilets provide women comfort, a sanctuary, and a place where they can be one with themselves without fearing for their safety, without being subjected to the humiliation of trying to relieve themselves in front of prying eyes. A place where they can centre themselves, regain their strength and hold on tight to their dignity. It isn’t easy being a woman and openly defecating. It can be defeating and a real blow to the spirit. They say if you educate a mother, you educate a village. That is why it is so critical to impart the knowledge of safe sanitation and hygiene practices in women. If women are educated on why and how to use a toilet, if they are able to see the cause and effect – they will be able to get their children to embrace the toilet culture. 

In its quest to provide a safe toilet experience to users, toilets are now being built with the aim of engaging with communities based on learnings garnered in other similar regions of the world. The toilet experience and culture is diverse in nature. Its impact on people is not uniform - some readily accept it, others feel coerced into it and for the lack of a better alternative, many just putup with it. With the entry of SATO in India, there is no reason for people for not obtaining safe, pleasant sanitation that they have always aspired to. India is a big country. There is still a lot of ground to cover. This is just the beginning of the revolution, and SATO commits to contributing to making India truly ODF.

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sanitation Diago Ishiyama SATO LIXIL

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