Promita Sengupta – Creating innovative solutions for safe sanitation

Ever so often when we travel across India, we come face-to-face with the reality that there are just not enough clean and hygienic restrooms – especially for women. We feel angered, frustrated and helpless. But Promita Sengupta decided to do something to change the status quo. Her organisation, Innovations Unlimited specialises in creating low cost sanitation solutions that add dignity and privacy to the lives of women.

Birth of Innovations Unlimited
Promita shares, “I am an ex-banker by profession. Whenever I travelled across India with my friends and family, I realised that most roadside toilets are very dirty. As a result, when women travel, we don’t drink water because we don’t have a place to relieve ourselves. It’s then that I decided to create mobile toilet that we could carry in our cars. I designed a prototype along with a friend. My father, who is a civil engineer, and my brother-in-law, an instrumentation engineer, helped me with the technical know-how.”

Promita founded Innovations Unlimited in 2010. The core idea was to create a quickly deployable, eco-friendly and cost-effective, complete toilet solution that caters to the needs of the underprivileged, conflict affected or disaster affected vulnerable communities. Promita reveals, “In Indian villages people defecate in the open and water sources get contaminated. Women are especially vulnerable to rape and assaults when they go to isolated areas to relieve themselves. There is also a threat of animal and serpent bite. It took me a while to understand the magnanimity of the situation. I spoke to engineers at Oxfam & UNICEF and they shared the specifications of their requirements. The simplicity of its operation and the multi-faceted usages won their hearts.”

nCircle R – ensuring privacy & dignity for all
Innovation Unlimited’s patented innovation nCircle R is a quickly deployable tent-like superstructure that opens up to form a toilet, changing room or a feeding room. The USP of this design is simplicity, flexibility and mobility. Promita opines, “The term ‘encircle’ means to surround a person. It is a befitting name because our product encircles the person while they are attending nature’s call and provides them the much needed privacy and dignity. Every human being deserves that dignity.”

The response to this innovative sanitation solution has been tremendous. Promita proudly shares, “We are working with major national and international NGOs. We have exported our product to Juba in Africa for Oxfam Great Britain and started working with Red Cross for which we have sent products to Bangladesh. Last year during the floods in Assam and social unrest in the region, our toilets were used by Oxfam India. Wherever sanitation help is needed our product is being considered.” Promita further reveals, “The new development is that we are getting in the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) space right now. Currently we are working with Tata Housing , an Indian corporate with a golden heart. They have launched the ‘Swach Campaign’ whereby they are advocating practices of safe sanitation and clean drinking water. In one of the Panchayat areas in West Bengal, we will be constructing around 100 toilets to improve the sanitation facilities as well as sensitize the community about how safe sanitation and good health are intricately woven.”

Accolades & vision for the future
Promita’s crusade for safe sanitation has garnered recognition. She has been awarded FICCI Kolkata’s Aparajita Award in the category of Science & Innovation and the L’Oreal Paris Femina Women Award in 2013, in the Editor’s Choice category.

Promita candidly reveals, “In the field of sanitation, being a woman has been a greater challenge because in our society women don’t talk about toilets and menstruation cycles. These subjects are taboo. However, I feel that women should be the ones who should advocate it because we suffer the most. I urge more women to be vocal about the subject that is closer to their heart.”

Promita’s shares her vision, “My dream is to provide our toilet solution to each and every rural school in India. Because then I could arrest the school dropout rates. The moment a girl reaches puberty, she stops going to school because there is no basic toilet/ changing facility. As per the United Nation’s latest figures, globally, there are 1.1 billion people still defecating in the open, out of which 638 million are Indians, which translates to over 50 per cent of the Indian population – these glaring facts constantly propel me towards my vision.”

Family and friends have supported Promita in accomplishing her dreams, especially Shweta Bais, the Sales & Marketing head who has been with her since the inception of the organisation.
Promita is truly a dynamic and innovative entrepreneur who is working tirelessly to improve the dignity of life of people across the nation. At WEBO Power we salute her pioneering spirit and crusade for safe sanitation.

Interviewed By: Supriya Mathur, Team WEBO Power
Posted On: August 02, 2013

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