IIT Delhi incubates several startups in the Technology Business Incubation Unit at Synergy Building. One of them is Sanfe, a product developed to combat poor public sanitation for women. Sanfe, an acronym for ‘sanitation for female’, is a stand and pee device developed in IIT Delhi. A brainchild of two IIT Delhi students, the founding team comprises of Archit Aggarwal, Harry Sehrawat and Prof. Srinivasan Venkataraman of Dept. of Design; with eight full-time employees currently working to make it an international success.
Prof. Srinivasan Venkataraman Harry Sehrawat(left), Archit Aggarwal(right)
A Himalayan trek in 2016 is what deserves credit for this product. Archit and his friends went for a trek during the vacations. The call of nature is inevitable, but the washrooms there were unhygienic. Females in the group faced a grave problem due to the anatomy. Either they control the urge until they find a cleaner restroom, or use them. The fact that they could contract a Urinary Tract Infection haunted them, but they had to give up at some point. One of them did contract the infection later. This made Archit think of something that could prevent this problem. There were many products like seat sanitizer and stand-and-pee devices available, but none-of-them for Indian women; they were all developed in the West, where the clothes women generally wear are very different from Indian clothing. So he started himself on solving this problem.
They started with surveying* women, to understand the problems and the needs. The response was initially weak, given they were an all-male team and such issues still have a social stigma attached to them. It took time for women to become comfortable about it and understand the problems associated with it.
The solution they came up with was simple – design a better, ergonomic stand and pee funnel. They started out developing the product at IIT Delhi, improving on current designs. The team collaborated with AIIMS Delhi for testing it. There were more than eighteen iterations involved before reaching a usable and adaptable product. Each time, the feedback was from women was twofold – is the product usable and is it adaptable? The team had to redesign the prototype since the products available in the market were either developed in the West or had a similar design, and did not cater the demands of Indian women, who have a different culture of dressing. So, in later versions had a flexure-based mechanism, which adjusts according to the body shape and can be used by one hand, with the thumb resting over it.
Problems they faced were different at different stages. Initially, they could not get enough responses due to the stigma attached to it. It took time to convince them about the repercussions on health the general practices had, namely using a dirty toilet or holding the urge to urinate.
Then, it was difficult to convince women to use it, given initial prototypes had leakage problems and were not adaptable for women of all sorts of the body structure. A stable product was realized after months of work. Still, women who used it accepted that it is a great product, but were apprehensive about the idea of carrying it with them. So, the team came up with a pocket-friendly packaging so that it can be carried around.
The Design Iterations
The startup is incubated at IIT Delhi and recognised by Government of India under Startup India Scheme. It has been in various national media, like The Economic Times, Zee News etc. They have also achieved a lot since incubation, namely:
- Innovation Award by Department of Finance, Government of India.
- First Prize at Aarambh – B-Plan Competition organised by DMS IIT Delhi
- WeConnect Fellowship 2018 by Dept. of Science and Technology, Govt. of India
- Honoured by Sulabh International
Guest Of Honour by Sulabh International Student Innovation Award, Department of Financial Studies, Delhi University
Where does it stand now?
It is the cheapest product in the market, with availability across all Apollo Pharmacies and e-commerce websites across India. It is also shipped internationally to Nigeria, Estonia, Poland, New York, Bangladesh, Australia. Since this is a use and throw device, the team worked on its material, making it biodegradable and thus safe for nature. The product currently is India friendly, that is, women can use it while wearing saree too and it can be used by a single hand. The product also accommodates all bodily secretions and has an automatic wiping mechanism.
Its usage has been extended to hospitals too, where doctors are now advising them to pregnant women and women with joint pain. Also, it helps them while giving samples in labs, avoiding contamination of any kind.
Future of the project
A lot lies ahead, as said by Archit, “Sanfe is about innovation and developing a full solution for women sanitation.” For this product, the business development team is working on making it a success, talking to various industries for installing dispensers at their location. Further, the work on the newer version is going on since the current design can be copied easily. For the goal of targeting overall sanitation, we may see new product launches in December 2018.
Survey Results: Presentation Survey Report
Article by: Utkarsh Tyagi