Forbes recently profiled Poop Rewards, a start-up company which won the ‘Start-up Weekend Delhi’ business plan competition. The organization aims to leverage mobile telephone operators to extend rewards to customers who use public toilets. With the objective of improving sanitation and mobile business, Poop Rewards would extend additional mobile minutes or discounts to price-conscious customers. Poop Rewards’ founder, Swapnil Chaturvedi, developed the idea based on a simple statistic: that 800 million of India’s 1.2 billion citizens have a cell phone but only 600 million have access to clean bathrooms and sanitation services. Poop Rewards aims to partner with mobile operators who would pay for the installation of public toilets, and reap the rewards of increased customer retention.
An entrepreneur is developing a startup that will offer mobile customers in India rewards for using public restrooms, a novel idea intended as a way to improve both the country’s public health and mobile business.
The winner of the recent business competition “Startup Weekend Delhi,” Swapnil Chaturvedi’s unforgettably named program “Poop Rewards” is geared to increase both demand for and supply of public toilets in India — by rewarding people who use specially designated toilets with mobile minutes and other discounts from a partnering cell phone provider.
Chaturvedi got the idea by linking two unrelated statistics: 800 million of the country’s 1.2 billion citizens have a cell phone, but only half — about 600 million — have ready access to a clean bathroom. This lack of access to proper sanitation is a key reason the country suffers from many water-borne diseases, causing unnecessary sickness and death.
The program’s mobile providers will help cover the expense of building more public toilets, and then hopefully reap their own rewards by decreasing India’s high mobile customer “churn” rate. Price-conscious cell phone customers in the country regularly switch providers whenever a better deal comes along. As a result, mobile companies spend significant sums of money just trying to retain as many customers as possible.
The global airline industry’s frequent flyer programs, which succeeded in fostering greater customer loyalty to specific airline brands, are held up as a model of sorts for Poop Rewards. One Indian phone provider, Airtel, has already expressed interest in participating, Gigaom.com reported.
Chaturvedi hopes to launch a pilot of the program in coming months. His solution to India’s health woes may be considered unconventional in other parts of the world, but perhaps his program provides a valuable example of using cell phone minutes as a reward for better behavior of all kinds.