I know it is a lot to ask but here’s something I want you to try. Get up from your seat and do a full squat—yes, you read that right and trust me, I have a point to make. Notice how you squat; it is likely that you are doing a full squat by raising your heels and transferring your body weight onto your toes. Now try placing your heels back on the floor. Feel the strain on your body? This strain—over a long time—puts a lot of pressure, especially on your knees and back which does not bode well for the joints in your body.
For many Indians, this way of squatting is commonplace due to the flaw in the design of most Indian-style toilets.
And 26-year-old Satyajit Mittal, a design student at the Pune based MIT Institute of design, decided to do something about that.
SquatEase came into existence as a result of Satyajit’s desire to build an ergonomically designed toilet that eases the strain on your back.
What is SqautEase?
It is an Indian-style toilet pot with an advanced design which not only helps the user to squat better but also makes the toilet unidirectional; this makes it easier to clean using less water.
Satyajit says, “I identified issues like poor accessibility, health concerns, issues with cleanliness and maintenance, and the factor of missing comfort. However, the most glaring issue was that of bringing a behavioural change in people, and their toilet-using habits. In the current scenario, most people squat on the Indian toilet with their heels up and balance themselves on their toes because they find it difficult to squat.”
This way of squatting increases the risk of falling, poorer hygiene and wastage of water in cleaning the toilet.
Satyajit conceptualized and designed the SquatEase toilet back in 2016. Subsequently, he won a prototyping grant from the Government of India which kick-started the project.
Sharing how he got around to designing this product, he says, “I used to go around photographing people when they would squat. I had almost 300 pictures of people squatting, and the common thread in it all was how people squatted on their toes.”
Questioning why this was happening was what led to Satyajit start his research on ergonomic designs.
“I went back to the same people I found squatting on their toes to have the product tested,” he adds.
Once the prototype was ready, Satyajit says the product went into testing mode.
Testing the product at Command Hospital, Pune
“With the product designed and ready, it was imperative that we got it tested and I thought the orthopedic department would be the best place for this,” says Satyajit.
The green signal came when it was tested by people with knee [problems] and other issues.
People were able to squat without needing to hold onto anything, and that was one of the motivations for Satyajit to go on and fine-tune the product.
“In 2018, I formally set up a company in collaboration with the World Toilet Organisation, Singapore and in October 2018, we had the product ready for sales,” he says.
Advantages of the ergonomic design
1. The introduction of inclined planes on the footrest helps the user to squat easily without any pain.
2. The inclined plane distributes the pressure across the foot instead of being concentrated only on toes, making squatting comfortable.
3. This design resolves the problem of falling backward or forward while squatting.
“I knew from the get-go that I have a product that had the potential to challenge the existing sanitation system, and make it more conducive for everyday use,” he says.
It took years of comprehending what was in use, the problems it was causing and how he could curb those issues by improving upon the design that Satyajit was able to succeed.
And the hard work paid off!
SquatEase has sold 6000 units in just three months. Satyajit says, “The product is available for purchase on our website, and we are even looking at bulk orders like the Kumbh Mela we recently supplied to. Each unit costs Rs 999/- .”
For more details, you can check their website here.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)