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When the residents of a Mumbai slum cross the family clinic in their neighbourhood, they make a point to stop at the sanitising station.
While sanitiser bottles are not easily available and expensive, it is also a fact that if anyone manages to get one, there is a high chance that the germs on the bottle will get transferred to their hands.
This sanitising station is a tad different—it is pedal operated and is thankfully, contactless—and is an innovation by Beco, an eco-startup.
As a part of their COVID-19 initiative, Beco is selling these stations to private businesses and also donating them to NGOs, government hospitals, clinics and distribution centres.
So far, they have supplied a total of 1050 across Mumbai.
A New Beginning for a Business Affected by COVID-19:
Beco specialises in making eco-friendly tissues, earbuds, toothpicks and such other commonly used lifestyle products. They aim to replace these common-use products with sustainable alternatives without compromising on user experience.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit India, not only did their functions come to a grinding halt, it also put the 75+ daily wagers associated with them at risk.
“Normally, we would sell our goods in the domestic market, and also export them, but with the heavy restrictions following the pandemic, it all came to a standstill. March and April were disastrous months. But we had a financial and moral responsibility to act and keep our machines running,” says Aditya Ruia, the co-founder of Beco to The Better India (TBI).
COVID-19 had taken much from them and yet, also provided the opportunity to innovate. Aditya, along with Anuj Ruia and Akshay Varma, the co-founders of Beco zeroed in on the idea of designing a pedal-operated sanitising station for minimal transfusion of germs.
Aditya and Anuj are engineers from BITS Pilani while Akshay is a graduate in Material Sciences from IIT Madras. Their experience and education came in handy while designing the station. Additionally, they got their friends, Suvrat Ghatiwala, a Supply Chain Manager & Procurement Specialist and Talib Chitalwala, a Photographer, to work on the design with them.
“The aim was to build something affordable, sustainable and that which contributes to the society in these difficult times. It took us a week to finalise the design, and by mid-April, we had started selling and supplying them in Mumbai,” Aditya adds. Their current capacity is 500 units per month.
Of the 75+ employed, about 30 daily wage workers are working in the Beco workhouses to make the sanitising stations. With the usual pay and benefits, these workers can sustain themselves and their families during this challenging period. Most of the others have returned home.
1050 Sanitising Stations in Mumbai:
Mumbai, with 10,000 COVID-19 positive cases (as of 7 May) has been in constant danger since before March. No preventive measure is too much in a place this severely affected by the contagious disease. In light of this, Beco’s handsfree sanitising stations come as an additional protective barrier.
Varsha Mundhra, who teaches underprivileged students in Mumbai, shares, “Aditya and Anuj have become friends since we are involved in various social activities. So when they told me about this project, I connected them with a few people who run medical clinics for the underprivileged. Since these doctors cannot afford to buy the sanitising stations, Beco donated about 87. We encourage the slum dwellers to use the stations even if they are not visiting the doctor.
With an adjustable bottle holder, the sanitising station is a one-time investment and takes about 5-7 minutes to install. You set up your sanitizer bottle in the given slot, tighten the screws around it, and that’s it!
“The idea of normal is set to change now. Even after the lockdown is over, people will be more cautious about their hygiene. These pedal-operated stations will come handy then. All you do is extend your hand under the bottle and step on the pedal. The station will release an optimum amount of drops in your palms,” Aditya says adding that he is aware there are cheaper, lighter models available out there but Beco’s aim is not necessarily to provide the lowest cost equipment. Not at the moment at least.
“For every unit purchased, we are giving one free of charge to NGOs or distribution centres. That’s our small contribution to help frontline workers stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic,” concludes Aditya.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)