Ever since 2018, Abhishek Nath has woken up every morning to images of public toilets on his phone. Why? Because that is his business.
He is the brain behind Loo Café that first popped up all over Hyderabad and Telangana, followed by Srinagar (Jammu and Kashmir). As of now there are around 451 of these public restrooms, each with a cosy tuck shop attached The brand is expanding and now in the process of opening across Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Karnataka.
“Within the next 60 days we will have our first unit in Chennai, in the T Nagar area. Around 10 spots have been identified in the city,” says Abhishek, managing director and ceo of Ixora Fm, the parent company of Loo Café.
Depending on the space and area, the dimensions vary between four by eight feet, 20 by eight feet and 40 by eight feet. The loo cafes are made of shipping containers or pre-fabricated materials to maintain long term cost-effectiveness.
The façade is attractive and interior colour schemes fetching in shades of pink or white, with floral prints, among others. “We have a copyright design catalogue that has 70+ designs,” says Abhishek over a call from Hyderabad, adding, “The one in Srinagar, by the Dal Lake, is our first ever format with a Wudhu area.” And most importantly, the facilities are disabled-friendly.
Abhishek is attempting to change the perception of the Indian public toilet. It requires constant upgrading and quality checks. The current set of plans include: increasing the ceiling height for better ventilation, HEPA filters, perforated flooring so water gets sucked out and gets used for rain water harvesting, vertical gardens, UV light...
He has also got a cleaning protocol in place. Other than the regular basic cleaning, the facilities also go through deep cleaning. “We have followed SwachhBharat guidelines,” he states.
A podcast is on its way, through which the company is attempting to educate people on hygiene. Also in the works is a command centre that will observe the pattern through cameras strictly outside the units. This may also help identify vandals and miscreants who damage these structures.
Ever since the pandemic, Abhishek has noticed an increase of 40 % in the use of Loo Café. With a lot of more people opting for road trips, having access to these comfort stops along the way is a “relief”.
While there might be petrol bunks or small restaurants and café chains that offer rest rooms, Abhishek says, with his format, the user does not have to pay anything, nor does he or she have to feel intimidated about entering through a café. “In most of these places the coffee is the prime focus, here the loo is the main focus,” he adds.
Loo Café generates revenue from two areas: the café (which stocks tea, samosas, French fries, sandwiches) and through advertisements.
Meanwhile plans are afoot to including shower cabins, where users can put in a coin and get a towel. “There is a live toilet monitoring system that monitors water, electricity and smell,” he explains, adding “We have imported a lot of technology to understand how wash-rooms can work better.”