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Loo and Bollywood

The founder of the World Toilet Organization is working on a Hindi movie to spread awareness of the importance of toilets.today conclave, world toilet organisation, Jack Sim
Arunima Mishra        Print Edition: April 13, 2014
Jack Sim in a restroom at the Taj Palace Hotel, Delhi
Jack Sim in a restroom at the Taj Palace Hotel, Delhi Photo: Shekhar Ghosh

His goal is to ensure that everyone uses toilets. That way, nothing gets contaminated. "We have to create a revolution to make toilets sexy," says Singapore-based Jack Sim, Founder, World Toilet Organization (WTO), who attended the recent India Today Conclave. In many countries, including India, large numbers of people still defecate in the open. "In India, open defecation is a huge problem that has massive health implications," he says. "It isn't only due to poverty, it's the culture."

Around 40 per cent of the global population does not have a toilet, says Sim. Expensive toilets are not needed, he adds, only affordable ones. Also, it is not difficult to make a toilet look good. "Simply painting the toilet wall with a lotus or a peacock makes it beautiful," says Sim.

Sim, who has partnered with Hindustan Unilever Ltd in India, wants to see companies putting their CSR (corporate social responsibility) funds into sanitation. He is planning to set up a unit to manufacture toilets near Bhubaneswar in Odisha. "We are hoping to clone the SaniShop franchise everywhere...," he says. SaniShop is WTO's manned social franchise model responsible for manufacturing and selling toilets to the local community in developing countries. This year, Sim will take the SaniShop concept to Cambodia in Southeast Asia and Mozambique in Africa, besides expanding it beyond Odisha in India.

There is also a Hindi film on sanitation on the anvil. Life Without Toilet will revolve around a family and its woes due to non-availability of a toilet. "I've written the story, I've met some producers already, who liked the story. We will use this movie in villages to educate people," says Sim. He hopes the film will change the way people in India look at toilets. Earlier, Sim had written the script of a film on Singapore's toilets, which catered to markets in Singapore and Malaysia.

So, why did Sim choose toilets as his life's mission? "I like choosing neglected areas," he says. "Doing the things that nobody else does. I always look for the gaps. Where can I contribute?"

It was at age 40 that Sim found his cause. He asked himself if he needed to make more money and the answer was in the negative. He had enough money and real estate in Singapore. "I stay in one house and my mother in another. I have rented out three houses and the rent I get is enough for me," he says. "The important thing (in life) is to find meaning. We can earn money but there won't be more of life. The real currency of life is not money. An important motivation to go beyond earning money comes when you ask yourself what you've done for the world. One of the world's richest men, Bill Gates, too did social work."

His mother is Sim's inspiration, though he says she doesn't know much about his work. "She just knows that I'm doing 'toilets' and whenever she sees me featured in a newspaper, she asks the reason and I explain it to her." Sim comes from a poor family, but in the 1960s, his mother was entrepreneurial enough to start her own business. She started off by teaching embroidery to rural women and doing bridal make-up. ~

@Mishra_Arunima

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