Difficulty in getting advertisements and lack of funds forced Delhi-based Akshay Punjabi and Komal Goyal to close down Wowlet, a startup to promote travellers to put an end to their worries of finding a good toilet, after running it for three years.Spare a few minutes to know the reason behind its closure.. ..
What was Wowlet?
Wowlet was launched in January 2017 with an aim to provide clean hygienic sanitary facilities across the country. It was an App to provide standard service and information facilities to assist people in knowing the condition of toilets before opting to use them. Wowlet provides maintenance service for restaurants, petrol pumps and office complexes, and their app lets the users know whether a toilet is clean at a given time. What made Wowlet different is that toilets were made accessible to the differently abled, pregnant women, feeding mothers, and aged travellers.
According to research conducted by Wowlet, 98 percent women travellers in India say they require more toilets on highways, 56 percent need disabled-friendly toilets, and 37 percent ask for feeding rooms for women. Akshay and Komal realised the importance of providing real time information on which toilet is usable and which is not. They wanted to attend to the issue of maintenance of toilets, which was rarely addressed.
Before closing down there were 18 toilets at various areas including Delhi-Chandigarh, Delhi-Dehradun and Delhi-Jaipur highways, residential areas and market places. Each toilet had four cleaning staff, who were given proper training by Wowlet. It prepared the maintenance plan and helped establishments in marketing through sign boards, social media, and Google discoverability.
Fund crunch turned out to be the primary cause behind all the problems. “People are not comfortable paying for toilet facilities. They want “free to use” toilets instead of “pay and use”. So we failed to generate funds in this manner. Next, people were averse towards giving advertisements in toilets,” told Akshay, co-founder of Wowlet to Chalgenius. Along with this, petrol pumps too were unwilling to pay the charge that was fixed for the toilets that were housed there, he said. Akshay said that their funds were decreasing and scope for generating revenue was also hit.
It was already becoming difficult to generate funds and the situation worsened after lockdown was imposed due to the Covid pandemic. As the transportation sector was brought down to a standstill, travelling stopped and there were no users for the toilets. Finally, Wowlet was closed down last year.
“I want to sell the brand. Maybe the time when the concept was started was not a correct one. Now, it’s heard that two more companies have entered this business,” he added.
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