Entrepreneurs Ms Pheophansa and Mr Khamdaeng are helping to accelerate the delivery of sanitation facilities to households at the Atsaphone district, Savannakhet, Lao PDR . Since partnering with SNV, they’ve been selling an average of 100 toilet packages per month. Key to the success of the couple’s growing business is a partnership based on equality and mutual trust.
In the past, the family business simply relied on concrete ring production and walk-in customers. With support from SNV, the couple started traveling to communities and participating in sanitation demand triggering processes. Direct communication with toilet consumers gave them a better understanding of consumer preferences and challenges. Today, the business offers full toilet packages and installation services, simplifying the acquisition process and making it more convenient.
According to Mr Khamdaeng, ‘I'm a mason. I can lend support in latrine installation. Now, we also sell pans, blocks, PVC pipes, cement and other construction materials.’
Adds Ms Pheophansa, ‘Whenever consumers ask for a discount or negotiate for staggered payments, my husband and I would first discuss this then agree jointly on a course of action. We’ve also distributed roles between us. I am responsible for cash management, and my husband takes care of technical construction. We equally participate in decision-making.’
The couple also received training on basic principles of sanitation marketing – the four Ps (Product, Price, Promotion and Placement), helping them to offer diverse promotional packages that encourage large purchase orders (the bigger the order, the higher the discount). Local authorities and sanitation promoters based in the community are also helping create connections between the entrepreneurs and consumers. Said Ms Pheophansa, ‘In the last three months (December 2019 to January 2020), I’ve been wondering why many people started walking in to purchase materials from our shop. When I asked how they heard of us, they said that the sanitation promoters and sanitation demand facilitation team convinced and encouraged them to build a toilet, at low cost. So, I would like to say thanks to the project for helping me grow our business.’
Last but not least, community members are also benefiting from the couple’s new business model. Consumers can now choose from a wide range of toilets; from low-cost ones to the more expensive types. They can now enjoy a one-stop shop experience that delivers toilets to their doorstep at much lower prices . And consumers now have possibilities to provide direct feedback to suppliers on the quality of the products and services they pay for.
Ms Van (latrine consumer) said, ‘My daughter works in town. She always felt shy and found it inconvenient to come home because we didn’t have a toilet. This encouraged me to attend a group sanitation sale event at the temple. My husband and I agreed to purchase a toilet and sought the advice of a sanitation promoter who put us in contact with the enterprise. I found it very convenient that the latrine enterprise did not only offer toilet parts, but that these also came with installation support for a reasonable price.’
Support from SNV has created a win-win model: enterprises enjoy higher profits, and community members/toilet consumers enjoy a wider range of products and services, at better and more affordable prices.
Written by Huong Le Thi Thuy with contributions from Anjani Abella, Silvana Summa and Outhikone Souphome In
Photos: SNV/Bart Verweij
 The Atsaphone district of Savannakhet Lao PDR is home to approximately 64,000 people. Today the district has a sanitation coverage of 64%. By 2022 the district aspires to be a verified open-defecation-free (ODF) district. And in a post-ODF scenario, demonstrate that it is taking concrete post-ODF measures to achieve safely managed sanitation. SNV and partners in Lao PDR are applying the SSH4A (rural sanitation) approach, with funding from the Australian government. Visit the SSH4A in Lao PDR project page.
 In the past, households had to purchase toilet materials themselves from different suppliers, at times, traveling long distances.