Toilet dreams in India: Advancing a guard and contester framework of entrepreneurial strategies in grand challenges

Dr Aparna Venugopal examines how entrepreneurs implement sanitation solutions in a complex, uncertain and evaluative context, namely India.


Aparna examines how entrepreneurs implement sanitation solutions in a complex, uncertain and evaluative context, namely India. She proposes a guard-contester framework to theorise the entrepreneurial strategic standpoints. Her framework serves as a guide on practical strategies for enterprises who are addressing grand challenges (such as the lack of toilet infrastructures) in national systems which are embedded in deep-rooted power structures (such as the caste system in India).


The underpinning research for the impact study is derived from two significant pieces of literature, one of which has already been published (Venugopal, Foord & Singaram, 2020) and the other is under review (Venugopal & Sharma, 2022). While in the former; a book chapter, the researchers examined at length how an enterprise in Pune was able to implement smart toilets in densely populated areas in India, in the latter; an article, the scholars examine how entrepreneurs implement sanitation solutions in India. Having published the first study, Aparna realised the need and potential of a larger study that comprised of a nuanced understanding of how technological solutions may be implemented in similar environments. Along with a colleague in India, she gathered data from the founders and stakeholders of 13 enterprises that offer toilet innovations across 12 Indian States, between 2018 and 2021.


Aparna’s study in the Indian sanitation context has the potential to offer guidance at three levels: entrepreneurial teams, employees, and end-users. Aparna’s guard-contester framework suggests when and how entrepreneurial teams, employees, and users can contest/circumvent/compartmentalise the extant othering beliefs (belief that certain others ought to be treated differently) and facilitate technological solutions by changing their strategies of practice. She plans to materialise the impact of the study through grassroots level engagements, and on-site community workshops that facilitate change in the strategies of practice and suggest distinct pathways to contest/compartmentalise/circumvent ‘othering beliefs. She has informally arranged for visits in July/August 2022 to facilitate these engagements and workshops.

Dr Aparna Venugopal

Dr Aparna Venugopal

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