A word of Japanese origins, Hachimichi (八道) means “8 Roads”. You might have heard about Hachiko, an Akita dog that is now famous all over the world for his loyalty. Also, the Japanese word for honey (sweet) starts with Hachi. Furthermore, the Japanese character of Hachi is depicted by a long road leading into the horizon, which symbolizes the future.
Although purely literal, these are some of the characteristics that I have always associated with Hachimichi; to bring forth the future by being loyal to innovation while forming sweet relationships with all the stakeholders. But interestingly, every now and then, somebody quips in an entirely new perspective to our name. One perception: number 8 resembling a tilted infinity and so, that must mean that Hachimichi is an abode of infinite possibilities. Yet another perspective is that Hachimichi means 8 paths to success.
Some questions are just difficult to answer. Why do we discuss and debate topics like the meaning of our name? Why do we keep refining our methods and ways?
All these questions further open avenues of thought and it led me to think, “Why would anyone want to invest in us?” Now, THAT is a question that probably will be answered during an investor pitch; the ONE that I could answer is,
Why are we investing our time, energy, and money into Hachimichi? Why?
A Physiological desire
Hachimichi’s business satisfies a physiological need and not one of self-actualization.
As long as humans continue to eat, they are going to excrete. Toilets fall into Maslow’s basic desire category. Simply put, it is a never-ending business. Hachimichi caters to the human desire of having a comfortable experience at an unavoidable place.
The demand is real and is validated through our traction.
We started with SeatO’fresh. It is a simple yet effective B2B solution that gives 100% hygiene to every new user. We have heard feedback like “This is a blessing, I would definitely buy this” so often, it is rather rare to find naysayers to SeatO’fresh. But then, we have also realized that these may be fluffy promises which without payment, turn into false commitments. Luckily in our case, we were able to convert those promises into long-term commitments. For the last six months, we have had paying customers. A customer who frequently pays is a cherry on top and a huge confidence booster.
Feminism and the voice against disparate social structures have been a sinusoidal wave. The recent #metoo movement was a trigger to all the pent-up emotions across the world. We see similar pent-up emotions in the case of hygiene and sanitation. Ignoring 40% of the population who has questionable access to sanitation, the remaining 60% seldom feel comfortable using toilets outside of their homes. Women especially, move the seat up or down, clean it with a jet spray, spread tissues, and only then, do they sit on it. While traveling, all the women from my family hold their pee till they get back home. Be it schools, hospitals, railways, offices, malls, or restaurants, the situation is pathetic. People understand this and actively demand some solution. Hachimichi can ride this wave of mass sentiment.
A catalyst to behaviour change. Can become a norm.
There exists a future in which Hachimichi is the missing link.
SeatO’fresh has the potential to become a norm in public sanitation. We have witnessed it in our initial focus market. India has barely witnessed any technology in its washrooms. The likes of Cera, Jaquar, Kohler, Parryware, and Toto did try to bring in-built bidet/jet spray seats, but they all failed miserably. This failure can be attributed to their approach to the market. With deeper pockets and a nationwide network, they had preferred mass production to flood the markets. This sets unrealistic expectations upon a product for which the customer is barely ready. Indians yet have the mindset required to accept technology into their washrooms.
This mindset and acceptability can only be built gradually through successive experiences. SeatO’fresh does exactly that. Through SeatO’fresh, consumers would be exposed to the possibility of technology and the comfort it brings in washrooms. A simple tech that is harmless, that works, and that solves a problem they frequently complained about.
Every new machine installed creates an average of 3-4000 new impressions every year. In a gradually built and optimistic business, we would have cumulatively generated 150Cr impressions over the first 5 years. In the 6th year alone, we would be adding 200Cr new impressions. A simple product that works and delivers an extraordinary experience arithmetically creates a whole new segment in which technology is brought into a place they never imagined. This also opens their mind to newer possibilities. A premium car has over 100 chips and a budget car would have 50-60 chips. How many chips does your toilet, a place that you must visit on daily basis, have?
Business can reach profitability relatively sooner.
C’mon, we are talking about a hardware product. Investments made will be utilized for visible things. Tooling, production, packaging, supply chain, and marketing. Depending upon the experimental business models that we have conceived, 13 months is the earliest we can achieve a break-even. Cash-burn in millions probably will not bring results. What is needed is the perseverance to create this market through product and customers. A product that can technologically leapfrog and is meaningful to the context of India. And a customer who is merely not approached by the salesperson but a consumer who has realised lack of toilet-tech and then evangelises about Hachimichi.
Long-term ethics and vision of the Company.
Technology in toilets is not new to global markets. What we are doing at Hachimichi is to identify the right technology and make the product for India. We are curious about Indian customer psychology. Tons of features can be added to SeatO’fresh. However, finding the right ones which our customer values the most, is what it’s all about.
I remember ad-man Piyush Pandey once telling that you should never tell people how to brush their teeth, instead tell them how your toothpaste makes brushing more effective. When you speak about your personal toilets, >35-year-olds will probably imagine going in and going out quickly. This is an act they have been doing since childhood and it would not be wise to tell them otherwise about their daily habits. On the contrary, if you look at the younger generations, the time they spend in the washrooms is quite higher. Some consider it the only space where they can get solitude and peace of mind. Others take it as an escape and an excuse to binge on their smartphones. Thus, there is a rising trend where people seek better tech inside their washrooms. We do not have all the solutions. Not yet, but we are one of the few that think about such problems.
We believe today is the opportune moment for SeatO’fresh to become widespread. Tomorrow it is going to be a much hotter and competitive space with more players in smart toilets. So, we grabbed our spot with Hachimichi, while it’s still early.