2015 GSBI alumnus Banka BioLoo, a social enterprise that innovatively tackles human waste management, had its Initial Public Offering (IPO) on February 5, 2018. The enterprise operates in India, which is home to 60% of the global population that must defecate in the open due to not having access to toilets. Within the greater global context, data from 2015 indicate that only two out of five people were able to use safely-managed sanitation services. In light of the overwhelming reality of minimal sanitation services, Namita Banka began to examine sanitation infrastructure and started Banka BioLoo. The enterprise began operations, as a for-profit social enterprise, in 2012 and is currently co-directed by Namita along with Sanjay Banka, Akhilesh Tripathi, and T. V. Rama Krishna.
While the conversation surrounding waste management is one that many shy away from, Banka BioLoo recognizes that the impact of inadequate sanitation services in India is much too grave to ignore. Poor water supply and sanitation problems in India have contributed to a serious risk of sanitation-related diseases, which particularly impact children under the age of five. Banka BioLoo seeks to provide solutions for those who do not have access to toilets, and for those that do, the enterprise helps in the process of treating and managing the waste. Distinctly, Banka BioLoo offers Indian defense-patented bio-digester technology, making it possible for users to manage waste onsite and reduce dependency on resource-consuming sewage infrastructure. Banka BioLoo also provides operations and maintenance of bio-toilets to Indian Railways, its largest client-partner. In 2015, Sanjay and Namita participated in the GSBI In-Residence accelerator program, where they were mentored by Daniel Kreps and Naresh Nigam.
After the GSBI In-Residence, Sanjay shared, “GSBI has added many dimensions to Banka BioLoo since our immersion in the accelerator. It truly accelerated many things at our end, most notably my joining the company full-time. And I’m sure it’s the beginning of things to come.”
The journey to IPO began in September 2017. Banka BioLoo pursued the Emerge platform offered by India’s largest stock exchange, the National Stock Exchange of India (NSE). Emerge, also known as the SME platform, is a marketplace that brings together seasoned investors and emerging or small and medium companies. It connects businesses that possess “exciting growth plans, innovative business models and commitment towards good governance and investor interest” with investors that can meet their financial needs. In the process of moving forward and growing as a business, maintaining Banka BioLoo’s social mission along with stable financial growth has always been at the top of the team’s priorities. The “triple bottom line [of people, planet, and profit] was an essential part of the discussion” when reaching out to investors, Sanjay says.
The Banka BioLoo team hit a major roadblock when two major investors backed out right before the IPO. Amidst that hectic event, the organization’s leaders were undaunted and passionately kept moving forward. Sanjay and the non-executive director Vishal Murarka spent two weeks in Mumbai, confidently and unwaveringly, pitching to investors. “We were left on our own,” Sanjay said. “[But] we leveraged our network and reached out to new investors through colleagues, friends, and family.” Ultimately, due to the team pooling together their connections, resources, energy, and business prowess, Banka BioLoo pushed forward: the resulting IPO raised two million dollars.
Throughout the IPO journey, strong governance was a key anchor that kept the staff rooted in their mission and firm in their determination. “The IPO was fast,” Sanjay said. “[The team] was working long hours; the business had to be running smoothly simultaneously with the IPO details. [Our] top management dealt primarily with the IPO process.” Banka BioLoo’s CFO, T.V. Rama Krishna, had prior experience with taking a company public and played an invaluable role in successfully reaching this milestone only a small percentage of businesses are able to achieve. Sanjay described the whole process as a “mini miracle”.
In preparation for the IPO, Banka BioLoo was required to adjust the makeup of its board and added three independent board members to establish a solid governing team moving forward. “One [independent board member] is an angel investor, another is an HR expert, another is an entrepreneur: eight members total are on the board. In Q4 2017 the transition happened, all of it a part of the going-public process,” Sanjay recounted. It is becoming increasingly popular for companies to make these major changes to their boards pre-IPO, in order to demonstrate their commitment to good governance.
With the capital raised from its IPO, Banka BioLoo is now able to take on larger projects — projects that they were originally hesitant to tackle — and continues to lead the fight in providing access to adequate, sustainable sanitation solutions in India. Sanjay’s reflections on the imperfect, but strengthening and gritty nature of Banka BioLoo’s IPO journey, shed light on the hustle and heart that moving a business forward demands.