Excelsia on a mission to keep public toilets clean

by AZALEA AZUAR / pic credit: bactakleen.com

SUNWAY Pyramid has taken a step further by installing the first smart toilet which is equipped with the Internet of Things technology.

The mall has collaborated with Rigel Technology to bring this unique toilet system complete with sensors and monitors that would manage the washroom performance.

This is one of the ways to overcome maintenance issues such as poor cleaning performance, faulty equipment and breakdowns as well as miscommunication between technicians.

Although this sounds like a progressive idea, it is mainly a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

Malaysia’s public toilets have suffered a negative reputation for being disgusting and always being damaged as the awareness among Malaysians of the importance of keeping clean public toilets is very low.

Excelsia Technologies Sdn Bhd CEO and founder Sia Ban Ian believes that education is the key to overcoming this issue.

“Generally, I personally think that it’s got to do with the attitude of the users. Many people are quite selfish, to some degree, they are not civic-minded as well, they don’t think about the next person who will use the toilet,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

Sia also pointed out that even the Philippines, which is lagging behind in development, are actually better at keeping their toilets clean.

He believes it all boils down to the attitude of the Malaysians which is why education is very important.

A few examples are countries such as Taiwan, Korea and Japan where they were taught from young through the education system.

Their syllabus includes cleaning the toilets and cleaning up after themselves so this would make a person more conscious and take it more seriously.

“Education is critical at an early age and I think Malaysia needs to do that.

However, if you try to implement this over here, you have a lot of push back from parents because they don’t think their kids should be cleaning the toilets but they don’t realise that it is a very important skill,” said Sia.

He also said that Malaysians do not treat public toilets the same way as their toilets at home.

Sia shared his experience on using public toilets, where he found the condition to be in a terrible state — the seats and taps were broken.

“If users do take care and with the right attitude, the cost of maintenance should not be as much but with the current situation, they spend RM30,000 to RM50,000 to maintain toilets a year per cubicle, because cleaners will have to be paid a salary,” he said.

Replacing components also increases the costs of maintenance. Sia founded his company when his daughter had issues with air conditioning.

After trying out a few methods from air conditioning, he believed that there isn’t a business potential arising from this incident.

“We thought that there’s a lot of opportunities out there and a lot of people didn’t realise that air conditioning systems carry a lot of germs, bacteria and viruses.

“By doing that, we were able to resolve the issues and managed to educate some of the car manufacturers to get it started,” Sia mentioned.

Excelsia’s disinfectant brand Bactakleen was formed in 2008 and started with its first product, Ultra Mist but later grew to a variety of products and has successfully penetrated to neighbouring countries in Asia.

However, Sia had to deal with many challenges in the beginning where their adoption was slower in the beginning before the Covid-19 pandemic because there was not much demand.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, people in Malaysia did buy disinfectant products but mainly essential items for cleaning the floor, table tops and simple hand sanitisers.

The volume of the sales is not nearly as much as it is now because people are more conscious that they need to disinfect regularly.

“With the Covid-19 pandemic, they bought a lot more products because more people are fearful and concerned and of course, there are standard operating procedures now in place from governments, with the requirement for them to disinfect regularly.

“Overall, the business has gone up tremendously,” he explained.

However, Sia does not expect his disinfectant business to be vibrant after the pandemic but it would still be better than before.

“The best thing to do is we try to benchmark ourselves to more advanced countries, like Japan, and Singapore where people have higher standards of hygiene and cleanliness.”

Building owners play a role in not only managing and maintaining the buildings but also disinfecting and keeping the place clean.

Sia admits that it is difficult for Malaysia to achieve a state where its people care about their public toilets but with slow progress it is possible.