Country: KenyaFocus: SanitationPartner: NURU InternationalPost-Extreme Lab: Design LabStatus: Handed to PartnerYear: 2010



Partner: NURU International

Affordable all natural sanitizer for both hands and surfaces in homes

Big Idea: Drastically reducing the cost of sanitizer by redesigning the packaging and working with local partners for manufacturing and distribution

Project Launched: June 2010

Team: Krisada “Mick” Kritayakirana, Kate Endress, Nathalie Collins (advisor) and Ken Chua (advisor)

The Challenge

At any one point, over half of the poor in the developing world are sick from causes related to hygiene, sanitation and water supply. Not to mention, over 4 million children die of diarrhea diseases and pneumonia every year! Research has proved hand washing to be the most effective way to reduce deaths from diarrhea (it can cut the number nearly in half!) but current solutions, including hand washing with soap and water, are just not working. Many people in the developing world do not have access to abundant clean water, the soap is usually nowhere to be found, and the behavior modification needed to kill enough germs to be effective is too high. At the same time, current waterless solutions like alcohol-based hand sanitizers are too expensive, not culturally relevant, and are potentially fatal when ingested by children.

The Insight

The team began their need finding in Kenya in March 2010 with the help of an amazing organization there called NURU ( We were shocked by how diarrhea is such a part of daily life. Not only did the Kenyan farmers and their families experience physical discomfort and emotional duress, but missing a day of work and the cost of medical bills often means not enough food on the table. The team came back to the U.S. with the hopes of creating a solution for the developing world that was effective, safe, culturally relevant and affordable. We named our company Safi, meaning “clean and pure” in Swahili.

Shortly thereafter, we found a willing partner in CleanWell, a U.S. manufacturer of alcohol-free, plant-based sanitizer which safe even if ingested, is gentler on the hands than alcohol-based formulations and has multiple uses including disinfecting surfaces. Safi learned that the large majority of costs were in the packaging and distribution, so we focused our efforts on redesigning the packaging and finding local partners for manufacturing and distribution to make the unit economics work even for very low income customers. After careful consider, we also switched our focus to Mexico due to need, the existing infrastructure to manufacture and distribute at scale, and customer’s familiarity with similar products reducing the educational barrier.

The Product

Safi’s sanitizer is powered by CleanWell’s patented formula that kills harmful germs and is FDA and EPA certified in the U.S. Safi redesigned the packaging to be much lower cost by providing the sanitizer in large 20L jugs to tienditas, small convenient stores selling staple goods in low-income and rural portions of Mexico. Customers can fill up any bottle they bring and only pay for the liquid sanitizer, reducing the cost of the product by up to 90%.
Safi is currently evaluating a partnership with a Mexican company who has manufacturing capabilities and distribution access to 23,000 tienditas reaching hundreds of thousands of end users. In this partnership, Safi would be responsible for importing CleanWell’s concentrated formulation, designing the packaging and working with distribution partners to educate and market to end users. Our Mexican partner would blend the concentration bought from Safi, manufacture the bottles and labels, and distribute the product through their existing channels.

What’s Happening Now?

Since the class, Safi raised initial funding from the Mulago Foundation and Project Redwood via the Social-E Lab to support additional need-finding and fund regulatory approval of the sanitizer in Mexico.
Safi is also in the process of forming legal agreements with CleanWell and the Mexican manufacturing and distribution partner. Once the legal agreements are finalized, Safi will begin the next round of fundraising. Safi is actively recruiting a Mexican CEO to work side-by-side with Mick in Guadalajara. If you have relevant operational experience in Mexico and a passion for social enterprise, please contact krisada (at)