India is the second most populated country in the world, and, according to a study conducted by a United Nations University, around 60 per cent of India’s population, i.e., approximately 812 million people, live below the poverty line. Their condition has now worsened because of the pandemic, with many of them losing jobs, and turning homeless. They can take some comfort from the efforts of Perala Manasa, who is on a mission to provide affordable shelters for the needy.
The 23-year-old, who completed her B.Tech (Civil Engineering) from Lovely Professional University, last year, has designed micro-houses of between 40 and 120 sq ft, made from sections of concrete sewerage pipes of 2,000 mm diameter.
Manasa launched the homes, which she has christened OPods, in January this year. The OPods are complete with one bedroom, a hall, kitchen and washroom, and can accommodate a family of three comfortably. They have water, electricity and drainage facilities, and can be built with as little as Rs 3.5 lakh to Rs 5.5 lakh. What is more, these houses can be translocated.
Manasa, who has set up an OPod at Chengicherla in Hyderabad, hails from Telangana’s Karimnagar District. Coming from a poor family herself, she is well-aware of the need for shelter.
Elaborating on her inspiration for making OPods, she says, “When I was at college, I used to visit nearby slums, mostly inhabited by migrant workers who came in search of a better life. But the pandemic had made their already bad situation worse. When I asked them what they most wished for, the majority told me their dream was to have a proper house to live in.”
Manasa used the enforced downtime of the lockdown period to do some research. “I devoted my time to learning more about micro homes, as they require comparatively less money and time to build. I learned about different types of such houses, like container homes and bamboo shelters. I stayed at each type of house for 3-4 days, to gain personal experience. Sadly, I found none of them had sustained all-weather durability. My search led me to pipe homes, and we made some design changes to suit our needs,” she shares.
An OPod can be completed within 15 days. Crediting the faculty at the college for nurturing her dreams and helping her to make them a reality, Manasa says exposure to the Entrepreneurship cell and the R&D department of the college helped her significantly in the innovation and business aspects of the project. “Initially, it was difficult to raise funds to build OPods, but once people saw the end product, they were enthusiastic to help,” reveals Manasa. She has already bagged orders for building 200 OPods from four states — Odisha, Kerala, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. “I wanted to pursue MBA earlier, but now I want to take this forward,” says the young woman. “I will approach my college first for funds, and if needed, I will approach politicians from the state.”
Manasa says she’s tweaking the design of the houses a bit — making them cube shaped, “as people in India are more connected to the concept of four walls.”