Access to clean, affordable drinking water is the need of the hour. With a steadily increasing population and dwindling freshwater reserves, India along with the entire world is on the brink of a full-scale water crisis. Major metropolises like Hyderabad and Chennai are projected to run out of groundwater within the next two years. The problem of accessibility to water is further aggravated in rural areas and villages, where low incomes and unemployment are barriers to families purchasing clean water when their ground water and municipal supplies are inadequate or contaminated.
Along with a few other towns, 1M1B has identified the town of Narsapur, Andhra Pradesh as lacking in clean groundwater, and aims to provide a sustainable solution to this problem. After testing ground water samples and interviewing residents, it was found that the water reserves are contaminated with small insects and algae. Furthermore, families must walk long distances to water dispensaries that sell at expensive prices. The municipality has set up a tap for filtered water. However, the filters have not been replaced and the water has a very strong chemical odor.
After rigorous research, interviews, and assessment, 1M1B plans to pilot a water ATM business in Narsapur. We are working with water CSR Piramal Sarvajal in Gujarat to install a filtration unit that purifies groundwater, which will be sold to local villagers at an affordable price. Through this project, we also plan to provide employment to a village entrepreneur, who will take care of operations and sales.
As we near the installation and operations of the pilot unit, we are also looking towards the future – using the knowledge acquired to install similar units in other villages in need.
PLAN OF ACTION
Our project has three main aims – provide access to clean, affordable water to rural populations, provide employment opportunities to local entrepreneurs, and generate capital for similar projects in new villages.
Our business model aims to promote entrepreneurs in the village by assuming the initial infrastructure cost for the filtration unit and setup. The chosen entrepreneur assumes responsibility for sales and operations of the water plant, and sells water at an agreed price. We will be collecting some percentage of the revenue as an accountability measure and payback scheme. Once the entrepreneur has returned the amount of the infrastructure costs, the ownership of the plant will be transferred to him. The payback that 1M1B receives is not for profit, and will be intended to finance additional water units and plants in other locations that have a need. 1M1B works in various other villages in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka where affordable drinking water is in dire need.
The entrepreneur can act as a salaried employee until the plant operations are stabilized and a strong customer base is obtained. Thereafter, he or she can work with a lower salary which is supplement with a percentage commission of water sold.
PARTERSHIP WITH PIRAMAL SARVAJAL
For our pilot unit, Piramal Sarvajal will provide the RO filtering equipment along with installation. The package also includes operator training, a one-year maintenance contract including treatment chemicals (can be renewed after twelve months for fee). They also cover the electrical fittings and plumbing for the plant.
The customer must assume responsibility for a shed/ housing structure, an electrical connection, and land. These aspects can be obtained through partnership with the local municipality, though additional terms may apply. Furthermore, the customer must take care of consumable items like water jugs and cans.
Additionally, Piramal Sarvajal also offer remote dispensary points, called water ATMs. These ATMs are connected to the main unit through a company app, and monitors the quantity of water dispensed and also provides quality reports. There is also a provision for rechargeable RFID cards, which can be scanned at the remote locations to ease transactions.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
1M1B is unique in its project approach. We are trying to reduce the burden on new entrepreneurs by assuming initial infrastructure costs with minimal interest and generous payback terms. This is much better than high-interest bank loans that require collateral. Furthermore, many rural locations do not have easy access to banking institutions.
We project a healthy rate of return with each filtration plant, with a breakeven time of 2-3 years. Below is the cost projection for a 1000 liter per hour plant that slowly builds a customer base. Different price points can be used and items like rent cost and electricity are variable.
While the profits from the pilot unit will be designated for the next set of projects, financial assistance is also required to quickly set up new filtration plants. A cumulative fundraiser of 3.8 lakhs will significantly boost our efforts to install a new unit in another location which could be one decided on by 1M1B or else suggested by you.