[box type=”shadow” align=”alignleft” ]CSR funds today are being largely utilised towards meeting the most pressing requirement of India – toilets Another burning issue affecting the very life force and which also needs collective attention is the source for clean and safe drinking water for every individual. Giving another dimension to CSR, A.V. Suresh, President – International Operations; CEO – Forbes Professional, Eureka Forbes Limited discusses a responsible and sustainable business model for safe drinking water in an exclusive interview with Mohana M.[/box]
Water shops are places where anyone can buy safe drinking water for as low as 20 paise per litre or swipe a smart card to fill a bottle of clean and safe drinking water anytime of the day or night. A country where there is no direct supply of clean drinking water, water shops can provide drinking water to anyone and everyone; even to the ones living in the remote areas of India. “Eureka Forbes, which has been in the water field for over three decades, introduced water ATMs to provide all time clean and safe drinking water for those who did not have suitable access or had to travel long distances,” says A.V. Suresh.
Run by a team of eight housewives-turned-entrepreneurs working in shifts, the month-old Water Shop installed in Govandi, Mumbai, already has more than 300 members. Selling at `10 for a 20 liter bottle of clean water, the nearby slums have come to depend on the water shop for drinking water. While the members seeking clean water are growing rapidly, there are enquirers from surrounding areas too for home delivery of Ultra filtered and Ultra-violet treated purified water.
The water shop members are provided 20 litre refill bottles on a deposit and educated to keep them. The bottles brought fto the shop are washed in a special washer, and then refilled. Members can also get smart cards to obtain water from the ATM at any time.
“Most of the machines installed are automated and the functioning of the plant is centrally monitored resulting in good quality water at all times. We guarantee the quality of water.”
“It is after the 2005 Tsunami that Eureka Forbes ventured into setting up drinking water plants for the common people. There are multiple ways in which we can set up a plant. We work along with NGOs, Corporates, PSUs, and like-minded people who do the funding for the water treatment plant/solutions. Eureka Forbes, as a technical partner, provides the water treatment plant at cost price, customizes it to suit the specific conditions of the area and maintains the plant in good running condition,” explains Suresh.
Sustainability of any project depends on the ownership that one takes in running it. Ownership, again comes when there is a contribution made by the people who run the project. “We at Eureka Forbes not only provide the training, expertise and assistance but also take a partial pay back. If we are setting up 10 such plants today, four years down the line, 20 such plants can be set up with the pay back system of sustainable model.
“We have created a business model for water shops where water is sold between 20 to 50 paise a litre, depending on the area & affordability, and on the NGO or company funding the project. Even if the plant is used at 40% efficiency for 10 hours a day, money invested can be paid back in about four years’ time. We educate the people on how to convert the water shop into a business model, how to provide service cost, make it run efficiently and effectively and how to distribute water. We also test the water every month and give certificates. Training programmes are conducted to teach the art of advocacy of safe drinking water. We always work with a ground level partner and in the case of Rafi Nagar plant at Govandi, it is a self-help group and Apnalaya.”