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Well, we have been successful in killing the germs, and people have accepted it now, but you will be surprised to note that barely 3% of the people have a RO purifier at home. What is the reason for this? Firstly, Impurities in water are a slow poison. They do not react immediately with the body. Secondly, people tend to think it is all right as they have been drinking this impure water for a long time. Thirdly, whenever diseases happen (not bacterial diseases, but those caused by soluble impurities), nobody is able to trace back the cause of the disease to the impure water. It is for this reason that many people think whatever they are doing is fine, and they do not switch to RO purified water easily.
What is the current market size for the water purifier industry in India and how fast is it growing? How are strengthening your distribution network?
The present market size of water purifiers is estimated to be around Rs3500 crore and constitutes of three major segments – RO, UV and Gravity water purifiers Given the increasing awareness and largely untapped market potential, the sector is growing at a CAGR of more than 24 per cent. The industry is projected to hit sales of nearly 2.48 million units in the next two years. According to a TechSci report, RO water purifier is the largest segment accounting for 42 per cent of the market in 2011, while offline water purifiers contributed to about 20 percent of the market. However, by 2017, the offline water purifier segment is expected to grow at a very rapid pace and increase its share to about 38 per cent of the total market and it is therefore a key focus area for water purifier manufacturers. Because of the large target customer base it offers, it is expected to continue its rapid growth.
Today, as the pioneer of the mineral RO Technology, Kent has captured 40% market share. This has changed the paradigm in a market which was dominated by ultra-violet (UV) systems. The company sells its products through various distribution channels like retail chains, modern trade outlets, CSD & police canteen, corporate tie-ups, direct door-to-door marketing and e-commerce. The brand is present at around 12,000 retail outlets pan India and has 3000 distributors, 300 direct marketing executives and a sales force of around 1500 sales persons. We have a state-of-the- art CRM based centralised call centre and service centres which service 14,000 PIN codes. The company is also exporting to Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Middle East.
Have you looked at the institutional market?
In my view, an individual solution is still better than a public solution. If you purify the water centrally and provide it to a society, that water is going to be stored in overhead tanks. In the process of transporting the purified water to the overhead tank, it can get contaminated. Then from there through the pipe network to the kitchen, it can get further contaminated. Another point to note is that 99% of the water used in the house is not drinking water. It is used for washing, bathing and flushing. It would be a waste to purify all this water to the level needed by the body just to provide that 1% that is used for drinking. I have not seen any society providing two pipelines – one for regular water and one for drinking water. A lot of changes have to happen and to my mind, the RO purifier is an appliance like a toaster or microwave oven. However, the water you drink should be given the highest priority. A small appliance in your home can purify your water and take care of your health. To my mind, that is the future.
In many countries, tap water is drinkable
Soon, in no country in the world will tap water be drinkable. Waters are getting deteriorated, impure, not only in India but the world over. This because all the chemicals produced in this world are discharged and buried in water. Even in India, fifty years back you could drink water from the tap. Why not now? It is because water quality has gone down in the rivers. So is the case all over the world. No doubt, in the developed countries water is cleaner than ours, but no facility in the world can remove what is soluble in water. Today our problem does not arise from bacteria and viruses but from the impurities dissolved in water. This has to be removed by purification.
You are foraying into other cleaning products as well
In our logo, I have branded us as the “house of purity”. I want to work to ensure that the kitchen and all household spaces are pure. My motto is “Drink pure, be pure, eat pure, and live pure”.
Our air purifiers are HEPA filtration based and are made indigenously, right from the assembly to the plastics.
We have come up with a new concept for cleaning the beds. People know about the vacuum cleaners to clean their house, but do not clean their bed every day. Our bed cleaner cleans the dust from the bedsheet. It also has an UV light which disinfects the bedsheet. This is especially important for kids. We are producing it exclusively for the domestic market.
In the kitchen space, I have come up with a product called an atta-maker. Chapattis made in the kitchen require dough to be kneaded. Most ladies do not realise how unhygienic the process can be, because it is touched by hand. I have an appliance to make dosa masala in three minutes, even if the dal is not soaked overnight. These are the type of solutions we are working on to attain the goal of purity.
Starting an entrepreneurial journey is never easy
Talking about my journey and the challenges, there were those initial challenges that any new start-up would face. It took me a long time to create brand awareness in the consumers’ mind. Financial self-sufficiency was a big problem too; I had to work in a garage all through and perform multiple tasks as I was the one-man army to make my dreams come true. And it did happen.
So, the only message which I would like to give to young start-ups is that if you have a dream, don’t just sit. Focus on your goals and be consistent in your effort.