HOW TECH­NOL­OGY IS MAK­ING SAFE DRINK­ING WA­TER AVAIL­ABLE FOR JUST 30 PAISE PER LITRE

Pi­ra­mal Wa­ter uses Wa­ter ATMs to de­liver safe drink­ing wa­ter to vil­lages us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of RFID, cloud man­age­ment sys­tems and cus­tom­ized ERP so­lu­tions

InformationWeek - - Front Page - BY SRIKANTH RP tweet @srikrp Srikanth RP srikanth.rp@ubm.com

How cru­cial or im­por­tant is wa­ter or the qual­ity of wa­ter in the life of or­di­nary cit­i­zens? While some of us are used to see serpentine queues for wa­ter in movies or even in small towns or vil­lages, the prob­lem of safe drink­ing wa­ter is much more acute. Con­sider th­ese stats: UN es­ti­mates pre­dict that wa­ter borne ail­ments ac­count for 80 per­cent of dis­eases and deaths re­ported in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. 97 mil­lion in In­dia lack ac­cess to safe drink­ing wa­ter which re­sults in close to 1,600 deaths daily due to di­ar­rhea alone. 73 mil­lion work days are lost ev­ery year to wa­ter born ail­ments, which ac­cord­ing to cer­tain re­ports, cre­ates a no­table drag on the coun­try’s GDP.

To ad­dress this vex­ing is­sue and pro­vide safe drink­ing wa­ter to ev­ery­one, a com­pany chris­tened Pi­ra­mal Wa­ter (un­der the guid­ance of the Pi­ra­mal Foun­da­tion) was es­tab­lished to find mass-mar­ket so­lu­tions to In­dia’s drink­ing wa­ter cri­sis. This ini­tia­tive was ap­pro­pri­ately chris­tened ‘Sar­va­jal’. But the chal­lenges for pro­vid­ing safe drink­ing wa­ter on a mas­sive scale that was fi­nan­cially vi­able were huge.

“The vo­lu­mi­nous and heav­i­ness of wa­ter makes cen­tral­ized treat­ment and dis­tri­bu­tion im­prac­ti­ca­ble. For it to be ‘wa­ter for all’, it had to be af­ford­able and ac­ces­si­ble every­where. Hence, it was de­cided that the con­sumer should not pay for the pu­rifi­ca­tion ma­chine but only for the ser­vice and hence a ‘pay-per-use’ de­sign was agreed upon. With th­ese con­straints in mind, a de­cen­tral­ized com­mu­nity level wa­ter treat­ment plant, which could cater to the daily drink­ing wa­ter re­quire­ments of up to 500 house­holds was en­vis­aged. The his­tory of sim­i­lar pu­rifi­ca­tion in­stal­la­tions made it clear that in­stead of just ap­point­ing an op­er­a­tor it needed to have a lo­cal en­tre­pre­neur­ial own­er­ship so that in­cen­tives were aligned to cover as many house­holds as one could,” ex­plains Paresh Paras­nis, Head – Pi­ra­mal Foun­da­tion.

THE ROLE OF TECH­NOL­OGY

Tech­nol­ogy forms the back­bone of Sar­va­jal and has played a pri­mary role in ef­fec­tively man­ag­ing the field op­er­a­tions of its dis­persed in­stal­la­tions. Pi­ra­mal Wa­ter ap­points an en­tre­pre­neur and pro­vides a state-of-the-art pu­rifi­ca­tion ma­chine. This is con­nected to so­lar pow­ered cloud-con­nected Wa­ter ATMs in a hub-and-spoke model. The Wa­ter ATMs are equipped with a soft­ware so­lu­tion called Soochak. This soft­ware so­lu­tion lever­ages com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nolo­gies to en­able the firm’s engi­neers to re­motely mon­i­tor the health of the Wa­ter ATMs and proac­tively take up main­te­nance in or­der to re­duce ma­chine down­time.

Wa­ter ATMs are un­manned, so­lar­pow­ered, RFID-en­abled au­to­mated wa­ter dis­pens­ing units which have in-built at­tributes for qual­ity as­sur­ance and in­di­vid­ual user track­ing. Cus­tomers can buy pre­paid wa­ter cards and use th­ese at the ATMs. An En­ter­prise Man­age­ment Sys­tem re­ceives and pro­cesses com­mu­ni­ca­tions from Soochak Con­trollers and Wa­ter ATMs. This can be used by the firm to mon­i­tor the quan­tity of wa­ter sold by fran­chisees and the con­sump­tion of wa­ter by cus­tomers. The firm also uses SEMS, an in-house ERP tool, which gath­ers the data sent across by all the Soochaks and ATMs and an­a­lyzes it in or­der to gen­er­ate cus­tom­ized wa­ter re­ports, which aid in strate­gic de­ci­sion mak­ing.

IM­PACT

Thanks to the firm’s in­no­va­tive way of us­ing tech­nol­ogy, the foun­da­tion has suc­ceeded in pro­vid­ing safe drink­ing wa­ter to ap­prox­i­mately 190 vil­lages, with close to 1 lakh cus­tomers be­ing served on a daily ba­sis. Con­sid­er­ing the fact that 97 mil­lion peo­ple in In­dia lack ac­cess to safe drink­ing wa­ter, which is the cause for a huge num­ber of deaths, Pi­ra­mal Foun­da­tion’s ini­tia­tive has the po­ten­tial to be a model so­lu­tion for be­ing rolled out across the coun­try.

“We have suc­ceeded in pro­vid­ing safe drink­ing wa­ter to ap­prox­i­mately 190 vil­lages, with close to 1 lakh cus­tomers be­ing served on a daily ba­sis” Paresh Paras­nis Head – Pi­ra­mal Foun­da­tion

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