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Smart Jal

Providing clean and affordable water to under served populations in India.

Photo of Tejas Shah
2 1

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Water is essential for life. India is the second largest country by population in the world. According to the World Bank, 21% of communicable diseases in India are linked to unsafe water and lack of hygiene. This translates to 76 million who don’t have access to safe drinking water in India. In large markets like Delhi reports 70% of its water as undrinkable, this is a large problem because while the population continues to grow rapidly without clean water, people are running the risk of deteriorating health and age. The problem is how can we provide the millions of people living in the city with access to safe and clean drinking water? Our research indicates that the Delhi market reports 2.76 million people travelling daily using the metro station. At Smart Jal we realized our solution will need to be mobile in order to penetrate a large audience. Utilizing our partnership with the Bal Vikasa Foundation in Hyderabad we developed a mobile water ATM machine by retrofitting a water tank and reverse osmosis machine (RO machine to clean water supply) onto a retrofitted rickshaw. Water is collected from a central hub where rickshaws would fill there respective water tanks in their vehicles. From here, they would travel to the central locations where there is high ridership (close to the metro stations). Customers would simply refill their water bottles for 1 rupee per litre and ride off. For comparisons, a water bottle costs 25-50 rupees per litre yeilding instant savings for our customers. The second indirect benefit that we provide is jobs. Jobs are scarce in India. Our drivers will be compensated by a percentage of the sales they generate. This commission based system teaches them sales skills and empowers them to become their own entrepreneurs and build their own income stream. Given the current trends in the market such as Uber and Lyft, the need for drivers for various roles is now a major demand in India.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries are 3 groups of people. Community - Clean water has been a significant problem in major markets of India. For example in New Delhi which is one of the most populated cities in India (21.75 Million) 80% of the drinking water contains plastic contaminants. Since over 2M people commute on the Delhi transportation system, our mobile platforms targets 10% of the population and provides them with fresh drinking water at affordable prices. Employment Market - The average income for a New Delhi resident is 480k rupees which is less than $10,000 dollars per year. Given the increases in demand for drivers through other gig services such as Uber, Lyft, and other delivery based service providers, our platform empowers people to earn a living and build their business by receiving a flat commission per sale. Governments - The local governments have been trying unsuccessfully to find solutions for clean water. Our solution facilitates this at a low cost.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Our closest competitors are Decentrik technologies and Waah Jal. These competitors have developed similar portable machines but have different value offerings. At Smart Jal we provide water at a convenience. Decentrik technologies for example provides users with disposables cups that are recyclable as well at a price point of 2 rupees per 250 ml of water. At Smart Jal we discovered that disposable cups added more to the cost and we wanted to provide more water. For example on a hot day in the summer in Delhi (usually over 50 degrees celcius) 250 ml of water is insufficient. Waah! operates a wholesale model for its business where it requests that a driver invest 2.5 lakh rupees or $5,000 and fresh clean water. This model has similar price points to that of Decentrik technologies in that they charge 2 rupees per 250ml. Our model is different because we do not require an upfront investment from the driver thus empowering him to build his own business and we provide more water.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Pilot: I have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Provides fresh clean water to under-served markets in India.

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • No, but we plan to register in the future.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Rajiv commutes across Delhi with about 2 million other commuters who use the Delhi metro every day. In the scorching heat he is forced to buy a Rs 20 (CDN .40) bottle of water. Another woman, Chanda living in a nearby slum is forced to drink contaminated water due to lack of alternatives. We aim to buy provide clean, affordable, trustworthy and tasteful water to Rajiv and Chanda while also reducing plastic waste.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

We aim to bridge planet and prosperity. With planet we are providing fresh clean drinking water to an under served markets with the goal of scaling up operations to multiple cities country wide over the next 5 to 10 years. Furthermore this in return provides communities with cleaner water supply and supports healthier lives. With prosperity we are empowering young adults to become their own business owners by providing a commissioned based structure packed with incentives without any upfront commitments that are required by our competition.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Sopar Bala-Vikasa, a Canadian NGO devoted to sustainable development in India, is our advisor on the project. Since 2003, Bala Vikasa has installed over 800 community RO water plants across Telangana in India to prevent dental and skeletal fluorosis. The model has proven sustainable as the water treatment plants are managed by the local community. Bala-Vikasa has helped us develop a prototype of a mobile water vehicle that’s targeted to provide affordable clean drinking water to urban commuters and below poverty line urban dwellers. They will be sharing with us the financial viability details, technical know-how and best practices on the grassroots level to implement the model and scale it across other developing regions.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Metropolitan centres in India is where youth comes in search of livelihood. In addition to a growing young population, India has an entrepreneurial culture shaped by an abundance of small business. This is why young people are open to and in most cases desire to have own businesses. As long as strong individual monetary incentives are provided there’s an opportunity to create micro-entrepreneurs.

Geographic Focus

Our intended geographic focus is India. We will be targeting New Delhi and Mumbai.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

Our project can be rolled out over the next 12 months in New Delhi. We have already started testing our solution in Hyderabad and will be deploying the solution in New Delhi by October. Our goal is to deploy 4 rickshaws during our pilot and will aim to grow this number 50x by the end of next year in New Delhi.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Subhani Katugampala

This is an intriguing solution that utilizes rickshaws and RO filters to achieve universal clean water in urban settings of India! I am eager to know more about the tests that have been started in Hyderabad. How have users responded to Smart Jal?

Photo of Tejas Shah

Hey Subhani!

Tests have started in Hyderabad and we are receiving a lot of great feedback from our customers. They have been really responsive to the refilling options and we are starting to see a new demographic approach us where they fill up entire canteens at 20L at a time to use for cooking and drinking as well.

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