OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign up, Login or Learn more

pAge Drinking Paper

Stop water-borne diseases and save millions of lives with pAge Drinking Papers, silver-embedded filters that purify water for pennies a day.

Photo of Juliet Martinez
5 3

Written by

We are aware of the challenges in the commercial viability of products and services that are typically aimed at the “bottom of the pyramid” (BoP) consumer. The challenges can be as basic as ‘expensive price’ and ‘difficult to reach the last mile,’ to not understanding the technology or seeing its value  enhancement. The most important lesson we have learned in delivering frugal innovations in BoP markets is how to maximize the value of the product while reducing the costs of production.

Therefore, our end product to this BoP consumer will be the world’s (and India’s) cheapest water filtration apparatus using silver-embedded paper that eliminates 99.9% of bacteria, viruses and protozoa.

Technology: The pAge Drinking Paper, a novel silver nanoparticle impregnated (AgNP) antimicrobial water filter paper, is a revolutionary approach to point-of-use water purification affordable for millions of people living on less than $2/day. At a target price point of 20-25 cents per sheet, the AgNP paper is affordable for BoP consumers, highly portable, and requires no energy or external inputs.

Most people without access to improved drinking water rely on household water treatment by boiling, adding chlorine, or using ceramic water filters. Boiling requires a reliable fuel source, which may not be available. Chlorine has off-tastes and causes the formation of carcinogenic, environmentally-hazardous, halogenated disinfection byproducts. Ceramic water filters have limited success due to 1) prohibitive cost; 2) poor distribution to rural consumers; and 3) a design prone to fracturing.

The nanoparticle-coated pAge papers release silver ions that kill bacteria and viruses, while the (smaller) pore size of the paper physically prevents (larger) chemically-resistant protozoa from passing through the paper into the effluent water. The papers are safe, portable and long lasting. The production cost is low, and we aspire to produce filters for 1-10 cents per paper. The result is safe drinking water that is affordable to the poorest of the poor.

Device: Our human-centered design approach will ensure that the filtration apparatus is frugal, tough enough for the far-off terrains of India’s rural and small town sectors, and suitable for hot and humid conditions. We would approach the ‘make & launch’ of this apparatus with certain principles which will boost the local economy through materials procurement within the region, one that enables local manufacturing of the apparatus and therefore create employment opportunities. Our value proposition: a sustainable business model built around the world’s cheapest water filtration apparatus which kills 99.9% of the microbes in water.

How would you describe the stage of development of your idea?

  • Ready for piloting

How big or scalable is the potential of your idea?

In that pAge filters are environmentally safe and inexpensive to produce, highly portable, require no energy or external inputs and have the potential to be manufactured in the regions where they are most needed, they could scale up to reach most of the 77M in India who lack access to clean drinking water, primarily in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Chattisgarh, Gujarat, Kerala, Maharashtra, among others. In the short term, we will pilot in a few villages in one state of India, concentrating on regions where there is no in-home water supply. This pilot would be our proof of concept and proof of principle. Our year-on-year (longer term) projections for rural India are: Yr 1: 1.3M homes in one rural state Yr 2: 2.7M homes, 2 states Yr 3: 5.4M homes, 4 states Yr 4: 9.4M homes, 7 states Yr 5: 13.5M homes, 10 states Household size = 4 members

Explain the sustainability aspect of your idea

Phased reach: First we will pilot in 10-20 villages, then launch in one state. In the second year, launch in two states, in the third year four states, culminating in a total of 10 states by year five. This allows us to make mid-course corrections on activation and education, and informs a product design best suited for multiple states. Piggybacking on micro-finance institutions (MFIs): The microfinance model, well established in urban India is picking up in rural areas. MFIs are keen to facilitate better hygiene & health so that borrowers have greater well-being and are more likely to repay loans. MFIs are reaching the ‘last mile households’ and can partner with us to get to the BoP households in rural India. Local manufacturing and circular economy: Local manufacturing optimizes the ratio of manufacturing to transport cost, and makes sense for mass production of pAge filters. We will create a circular economy: Raw materials will be sourced and converted into product locally, creating better economic conditions that allow families to prioritize clean drinking water and other healthy practices.

What types of financing would be required for your idea to be successful?

A combination of private investment, corporate social responsibility and grants.

If you are proposing to partner with other organizations, please explain their role and reason for partnership.

Folia Water and BoP HUB, a social enterprise, will partner for this challenge. BoP HUB, whose motto is “designing business to end poverty,” is funded by the philanthropist Jack Sim (“Mr. Toilet”), founder of World Toilet Organisation (WTO). Jack Sim is also the co-convenor of Clean Andhra movement, an element of the greater Clean India movement initiated by the Indian government, which has become the buzzword in India over the last two years. WTO is in the process of registering in India; BoP HUB will operate under its aegis. BoP HUB, because of its strong Indian roots, has a significant strength in ‘go-to-market’ understanding especially among the ‘Base of Pyramid’ population.

In-country experience

  • Yes, for two or more years

If you have been operating in India, what has been your focus?

BoP Hub’s head of Consumer Products, Arindam Som, who is the principal collaborator and implementer of this innovation in India, has 16 years of experience working in / for emerging countries including India. He has been with Unilever for 12 years where he has been mostly associated with emerging market innovations through marketing and consumer and market insights. Arindam Som has noteworthy experience in: 1) Lifebuoy Swasthya Chetna, a Health Awareness program for Lifebuoy at Unilever; India, 2005-2007: This program helps children and mothers understand the importance of washing hands before eating through a unique ‘glow germ demonstration’ in rural India. 2) Domestos (or Domex) Toilet Academy program, India, 2010-2012: This program run by Unilever spreads the awareness of open defecation’s ill effects and the need for clean, available toilets.

Is your organization currently legally registered in India?

  • Yes

What states or districts will you target/are you targeting within India?

Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Chattisgarh, Gujarat, Kerala, Maharashtra and 3 more states

Tell us a bit about yourself.

As India emerges as a major global player in business and tech, lack of access to clean water means the poorest communities are left behind. Theresa Dankovich, Folia Water CTO: PhD & postdoc: invention, laboratory, and field testing of AgNP papers for biocidal effectiveness. MS: agricultural and environmental chemistry, UC-Davis; PhD: chemistry, McGill Jonathan Levine, Folia Water CEO: PhD: earth and environmental engineering, Columbia. Worked on African water supply for the U.N. Millennium Villages Project for masters research. Cantwell Carson: PhD: materials science, Georgia Tech. Worked on nanoparticles, pulp and paper science, metal-organic framework synthesis, and patented a vaccine tester for use in developing countries. Arindam Som: Innovations & Insights consultant, Head of Consumer Goods at BoP Hub Ltd. Previously: Global Marketing Director, Unilever, heading a team for frugal innovations in emerging markets. Juliet Martinez: BS: biology; MS: journalism, Northwestern


Join the conversation:

Photo of Tiffany Gorman

I totally support this

View all comments