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

Providing Drinking Water to Villages through an Inclusive Business Model

Using new technologies that are economically and environmentally sustainable

Photo of vijay sampath

Written by

The need for drinking water is ever increasing – with sources remaining constant and population increasing several folds; the demand for clean drinking water is constantly increasing.

The concept of providing drinking water through dedicated water centers has been in practice for a long time. These centers typically use old technologies like Reverse Osmosis to treat water. One of the biggest drawbacks of using this old technology has been the amount of water wasted during treatment (close to 60%) and slow adoption due to high maintenance costs for these units. 

Aquasphere has introduced a new water treatment system using a technology called Capacitive De-ionization in the market. This innovative product treats ground / surface water and delivers drinking water at an operating cost of just 3-4 paise per liter. It wastes very little water during treatment (about 20%) and requires very low power to desalinate water. 

These systems do not use chemicals, are simple to operate, maintain and easy to deploy. 

Combined with an innovative business model that is inclusive in nature, it is possible to increase adoption while at the same time build revenue generation opportunities for social entrepreneurs in the communities they serve.

The business model is based on the following key principles:

  1.  Affordable: Deliver affordable Drinking water to BOP consumers.
  2. Sustainable: Use combination of technologies around drinking water that ensures water recycling and reuse.
  3. Inclusive: Create a revenue plan that will ensure water centers are self sustaining in its operation
  4. Environmental Friendly: Be environmentally friendly to ensure that the output of the process does not contaminate the environment

Some of the key outcomes envisaged with this model are:

  1. Deliver long term health benefits to the community by providing them with good and healthy drinking water that meets WHO standards
  2. Provide Companies / Investors with opportunities through which they can measure the impact of their CSR spend
  3. Provide companies with opportunities / avenues to increase their revenues by selling their products to the BOP customers. 
  4. Create a platform to provide best in class services like e-Health, e-Education hinged around the drinking water centre

The solution explained in this presentation explains how we can achieve the above outcomes with a combination of technologies that have been developed and adopted for Indian village conditions. 

These technologies have been tested, commercialized and are ready for mass deployment at this stage. 

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

  • Scaling phase

How big or scalable is the potential of your idea?

We have now industrialized, engineered and have built the supply chain to deliver 100 units of our system every month. This would mean impacting about 1,200 villages or about 1 Million people in a year. We are working to scale up this to 3 times so that we can deliver 300 units of our system every month to impact atleast 3 million people in a year. In Karnataka alone, where we are based, there are 6,200 Gram panchayats and 10,000 villages that need drinking water solution. Across India there are at-least 600,000 villages that needs Drinking water. We believe that if we can establish a rhythm between us and our partners who implement the solutions, we should be in a position to make a significant impact of delivering drinking water solutions in at-least 10% of these villages in the next 2-3 years.

Explain the sustainability aspect of your idea

We are looking at sustainability in 2 ways: 1. Economic Sustenance of running the water plant 2. Environmental Sustenance through Water Conservation Through our technology we are able to achieve Economic Sustenance. The enclosed presentation will give a brief idea how we can achieve this. The Environmental Sustenance is achieved through water reuse and recycle whereby we maximize the use of raw and waste water through a combination of Rain water harvesting and waste water treatment techniques. While we have been able to provide suitable technologies to help achieve this, these are only enablers to this goal. To achieve the goal of water sustenance, we need to work very closely with the communities through local NGOs, Panchayats and government bodies. It is our belief that with our technologies, we can achieve atleast 50% of this goal.

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

To be successful we need financing options in 2 forms: 1. For setting up the Drinking Water Infrastructure in Villages. This investment can come in following forms: a. As a grant or a low interest loan to the social entrepreneur for the capital expense required to setup the water centres. This is a rolling grant or fund which is used for investment only on infrastructure. The ultimate vision of the water park can be built in stages, the starting point for establishing a drinking water center would need an investment in the range of Rs. 5-6 Lakhs per village. This can be in form of grant, Quasi or full or a totally repayable loan with very low interest rates that can be paid back by the social entrepreneurs. To build the complete vision of the Sustenance Park, An investment of Rs. 12-14 Lakhs will be required. b. It is also possible to establish the drinking water program through a BOOT model in partnership with the government. If we can get an organization that can invest for example say USD 100 million then they can execute the idea proposed in the presentation in totality and get returns based on per liter of water sold. 2. For scaling up our business. This is more like a Loan, Grant (Quasi or full) that will help us build capacities in manufacturing and organization build up to support our vision. The loan / grant can come from institutions or companies who wish to partner with us. We are looking at an outlay of USD 3 million for this activity.

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

Our strength is in building innovative technology and engineering it for mass production suitable for deployment in villages. However to take us to the levels where we want to make an impact, we need partnerships with organizations who can provide us a platform or support to reach out to as many villages as possible. The partners role would be: 1. To provide us a platform or reach where we can introduce our solution to as many villages as possible. 2. Liaise with government. Any water related project requires interaction with government and their support to make it a success. We need an organization that can leverage its reach and position to suitably liaise with governments and industries who are willing to invest in this project. 3. Provide partnerships with NGOs. Grass root level co-ordination and adoption can only be possible by working with local NGOs. 4. Be able to attract investors or grants to support the funding required for execution.

In-country experience

  • Yes, for two or more years

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

We are providing our solutions in urban areas. As point of Entry based treatment in residential communities, Drinking water in industries and Schools. Additionally we also working with the Indian Railways where we are installing dispensers using our technology in various stations across India. We have been working with governments in Karnataka and Gujarat for setting up Drinking water centres in villages. We are working with other foundations to deploy our product and technologies in their initiatives. These are being used in schools, migrant communities etc.

Is your organization currently legally registered in India?

  • Yes

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

We are based in Bangalore, Karnataka through our office here we deal with most of South India. In the North we work with a partner who shares the same vision as ours. They focus in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. We plan to go pan India only if we can work with partners who share the same commitment and vision.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I started AquaSphere in 2012 after spending over 25 years in the field of Information Technology. The purpose was to deliver best in class water treatment technologies to the rural and urban communities. After lot of study, I chose Water as a field because I noticed that not many companies were innovating and adapting new technologies to the rural market segment - where drinking water was really in need. As a first step, with partnership from Idropan, Italy we introduced Plimmer CDI product to India. We spent over 3 years developing and adapting it to Indian village conditions and making it in a manner that can be industrialized for mass production. In line with our goal to achieve water sustenance, last year we introduced a new SBR technology for waste water treatment that can be easily adopted in villages. Our team consists of 6 senior managers - all engineers with over 20 years in experience - all passionate about Water. More information can be found in

Is this a new or recent idea for your organization? How does it differ from what you are already doing?

This is a new idea for our organization. We have developed innovative products in water treatment with a goal to provide the best water treatment solution to rural and urban communities. We are in a unique position to achieve this goal because we have engineered and industrialized our product to deliver it in large numbers. With a vision to make a sizeable impact across India. In our endeavors to provide this to communities, we have encountered adoption issues which we want to address through a suitable business model. After considerable research and discussions, we feel a value added service based adoption can make a significant impact to our objectives and so this idea has taken shape. We would like to collaborate with like minded partners who can help us achieve this vision.

What are the two or three biggest risks for your idea and how will you manage the risks?

1. Managing the Adoption curve. We expect that it would take atleast 6-8 months for an entrepreneur to get the act into selling at a certain rhythm. Lot of investments in time effort and tweaking the business model has to be done at this stage. Prudent cost management is required to be managed. 2. Government and Political interference - directly or indirectly needs to be mitigated. Keeping the local panchayat as a stakeholder could mitigate this risk 3. Availability of local entrepreneur or SHG who can manage and run the business. Though the community might be in need for a solution, if local resource are not available we might have to defer the project 4. Caste based issues that are prevalent in local community. People might not buy if this is prevalent. A local NGO or SHG might have to be involved to mitigate this.

How would you propose to track or record the households or customers reached?

This is already in place. All our systems are web enabled and can be tracked remotely. We have built a governance portal using AWS where water consumption, quality and performance information are sent to our cloud server and can be tracked daily. These systems are also IoT enabled to proactively manage and service remotely.

If you had two years and $250,000 USD in funding, how many households or customers would you reach?

In 2 years and with $250K funding we can reach close to 150,000 - 180,000 households. Here is how: 1st year: Organization and Process Buildup with a deliverable in 5 communities having 150 household. This will be a showcase for the next year and also prepare companies for value based selling 2nd year: expand to 100-120 villages. At this stage we will set a platform for rapid expansion to 1000 villages in the 3rd year.

How would you propose to invest $250,000 USD if you received philanthropic/grant funding support from

USD 250,000 works to appx INR 1.7 Crore 1. Organization and Process buildup: 50 Lakhs (including of people, process, travel etc.) 2. 10 Model villages for our concept: 1.0 Crore (10 Lakhs per village including capex, IED etc.) 3. Contingency: 20 Lakhs

What type of support beyond grant funding are you most interested in?

We need the following support beyond grants: 1. Financial Institutions which can give us project funding with low interest rates (3-5%). This money will be provided to the Entrepreneurs or SHGs to kick start the operation. 2. Govt support is required to insist on usage of new and innovative technologies. Many state govts are spending money on water plants using old obsolete technology without any goals. Any govt-govt funding or org-govt funding should insist on new technologies to be used.

Does your organization have Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) approval?

No we don't have FCRA account since we are not an NGO. However we propose to address this in any one of the following ways: 1. Start an NGO with FCRA account and initiate a process 2. Partner with an NGO (approved by which has a FCRA account. Collaboration is the only way and so it is not a bad idea to create a consortium to deal with a situation like this.

Attachments (1)

Integrated Water Mgmt for Villages_Feb2016.pdf

Using Innovative Technologies to achieve Water Sustenance (updated 17th April 2016)


Join the conversation:

Photo of vijay sampath

I have updated the presentation to reflect the issues discussed in the forum. More data regarding technologies and process has been provided.

View all comments