A commoner’s frustration with handling his water pump every morning led to this young entrepreneur's invention
The startup ecosystem is a world full of reluctant leaders and unlikely heroes. The archetypal ingredients of a truly robust business story could be a gaping hole in the marketa keen observer’s eye for spotting that problem and wanting to address the frustrated commoner’s despair at having to experience it day after day. Anupam Attri’s is one such story.
Belonging to a family with all members engaged in service, making himself marketable and employable for the best possible job was the highest 30-year-old Anupam had grown up aspiring for. In year six of his career at Reliance Power, the engineer’s life seemed to be going down that predictable route. But, the seed for entrepreneurship was sown in Anupam’s life when he grappled with a crude day-to-day problem that no one seemed to be solving in a fairly technologically-forward country.
“There used to be a regular chaotic scene at my home in Delhi when I used to forget to turn on the water pump when water supply started and turn itoff and it used to get burnt after it overran. Most households in India live like this, but I couldn’t wrap my head around it. This nuisance became food for thought. Why can’t pumps turn on and off, automatically, I thought,” says Anupam.
Only in his second year as an electronics engineering student at Thapar Institute, it was a feasible idea to dabble with, and it hit the jackpot. At an exhibition conducted by the Department of Science & Technology (DST) (under Ministry of Science & Technology) for promoting innovative ideas, Anupam'sproject was selected as the only student project for innovative and commercially feasible project.He received the cheque of grant from DST for R&D of the product followed by patent application. This was the first milestone of his splendid journey to come.
Anupam, along with his brother, Amit Attri, formed Attri Enterprises Limited and launched the product commercially under the name, 'eWAS® Water Automation System' in 2009.
Backing his innovation with market research, Anupam says that around 60 to 70 per cent of people do not know of any gadget that could automate their water pumps. Further, there were no major Indian players in the global market estimated to reach $17.73 billion by 2020.
Anupam says, “The water automation sector must not only manufacture standard products, but also have constant R&D and engineering to modify existing products, in order to meet the customers’ changing requirements. Along with that, very dedicated service is required. Above two major characteristics are absent in all the existing small players of the sector.”
After this assessment, the Attri brothers were confident that their technology will find its space in the market, owing to its uniqueness.
eWAS® was commercially launched in April, 2011 as a solution engineered with a vision to save water and power along with furnishing complete water automation solution. The innovation is published under the journals of Indian Patents. Once it is installed, the water pumps, valves and water related systems turn on and off on their own with no human interaction. The device is applicable to indoor, outdoor, household, commercial, and industrial consumer goods which find its utility at every household or commercial and industrial unit where water is in use. It runs on the existing systems such that the user doesn’t need to re-install or change existing water pump and water system.Through the automation process, the product saves water as well as power and ensures tension-free automation of water pumps. Its outer body is made up of ABS plastic to make it electric shock-proof, with magnetic sensors that make it rust-proof, preventing salt formation and maintenance costs. It is also micro-controller based, like a computer, where multiple failure-check programmes are installed.
Bootstrapped on Rs 15 lakh, Anupam embarked upon his pilot entrepreneurship journey on a part-time basis. Thus, eWAS began with just one employee who assisted him in manufacturing, and another was hired later to assist in installation. Marketing was done passively through their website. With this simple model, eWAS was in business with one product addressing the problem of water automation.Today, four years hence, the company has over 80 product offerings, and has captured its space in a market populated only by local competitors like Arihant Water Control, Sri Savita, and Bharathi Electronics. eWAS plans to stay ahead by building a pan-India franchise network. “Currently, we have over 15 franchises across India, and we’re targeting 100 to 150 franchises pan-India in the next two years,” Anupam says.
The retail price for single tank-pump combination automation unit ranges between Rs 4,000and Rs. 5,500.After their diversification, their projects range from Rs 2 lakhs to Rs 20 lakhs.
The major players in the automation and instrumentation market for the water industry are the American General Electric, Emersion Electric and Rockwell Automation,German Siemens AG, Swiss ABB, among others. “We are targeting the niche where these companies do not take projects, like households, schoolsand colleges, hospitals, commercial premises, hotels, architects, real estate projects, RWA, etc., where project size is from Rs 5,000 to Rs 5,00,000 and this niche relies on unreliable local players.”
Globally, the water automation and instrumentation market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 11.75 per cent, from 2014 to 2020. However, Asia-Pacific is expected to grow at the highest CAGR of 12.07 per cent from 2014 to 2020. The water automation and instrumentation market is estimated to reach $17.73 billion by 2020. In India, the water automation market is nascent and growing in an unstructured manner. There is no secondary data for the sector in India.However, Anupam says it can be estimated at least $2 billion.
The startup has seen a revenue growth at 100 per cent per annum. Generating Rs 12 lakh in its first year, it has raked in Rs 24 lakh in its second, only for it to escalate to Rs 50 lakh last year, with an average of a Rs. five lakh monthly revenue.
Anupam says, “We are advancing to a stage to raise external funds in order to sustain growth and increase the pace.”