Water scarcity. For many like you living in metro cities or places with easy access to water, this is a distant concern. Now, picture this. By 2025, 1,800 million people will be living in countries or regions with complete water scarcity. And by 2040, there isn’t going to be enough water for electricity generation and consumption. The problem is much closer than we imagine.
While most of our homes have RO water purifiers, what we fail to realise is that close to three litres of water is lost for every one litre of drinking water produced. It is safe to assume that this will continue to have a severe environmental and economic impact on our nation. It is to tackle this very problem that Aquvio was born.
The aim is to develop a cost-efficient reverse-osmosis-based water purification solution that not only delivers mineral-rich water, but also ensures a high-recovery rate of portable water.
Tackling a double-edged sword
The idea of Aquvio came to IIT BHU B. Tech graduate Naveen Kumar while he was working for the after-sales services department of a water purifier company in Delhi, NCR in 2014. It was during an early customer visit that the latter raised the problem of water wastage, which was affecting his water consumption.
Till that conversation, Naveen hadn’t realised that RO-based water purifiers were draining out huge amounts of water. Naveen realised that this could lead to a serious problem for the country, which is already facing severe water shortage.
After discussing the problem with his friend and batchmate Rohit Kumar Mittal, the duo decided to develop a new product. Knowing they didn’t have either the resources or the bandwidth to build a working model, they decided to first build a prototype and present it to technology business incubator MCIIE –TBI in October 2014.
Working on the product
The duo built a product that could purify large quantities of water and installed at businesses or institutions like schools. With the aid and mentorship of the incubator and Dr. SN Upadyay, ex-director IIT (BHU), the duo was able to work on building a more stable and viable marketable version of their product.
They built a 100 litres per hour (LPH) capacity water purifier that could generate 700 to 1,000 litres of water. The product is currently installed at Dhirendra Mahila PG College, IIT BHU, Arya Mahila PG College and The Aryan International School in Varanasi.
Setting the differentiator
“It took us close to eight months to come up with a final prototype of a product with 100 LPH capacity. The duty cycle has also been increased to 800 litres per day capacity as opposed to a regular 500 litre per day capacity. This is with a lower power capacity of 84 watts, and a 50 per cent reduction in water wastage,” adds 23-year-old Naveen.
He adds that for RO purifiers currently available in the market, to produce one litre of water, close to 4 litres of water has to be fed into the system. “With Aquvio, and our patent waiting technology we need to put in only 1.5 litres of water into the system to get 1 litre of pure water,” adds Naveen. With the mineral concentration in their product, the duo claims they also meet the required water quality standards.
Growth and future plans
The team raised a seed funding of Rs.6.4 lakh from MCIIE –TBI. Between July and September 2015, they claim to have had sales of Rs. 55,000 and in the quarter from October to December sales of Rs. 2,35,000 clocking a growth of 300 per cent.
By June this year, the team aims to design two more products and is targeting entering the Delhi-NCR market by the end of the year. They are working on building a manufacturing and assembling unit for mass production of their products.
While it is commendable that the startup is tackling water wastage and purification, it does face the challenge of scaling up. Considering the fact that Aquvio is targeting large institutions and businesses, it will need to compete with biggies in this segment like Siemens, Ion Exchange, Morf India and Alfaa UV. These established players operate on a massive scale affording them lower per unit costs.
For Aquvio to grow, it will have to scale up production and reach out to many more businesses that are spread out across the length and breadth of India. Aquvio, which does its manufacturing at MCIIE –TBI, will need to invest in a larger manufacturing facility to ensure they are producing at scale. It will also have to invest in sales and marketing. All this requires heavy funding. The success of Aquvio may well depend on the funding the company is able to raise.