How this entrepreneur found his calling by tapping into the non-drinking water purification space

WaterScience has sold 1.25 lakh non-drinking water purification products (tap and shower filters) in the last three years. In an interview with SMBStory, Co-founder Sudeep Nadukkandy says that the company is looking to close FY20 with a turnover of Rs 10 crore.
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A recent report by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) says that the samples of tap water taken from 15 out of 21 big cities failed to meet one or more safety parameters. There are several players in the market tackling the residential water purification issue like Kent RO Systems, Eureka Forbes, Panasonic, LG etc. 

Sandeep Nadukkandy, Co-founder and CEO of WaterScience



While there are several players in the drinking water purification space, the non-drinking water aspect is still nascent in India. Looking at the gap in the latter, Sudeep Nadukkandy wanted to do something to bring better quality water to the masses. He co-founded WaterScience, a company that manufactures non-drinking water purification products, like shower filters and tap filters. 

Sudeep hails from Kozhikode, Kerala. He was working as a training manager in Printo and was soon moved to managing the products vertical before he launched WaterScience. 

The Bengaluru-based bootstrapped company was set up in 2014 with an initial investment of Rs 1.5 crore and has sold 1.25 lakh non-drinking purification products (tap and shower filters) in the last three years. The products are available on the company’s website as well as ecommerce platforms like Amazon and Flipkart.

In an interaction with SMBStory, Sudeep traces the company’s journey as it looks to close FY20 with a turnover of Rs 10 crore. 

Edited excerpts:

SMBStory: What was the inspiration behind starting WaterScience?

Sudeep Nadukkandy: It started because of my personal struggles with the water quality in Bengaluru. I thought shower filters must be available in the market and I was looking for one and there was nothing available. That’s when I met my former boss, Muhammad Iqbal (now Co-founder of WaterScience), and asked him to bring some shower filters from the US where he was working at that time. And then we started having a discussion about shower filters. That’s where it all started. Gradually the discussion progressed to thinking about making something for the Indian market, where we could clearly see a huge gap.

In 2014, I quit my job and started working with Iqbal on WaterScience.

Our thought process was that more than 95 percent of our daily consumption of water is not for drinking and cooking. And there are no brands available to address the issues associated with non-drinking water sanitation.

 

SMBS: How many manufacturing units are there and where do you source your raw materials from?

SN: We have one manufacturing unit in Bengaluru. The main components come from the US and all materials are certified by the National Sanitation Foundation, USA.

A few housing components are manufactured by one of the companies we have partnered with. To scale faster, we also started importing some components from China.

SMBS: What is the role of technology in mitigating the water crisis of the world today? How are you leveraging it?

SN: Technology has always been necessary. We are essentially using the products already existing in other markets and customising them for the Indian market. Some bits of R&D and IP, however, are exclusive to our brand. We currently have two different models of filter cartridge that more or less cover about 70-80 percent of the market conditions across the country.

SMBS: So many well-known brands make up the drinking water purification space. How does the non-drinking purification space look like?

SN: The drinking water treatment space is huge and is growing at a rate of 22-23 percent. However, there is no focus on the non-drinking water treatment vertical. This is what we want to address. 

Also, availability is a huge problem in the drinking water space, which is not the case with non-drinking water. With availability being a bigger concern, quality becomes secondary. That's why, perhaps, you don't see too much competition but it's only a matter of time because awareness levels are increasing. 

SMBS: What are your plans for 2020?

SN: One, is that we would like to sell more. Second, we want to find and launch products in different price categories. Right now, the average price for our filter is about Rs 2,300. As someone who is passionate about developing products, my target is to always see how we can make a product at a price that gets us more acceptance in the market.

Our focus remains on non-drinking water filtration products. We started with point-of-use filters like shower filters, tap filters, and washing machine filters. We are also introducing point-of-entry filters that are connected to the mainline in a bathroom and ensure that all the water outlets give out only filtered water.

(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)