In a nation that is already reeling under a water crisis, the hardness of water is an omnipresent issue, especially in states such as Karnataka, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, and Rajasthan.
Seeing the common problem, friends Rajesh Saraf and Uday Nadiwade started BEFACH 4X to create a water softener product that is cost-effective and environment-friendly.
What is hard water?
But what exactly is hard water?
Hard water is nothing but water composed of calcium and magnesium bicarbonates and sulphates. In excess amounts, it can cause mineral build-up in water pipes and heating systems. When it dries up it often forms a crusty white ring around taps and mirrors. Water hardness can also lead to hair fall and skin problems.
Uday, 50, explains that BEFACH 4X’s product, D’Cal Hard Water Softener, removes the stickiness of calcium ions as opposed to the more traditional method of eradicating minerals.
In a study conducted by The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in 2013, 884 million people lack access to safe water supplies; approximately one in eight people, among them a good percentage consumes hard water, causing many cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and reproductive failures.
“Hard water remains a problem for a number of Indian households. We spend a lot of money trying to purchase expensive water softeners that need regular maintenance, and we wanted to solve this problem and create something that reduces water hardness, while being cost-effective and environmentally friendly at the same time,” says Uday.
The D’Cal water softener was first launched in Hyderabad in 2018, keeping in mind the three segments where hard water is found in the most: independent houses, apartments, and industries.
Today it is being sold in a number of states; Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu, to name a few, across online platforms such as the D’Cal website, Flipkart, and Amazon India.
An affordable alternative
The D’Cal softener is a bottle-shaped device that can be held easily in one’s hand. All one needs to do is drop the device into their borewell. It automatically reduces the hard water levels by breaking down the calcium and magnesium ions, thus rendering the water soft.
Priced at Rs 3,600, the softener lasts for up to one year and can purify up to three lakh litres of water, Rajesh, 49, notes.
“The product is being sold at a tenth of the market cost. With regular water softeners there is a 30 percent wastage. However, with D’Cal, it has been noticed that not a single drop goes to waste. We are a zero-water wastage company,” he claims.
BEFACH has currently sold Rs 1 crore worth of products in its one year of operations.
D’Cal water softener’s biggest impact, Uday notes, is its fuss-free aftercare and the resulting eco-friendly benefits. Since it requires no maintenance nor energy, it doesn’t impact the environment in a negative manner.
“But the biggest impact has been customers’ happiness in finding a solution to their hard water problems. The low cost of our product coupled with easy installation has helped them. A regular water softener in the market usually amounts to Rs 40,000-Rs 50,000, which people opt not to buy, and as a result continue to utilise hard water in their homes,” he adds.
Maharashtra-based Jyoti Wadikar, who uses D’Cal, says,
“I noticed a lot of difference with the water in my house in the initial 4-5 months that I first started using it. Previously, I regularly had to change my taps, but now in this last year I don’t have to anymore.'
Arun Digambar who is a customer says,
“I used to live in Hyderabad city but when my family moved to Rampally village in Kesara Mandal, we had only bore water, and I was wondering how I could use this for drinking as well. D’Cal has created a significant change to my water supply. I no longer notice scaling on my taps, and the output has been pretty good. We are a middle-class family of four and we have used the D’Cal softener twice for almost two years. It worked really well for me for a year, and so I went for it a second time,”
D’cal already has a user base of more than 16,000 users. They are getting a steady traction through these demo kits, and plan to get at least 1 lakh customers by the end of the year.
What makes them stand out from other expensive water softeners in the market is that they sell their product at 1/10th the market cost.
How the idea struck
Friends Rajesh and Uday tried their hand at a number of startups in the healthcare sector and in ceramics, respectively, before joining hands to found BEFACH 4X.
The duo came up with the idea to launch the D’Cal over a cup of tea one evening in Rajesh’s neighbourhood.
Rajesh had mentioned to Uday that he had purchased a water softener that was expensive and difficult to manage. It required regular maintenance and he needed to purchase 15kg of rock salt every three weeks. Further, the motor needed to be monitored constantly and switched on and off when not in use.
Seeing the expensive, high maintenance products in the market, the duo wanted to come out with an alternative. Andhra Pradesh is a state where hard water is a major concern in households, they wanted to fix the problem there first.
They knew that a lot of the independent houses in Hyderabad had overhead tanks that could carry approximately 1,500 litres of water. They wanted to design a product that could cater to this magnitude, and one that could easily be dropped in.
With this idea in mind, they started researching about hard water and looked closely into the components. Since both of them had a background in engineering the duo approached the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) and met PhDs here to gain more knowledge, and share the idea and concerns.
Through trial and error, they attempted to break the coating around the calcium and magnesium ions, and developed a substance that could remove the stickiness of the water with the help of the folks at IICT.
The initial prototype was tested out at houses of friends and family to see if it worked. Then came the time to launch D’Cal.
“Gaining the trust of the customer when we launched the product was an early challenge along with figuring out how to take the product to market,” says Uday.
They overcame both the challenges through the launch of their free demo kits, which enables customers to try their product in one litre of water at home too, before purchasing it.
The duo received the ‘Best Innovation Award’ recently from CII & Telangana State Innovation Council presented by KT Rama Rao, Telangana Minister for IT and Industries.
Rajesh and Uday are both currently working on more cost-effective and eco-friendly products, including a low-cost drinking water solution.
“We will be launching water bottles with inbuilt RO purification systems in another 3-4 months. This will reduce the cost of drinking water bottles from Rs 20 a litre to 20 paise a litre,” Rajesh says, adding that they are also creating a synthetic powder to manage wastewater, this synthetic powder when mixed with muddy waters will attract dust and microbes, which will settle down at the base of the tank. Leaving you with a top layer of clear water.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)
How has the coronavirus outbreak disrupted your life? And how are you dealing with it? Write to us or send us a video with subject line 'Coronavirus Disruption' to firstname.lastname@example.org