For the longest time now, access to safe drinking water has been a major challenge in our country. In some cases, getting access to water itself is difficult. A handful of start-ups are now working towards solving the problem using technology and Bengaluru-based Oceo Water is one of them.
Aspiring social entrepreneur, Vikram Gulecha always wanted to find a way to provide cheap and accessible drinking water to every household. While there were many purifiers in the market, he realised that installation and maintenance costs were high. Gulecha knew he had to build a cost-effective smart water purifier with minimal maintenance. After convincing family friend Rajeev Krishna, his brother Hasmukh Gulecha and uncle Mahendra Kumar Dantewadiya with his idea, he embarked on a year-long journey in 2016 to find the best technology. Finally using IoT, the team developed a smart water purifier, which gives a real-time report on the quality of drinking water, even while processing the water. The machine is connected to their cloud server and has an installed SIM card, which helps in the real-time analysis using GPRS or GSM connection. The monitoring platform gathers data on the quality of water, water flow and levels, consumption pattern of users and the working of the purifiers. “After tracking the water quality in a particular locality over a few months, we can even customise our filters according to a particular user’s needs,” says Gulecha.
The purifier was prototyped in the market in January 2017, after being part of Singapore-based IoT accelerator AIRmaker, who helped them progress from the ideation to product development stage. “We gathered feedback from the users for a year. After working on perfecting our purifier, we eventually launched our first commercial model in January 2018,” Gulecha explains. The start-up has installed 1,500 machines so far.
Unlike its big-brand counterparts priced between Rs.15,000 and Rs.45,000, with annual maintenance charges of around Rs.4,000-Rs.8,000, Oceo’s purifier is installed free of cost with zero maintenance charges. While the start-up will continue to give the purifiers for free, it plans to collect a deposit of Rs.2,499 for every machine installed from the beginning of 2019. The users only pay for the purified water used, which costs Rs.1/litre.
Users can buy water credits online through their portal or mobile application. Currently, they have about 9,000 users who use their purifiers. Once installed, the purifier automatically indicates when the filter needs to be changed. Simultaneously, the start-up gets a notification and then sends a new filter to the user who can replace it himself. Oceo’s technology also has bigger use cases. It can be used by municipal corporations to keep the water quality of the entire city in check. It can also be used to check for contamination in age-old pipelines that carry water throughout the city. The start-up follows a 'factory to customer' model which cuts the chain of distributors and retailers in between, helping it provide safe drinking water at affordable rates. Presently, operating in Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad, Oceo soon plans to expand across the country.