Nexus-trained Hydrotec Solutions’ solar-powered water purification system provides communities with 24/7 safe drinking water on a pay-per-use basis.
An Arosia solar-powered water purification kiosk at Lansdowne in Uttarakhand. Photograph courtesy Hydrotec Solutions.
An ATM for drinking water? Sounds a bit odd? But that’s what entrepreneurs Navin Gupta and Rituparna Das’ company, Hydrotec Solutions, has developed to bring the much-needed purified water within easy reach of different communities.
Gupta has a Bachelor of Technology degree in civil engineering and an MBA from Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, while Das is a software engineer.
How did they think of the water ATM? “We first experienced issues related to drinking water while staying in a hostel in college,” says Gupta. “Few years later, while I was working with a water treatment company, I got the opportunity to set up a community drinking water project in a village in Karnataka. I realized how severe the drinking water crisis in rural India is. We, in cities, hardly value the abundant water available to us.”
Gupta also came to know that these types of community projects fail within a short time due to lack of trained caretakers. Frequent power cuts also affect the operation of the units.
He decided to do something about this issue. Connecting with his college friends and sharing his thoughts resulted in the formation of the Kolkata-based Hydrotec Solutions. “In another 10 months, we were able to develop a prototype system,” says Gupta. “We named it Arosia, inspired by ‘ambrosia,’ which means food of the gods.”
Arosia purification kiosks have some unique features compared to the available conventional community drinking water solutions. “The plug and play device can be installed anywhere,” says Das, “and can purify water from any existing source, like ponds, wells, submersible borewells, etc.”
In India, many of the traditional water sources are dying due to negligence and short-sighted policies, experts say. “Today, the groundwater level in most areas has gone down significantly. So, the probability of chemical contamination, like from arsenic and fluoride, increases,” says Das. “While installing and operating our machines in rural areas, we also impart water conservation training to locals, so that they start protecting resources.”
Another advantage of Arosia is that it can run on solar power. Its lithium ion battery works as a backup during power shortage. This reduces the operation anxiety of the system. It’s a fully automatic, low-maintenance device, and does not require any caretaker to manage the system, say the co-founders.
“Today, electricity is still not available in all villages and, if available, there are frequent power cuts,” says Gupta. “An essential item like drinking water should not be dependent on such a source of power supply.”
Moreover, electricity contributes to about 60 percent of the cost of water purification. “By going solar, we are reducing the cost of purification of water considerably,” he adds.
The co-founders insist that the solar power system, in a way, reduces the carbon footprint of the water ATM’s and makes them more environmentally sustainable. “The compact and fast-charging batteries, once charged, can run up to 48 hours, even if there is no sunshine. This helps us achieve 24/7 drinking water supply in rural areas,” they say. The automatic prepaid card-based dispensing system provides quick and easy access to purified drinking water, on a pay-per-use basis.
Hydrotec Solutions has received training from Nexus Incubator start-up hub at the American Center New Delhi. “Although we have been in the business for some years now, Nexus was our first incubation program,” says Gupta. “The systematic program helped us identify our strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. We were able to connect with relevant industry bodies, mentors and organizations, and benefitted from their experience and knowledge. We were also able to identify and add new features to our product.”
At the moment, the Arosia ATM has been installed at different locations and schools in states like West Bengal, Uttarakhand and Tripura. Das says that they want to work further in rural India under the corporate social responsibility initiatives of various companies.
Ranjita Biswas is a Kolkata-based journalist. She also translates fiction and writes short stories.