Aquaya’s Executive Director, Ranjiv Khush, was quoted this week in a New York Times article about bottled water consumption in Mexico City. Drawing on Aquaya’s research for Aquaya’s Water Business Kits program, Ranjiv notes that small scale water treatment and vending  entrepreneurs have independently emerged in countries like Mexico, the Philippines and Indonesia in response to a demand for clean drinking water. Unlike traditional bottled water companies, these entrepreneurs generally sell 20 L jugs and provide refill services. Competition has significantly driven down prices as the industry has expanded.

In a follow up to the New York Times story, Ranjiv also participated in a panel discussion on bottled water on Patt Morrison’s magazine show on Southern California Public Radio (KPCC). You can download the podcast via the KPCC website or iTunes (the discussion begins at minute 47:25 of the July 18, 2012 show ).

Over the last 18 months, Aquaya has collaborated with Kenyan entrepreneurs to launch six water treatment and vending businesses in urban and peri-urban settings. These six businesses comprise a key element of our Water Business Kits™ (WBK) program, which is focused on catalyzing the growth of local, independent water entrepreneurs*.

Our WBK program is inspired by the scale and sustainability of independent water treatment and vending in most developing countries, where these businesses effectively supply a broad range of consumers with safe drinking water. Increasing demand from middle- and upper-income consumers for alternatives to expensive bottled water drove the exponential growth of this industry in Southeast Asia and Latin America, beginning in the late 1990s. The resulting competition between businesses has dropped prices to levels that are affordable for lower-income families.

A key component of our WBK program was starting water treatment and vending businesses that could serve two purposes: 1) provide compelling business models for replication by local entrepreneurs; and 2) inform the development of Aquaya’s Water Business Kit: a comprehensive business plan for facilitating independent business start-ups.

Two of our current business start-up partners are Antony Kamotho and Juliana Wathikwa. Kamotho established his first Water Shop in the city of Naivasha in 2010 after recognizing that many Naivasha residents valued clean drinking water,

but were unable to afford existing, expensive bottled water options on the market. With help from Aquaya, he launched a second shop across town in 2011. Encouraged by the profitability of his first two stores, Kamotho is currently working to launch additional retail locations in the greater Naivasha area.

Juliana Wathikwa saw a business opportunity in selling treated drinking water in Nairobi based on her experience in the supermarket and hospitality industries. She worked with Aquaya to launch her first Care Water shop in late 2011. In the past few months, Wathikwa’s shop has experienced rapid sales growth and has recently begun to turn a profit. The success of Kamotho’s and Wathikwa’s businesses provides evidence that water treatment and vending businesses can operate profitably in Kenya.

* Aquaya’s WBK program is supported by the International Finance Corporation and the Mulago Foundation

Aquaya has studied and optimized water quality testing strategies in low-resource settings for over 10 years. We are happy to provide insights to help your organization develop or improve a monitoring program. Please reach out by contacting us.

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