Amid India’s battle with drinking water woes, an exchange of words recently took place between the BJP and the Congress after Rahul Gandhi questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the potential of creating water from atmospheric moisture.
Moneycontrol caught up with Navkaran Singh Bagga, founder and CEO of Avko Atmospheric Water Systems to understand the state of play of atmospheric water generators (AWG) and its use in India.
What are the immediate and long-term solutions to the water crisis that our country needs to mitigate? How important will be the collaborative approach between brands, governments, and people?
There cannot be an immediate solution to a manmade disaster developed over centuries. It will require drastic measures that must be monitored and audited to find any long-term solution. Parts of India remain in perpetual drought to keep the taps flowing in the major cities.
Water must come at a price, only then people might understand the seriousness of the issue. The need is to focus on replenishing our natural dams—the aquifers and catchment areas. Rivers should not be polluted with harmful chemicals from the industry and other waste. Preservation of natural aquifers and catchment areas are of utmost importance.
There has to be a proper audit report on water usage. Each housing society must have its own rainwater harvesting system along with every Government building. Alternative technologies like atmospheric water generator (AWG) that does not depend on any water source can be installed at offices, buildings, factories, villages, for safe and pure drinking water. Even the government should emphasize and invest more on alternative and eco-friendly sources of energy.
Government cannot alone mitigate this catastrophe, it has to be a collaborative effort with private entities or an innovation like AKVO which makes people self-reliant and future ready.
Government has announced an ambitious target of providing piped clean drinking water to all rural households by 2024. Although a worthy goal, it is unclear how the government proposes to achieve this formidable target under the current circumstances.
Agricultural irrigation is one area that needs immediate discourse as it accounts for 90 percent of freshwater withdrawals. Farmers from water stressed areas in India must be incentivised to not produce water intensive crops. Natural aquifers and catchment areas must be preserved.
What are the various versions of the machine available?
We mostly catered to industrial use in the beginning with 100, 150, 300, 500 up to 1000 litres, but now, we also have the all new AKVO POD, which is meant for homes, offices and small establishments.
This unit can make up to 50 litres of pure drinking water per day. We are trying in our own way to address various water crisis laden situations across cities, which gives me personally and my team immense satisfaction. With a lifetime supply of limitless water, now you truly own your water.
The Covid-19 situation has taught us to hold dear many things we took for granted, it actually was a ready reckoner for the human error we were perpetrating towards nature, which could not breathe and was dying. Lockdown showed glimpses of natural and animal life coming back to normalcy which was missing for a generation world over.
Covid-19 has taught us is to act responsibly, to become more conscious of natural resources and preserve it and become future ready with technologies that do not exploit nature. AKVO AWG is just the human solution to the dilemma about drinking water.
What do you think is most essential right now for the AWG market?
The most vital thing at the moment is educating people on the impending water crisis and the need for using alternative resources. Most of our fellow citizens are not understanding the seriousness of the issue.
The pandemic has taught us that we need to be future ready and independent. Being self-sufficient and not being dependent on earth’s natural resources is the key to a better future Embracing new and alternative technology is a step forward.
People need to learn that in order to survive we must come up with immediate and long-term solutions. The education system should incorporate the issue of global climate change in a more elaborate manner to make the future generations more aware and take charge of the situation.
What sets you apart from other AWG manufacturers in the country?
We are the largest indigenous manufactures of AWG machines in the country. AKVO, gives you complete water independence without having to be bound to pipe lines and water sources, running just by plug and play method, providing India’s most cost effective machine that has the lowest power consumption per litre globally to generate the most amount of water – with zero environmental impact.
The bottled cans used at homes and offices which calls itself mineral water and is marketed anywhere between Rs 4.50 to Rs 5.00 per litre, always has the cleanliness suspicion tag attached with it, while the water that you consume from AKVO machines will cost only Rs 1.75 to Rs 2.00 per litre, it is just the cost of electricity.
AKVO works on a simple plug and play method and consumes one unit of electricity to run for an hour. Also, at AKVO, we use a powerful proprietary organic filtration process that outputs pure drinking water that contains no harmful chemicals, bacteria, viruses or pesticides.
The water collected from our AWG is almost distilled in its collection stage and then minerals are added to the water in the machine itself to make it reach recommended drinking standards.
After extensive testing, the water produced from these generators agree very well with the standards set by Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). The tests were also agreeable with the standards set by ISO 10500, 2012 (2nd revision) and has been marked safe for drinking.
Which are the main markets for AKVO in India and who have been your biggest patrons in the country?
AKVO played an instrumental role in providing an alternative solution in water scarcity hit Chennai during the summer months of 2019 which drew global attention.
The Greater Chennai Corporation had installed AKVO atmospheric water generator in its premises on a trial basis. The company is in talks with other big MNCs in Chennai to install the machine at its offices.
Currently, over 50 machines have been installed in Chennai across schools, residential complexes, private institutions etc. NTPC, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd, Haldia (6 machines running and providing water to 900 factory workers), Hero Moto Corp has installed one machine in its plant in Haryana, and other government bodies are also trusting AKVO machines in providing clean drinking water. Six machines have been installed in Lakshadweep Island as well in association with the local government.
AKVO has now become India’s largest AWG manufacturer with over 350 machines sold in India and worldwide. We have enquiries coming in almost every day as people have started to realize the value of water and the potential of this technology.
Are you present in international markets? If yes, what are the Governments and public/private sector units you are collaborating with?
We have a strong presence in several international markets. The Gulf countries have been one of our biggest clients owing to the climatic conditions there. We are also present in South Asian countries, South Africa, South America.
Over 44 AKVO machines have been installed at the Qatar FIFA World Cup 2022 stadium, with an order for over 350 more. We have worked with the Supreme Committee of Design and Legacy, Qatar for this.
We are also currently working with the Govt. of Phillipines. Sharjah Electricity & Water Authority (SEVA), DP World in Dubai have been our clients. We also have AKVO machines running in Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Cape Town, Santiago and Chile.
Any challenges you are facing in marketing the product in the country?
Lot of people do not believe that water is something they should pay for but what they do not understand is water, especially drinking water, should be treated as an utility item, just like cooking gas or electricity. The idea needs to be instilled in people.
How have you been funded? What has been your investment and what is the investment plan for the future?
We are 100 percent bootstrapped. We adopted this route as it will allow us to build a solid bottom-line focused business approach first. We have made an investment of upward of 1.5 million dollars and plan to invest a further of 10 million dollars in the next two years towards research and development, marketing, expansion of our product line.