Piramal Sarvajal..Changing the lives of underserved communities by bringing them safe drinking water

By auther pic. Gaver Chatterjee

August 19, 2019

Piramal Sarvajal..Changing the lives of underserved communities by bringing them safe drinking water

Sarvajal via its unique Hub and Spokes model has dispensed ~29 lakh litres of safe drinking water through 40 water ATMs till date across Bhubaneswar

When Piramal Sarvajal received the Corporate Trailblazer award, at the Safaigiri Summit and Awards 2015, (instituted by the India Today Group), it was with good reason. The award was in recognition of the work being done by Piramal Sarvajal in the social entrepreneurship space. It was presented to Ajay Piramal, Chairman of the Piramal Group by none other than the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Piramal Sarvajal which deals with the issue of bringing safe, affordable drinking water to underserved communities in India, has truly changed the lives of beneficiaries with its reach.

Instituted by the Piramal Foundation and executed by its social enterprise Piramal Water Private Limited (PWPL), Piramal Sarvajal was launched in 2008. Its mission reads: To innovate, demonstrate, enable and promote affordable safe-drinking water solutions.

Clearly, careful research and planning has gone into the initiative not only before it was launched, but also as it has progressed. Piramal Sarvajal is deeply invested in developing suitable technologies and putting systems in place to bring safe drinking water to as many urban and rural parts of India as possible and to making its model sustainable and far-reaching. The programme works towards installing water purification systems and automated water dispensing machines (water ATMs) in different parts of India, as per the requirements of the area.

The water purification systems are state-of-the-art community level purification plants set up for delivery of safe drinking water at affordable prices to the beneficiaries. Because the water profile of each community is unique, the innovation is purification technology agnostic. Piramal Sarvajal generally uses 5 step purification machines where customization is possible, in accordance with the local needs. Depending on the local need, the project picks up existing, off-the-shelf purification technology to address the local water context.


Consumers signing up for Water ATMs in a locality of Delhi

And to address the issue of effective post-purification water distribution, Piramal Sarvajal has its water ATM model that uses smart cards, with an eye towards creating price transparency and quality accountability to the last mile. The water ATMs are solar powered and cloud connected, thus enabling remote tracking of the water quality and of each pay-per-use transaction. The implementation has been done in partnership with corporate CSR agencies, government agencies, local entrepreneurs, local panchayats and philanthropic organizations in different parts of India. Currently, Piramal Sarvajal operates 1392 touch points, across 20 states of India including Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Bihar. The network reaches out to more than 590, 582 consumers. It has dispensed nearly 9 billion litres of safe drinking water to date.

Providing end-to-end solutions, Piramal Sarvajal remains deeply involved through the complete lifecycle of the project. It ties up with local agencies in each implementation area and after the complete planning is done, provides installation services. It remains involved in market creation, customer education and on-going maintenance, keeping a stern eye on quality control and price transparency.

The project was started in 2009 as a pilot in Bagar Rajasthan, the Piramal hometown, where the water situation was dismal. With the aim of reaching out to as many as possible, the initiative was envisaged as a multi-location affair calling for serious planning and management. Distributed operations were a challenge but systems were put in place to handle this with efficacy, making full use of sophisticated technology.  But perhaps what has been most remarkable about the project has been the fact that the management perceived the need to break the taboos around buying water which existed in many consumer’s minds. This was very necessary to generate demand and to ensure that the local population actually made use of the intervention, which could be quite life-changing for them. Accordingly, the management came up with a long-term solution of educating consumers about water-health linkages. It invested in community awareness activities while tapping into local entrepreneurial drive and resources by adopting a franchise model.

Piramal Sarvajal leases its water purification technology/equipment to franchise owners in the locality. The franchise owner pays an upfront fee which constitutes a proportion of the cost of the filtration unit. Piramal Sarvajal helps the franchise owner mobilize finances from micro-lending institutions. In addition, it provides training, payment solutions, phone-based customer service, marketing materials and sustained service and maintenance for each franchisee. Revenue is generated by the franchisee by selling clean water to the consumer at a hugely-affordable price of 30 paisa/litre. This is shared in the proportion of 60:40 between the franchisee and Piramal Sarvajal. The project currently generates a total local economy worth US $ 4346000 annually.


Women collecting water through Sarvajal's installed ATM 

Not only is this success story changing the very fabric of the existence of underserved communities by bringing them safe drinking water, it is also providing huge and very gainful employment to local people within its orbit.

If the story is resonated with you, please share

Impact-Story is a series on development and CSR interventions leading to some impacts on the ground. If you have a project, innovation or intervention that has changed the lives of a few people or a community, please share a brief note at csr@ngobox.org. Our Team will get back to you after validating the information for a detailed coverage.

Also Read: Eliminating hunger with Humanity First Foundation


Gaver Chatterjee is a freelance journalist who has worked with many publications in the past including Education World, Hindustan Times, PowerLine and many others.


Suggest a Story: If you have similar story to refer, please fill in the form