Naandi, which in Sanskrit means a new beginning; is one of the largest and fastest growing social sector organisations in India, focussing in child rights, safe drinking water and sustainable livelihoods. The Naandi Foundation in Hyderabad revolves around building sustainable models that deliver critical human services efficiently and equitably to underserved communities. One of these issues, safe drinking water, is a serious problem in many developing countries, particularly India. Local communities are so used to horrific health issues due to the presence of arsenic and/or fluoride in their untreated water that many believe they are simply cursed for their misfortunes.
Today I spent time with the Naandi Safe Drinking Water project, visiting instillations in a rural, agricultural village as well as a larger installation on the edge of a Hyderbadi slum. This is a social business set up to provide purified ground water for consumption by poor communities across India. The business operates an interesting business model that enables this critical service to be provided to people for as little as 2 rupees (4 cents) for 20 litres of drinking water.
The purification equipment costs around $15,000-$20,000 to purchase, which is generally donated by corporate and political philanthropic giving. Once set up, Naandi runs and maintains the local operation for the first five years, during which time revenue earned sustains and returns invested capital. At five years the project is given to the local community for operation with on-going oversight assistance. Naandi now operate hundreds of such plants in locations across Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and a number of other Indian states.
Often it is local villagers who initiate the process of plant development, having heard of the benefits from a nearby installation. Before anything is constructed, there is a lengthy and relatively robust process undertaken to determine the need, suitability and feasibility of a water purification system in the particular area. Naandi staff engage the local community firstly through meeting important, trusted local officials. Secondly, a door to door educative campaign is coupled with school children education to teach of the merits of safe drinking water. Lastly, meeting with influential local people such as doctors and school principles, as well as engaging with women’s self-help groups. This is an exhaustive process that ensures a suitable, tailor made solution is provided for the benefit of the entire local community. Currently the business model is sustainable with 30-40% take-up in the villages and urban areas of operation. Through continued community education programs the ultimate target of 60-70% is well within reach.