I have time to do a quick post here in the middle of the afternoon. What is here are some quick notes and reactions. Much of this will later come together into actual stories and reporting. Please forgive me in advance as this is rather hurried and will not be edited. If any information, ideas, or stories stand out to you, please let me know. This will help me with questions I can ask and inform what I should write.
To start, I am participating in a two day press trip with Unilever to see its Pureit brand in action. Pureit is an at home water filter (more about it to follow). I departed mid-day on Sunday. It meant that I did not get to see Chelsea collapse against Man U nor watch my Giants take down the Pats. Flight arrived Monday night in Mumbai (Bombay).
I was hoping to be throw right into it with a long ride to the hotel in the famous Mumbai traffic. That worry/hope was dashed quickly when we arrived at the destination 5 minutes later.
Today began with presentations at the Hindustan Unilever Limited offices. The morning opened with a talk from Professor K.J. Nath, Former Director, All India Institute of Hygiene Public Health, (he has a many more titles and previous posts, but the short of it is that he has been working on clean water in the Indian government for 30+ years). "There is a paradox in India. There has been a lot of economic progress, but WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) progress does not reach a large percentage of the population," he started.
Quick water facts:
- 2 billion people don't have access to clean water (Nath uses this number, much higher than the UN number of 1.2 billion, because it takes into account under reporting of nations and how UN defines clean water)
- 62.5 DALYs lost every year due to unclean water
- 2.2 million deaths a year attributable to water
- 99.9% of deaths in developing countries attributed to WASH
- 1g of sewage can have up to 10 million viruses and 1 million parasites (WHO)
- When testing water quality throughout Calcutta, Prof Nath found ~40% contamination of water at dispensation points. At homes it was ~90%.
"Clean water is the foremost challenge. The entire claim of GDP growth becomes empty and void when we cannot offer teh most basic services. The failure of the WASH sector is a major burden on India." - Nath
Next up was Yuri Jain, VP of Water for Unilever. In general, he spoke about how Pureit was developed. 12 years ago it was determined that the void needed to be filled. Jain said the question was posed, "Can we bring our technology, consumer understanding and deployment capabilities together and make a big dent?" Unilever spent 5-6 years incubating and researching the idea that lead to 30 patents and the final product, Pureit.
- Pureit matches up to the clean water standards set by the EPA.
- The team looked to NASA for their technology to develop water filtration as it was already being employed in space to recycle fluids. Traveld up to Michigan during the dead of winter and left excited by what was learned. Reality set in that NASA had a completely controlled environment for its purification systems, Unilever would not be afforeded the same situation when it went the consumer.
- Cost ranges from 14 to 34 Euros with sizes from 5L to 9L.
- Cost per L of clean water is less than $0.01
- Replacement of filter every 6 mo at cost of about $10 - little plastic in filters so low pollution/waste
- 95% reduction in carbon use when switching from boiling water to using Pureit
- Right now in about 6 million homes (~30 million people) in India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Mexico, Brazil, Sri Lanka and Nigeria
- Do not sell larger sized unit in Brazil due to smaller family size on average
- Partner with NGOs to reach low income consumers (will be seeing this in action tomorrow outside of Bangalore)
A randomized control study conducted by the National Institute of Epidemology in Chennai City on the use of Pureit. No surprise the data was promising. Had a slide pointing out shortfalls of the study (small sample, spill over, etc). Hard to make too much from it other than it worked in the given context. Jain tells me that they are working with researchers to track reduced disease burden in Pureit users, but data is still being gathered.
Home VisitsWent to two homes of middle class Indians in Mumbai with the opportunity to see the product and get their reactions. A caveat to start is important here. I think Unilever did a pretty good job by not priming the households, but there is always going to be the problem of people trying to give you the answer that they think you want to hear. That is not to say that responses should be ignored, but to point out that it will be hard to know precise attitudes about the product.
- 4 person family - mother, father, son, daughter
- Wife in charge of domestic chores - has free time in the afternoons to clean and watch her favorite soap operas (one was on the TV when we came in)
- Pureit purchased at husband's behest after hearing from co-worker about it. Prior, they lived in one of the city slums where water availability was 24 hours a day. Restricted water access lead to want for device.
- Final purchase was done together
- Water available in the home 8-9 AM and PM. Water is collected both hours. She then filters all water that will be used for drinking and cooking.
- Mother likes it because it has helped her son who is often sick. Since using the Pureit he has been sick less often and hospitalized less frequently. He also knocked over the boiling water when younger and burned himself. Now that she does not need to boil the water she feels her children are safer. (Note: The health of her son was by far the main strand of the conversation. She mentioned it many times about how she was worried for him and that Pureit helped him stay healthy.)
- She gives her children water bottles (your average water bottle from the likes of Desani, Poland Spring, etc) from filtered water every day to take to school. When they return the bottles, she washes them with soap and a scrub bush.
- Her husband does not use it (I asked this question and she joked that he wants nothing to do with the kitchen). She taught her son how to refill it when she is gone on trips.
- Her son is happy with the water because it can be cooled in the fridge.
- High marks on taste and color of water
- 3 generation family home
- appear to be in better financial standing than first home
- Learned about Pureit from television advertisements ("100% germ free" she said in English) - wanted to save money
- Bought it 2 years ago and has replaced filter 4 times (every 6 mo)
- She reports a different (better) taste in the water filtered in the Pureit
- Desire to prevent waterborne illnesses (I asked later what she knew about water borne illnesses and she listed off typhoid and malaria)
- Fills unit twice a day (once before bed to filter overnight and again in the afternoon)
- She says that the Pureit does not take care of the water 100% but she knows it is an improvement from boiling.
- I ask her how often she changes the tank for her stove since buying the Pureit. She reported that she used to change it every 30 days and now it is up to every 40 days
- This visit can be characterized by the desire to save money for the family and reduce time to have clean water. She reported it taking too long and it was time consuming to boil and wait. By having something that can clean water overnight, she has freed up her time to do other things.
I will leave the rambling mess there and come back with my next post after visiting the users in Bangalore. There we will go into a town to see how people are using microfinance to purchase a Pureit. This will be most interesting as the price becomes more important on people who need to save up. One thing that will be interesting to see is if this encourages savings (data right now points to savings being more effective than credit).
As I said at the start, please ask questions and point out areas you want further fleshed out. This is pretty bare bones and a summary of my notes.