Focus Area: Process Improvement
ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION
WaterHealth India (WHIN) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Water Health International, a for profit Company that aims at providing scalable, safe drinking water solutions to underserved areas in India through advanced technology and innovative business models. Headquartered in Delaware, USA, WaterHealth International (holding Company of WHIN) runs operations worldwide including Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria Bangladesh and India. As a result, over five (5) million people in more than 500 locations across five (5) countries worldwide live better given that they have access to pure, safe water provided by WaterHealth Centres (WHCs).
A business that drives transformational change:
Even though WHI is a for profit organization, it doesn’t limit itself to maximizing the returns for its stakeholders but focuses on maximizing social good of its ventures and ensures that large populations are benefitted from its initiatives. Wealth accumulation is not a priority – profits are reinvested in the enterprise in order to fund expansion. Investors in the organization are interested in combining financial and social returns on their investments.
WHIN has been successfully running over 500 plants in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Punjab and Tamil Nadu since 2006. The Company’s scope of work extends beyond the purification and water life cycle management, WHIN runs well conceived Social Marketing programs to change Community behaviour towards safe water. These programs are customized to spread awareness about the health benefits of safe water, even in communities where little or no healthcare knowledge exists. WHIN ensures that the water is priced at affordable prices such that even the economically weaker sections of the population are able to receive benefits of safe water.
Why We Exist:
Availability of Safe Water is the biggest problem faced in India and most parts of the world. Some glaring facts that underline the magnitude of the most Gravois problem are as below:-
- 28% of the World’s population (i.e. 1.8 billion people,) is exposed to healthcare risks arising from unsafe water.
- 50% of World’s Hospital beds are occupied by people with waterborne diseases.
- 2 million children die each year worldwide from waterborne diseases.
In India still the major focus of government is on water availability at communities and not yet on quality issues. Scale of problem has overwhelmed State Governments.
To be the leader in providing scalable, safe and affordable water solutions to the underserved through innovative business models.
To serve over 100 million consumers by 2020.
- WHIN introduced the concept of decentralised Community Water Systems in India for the first time in 2006; this has enabled communities to set up plants at an affordable cost i.e. for a small per person contribution of about Rs. 200 (for a community size of 5,000 people) the community could receive safe and clean water for a lifetime. In five (5) years of its operation, WHIN has successfully launched over 500 decentralised Community Water Systems called WaterHealth Centers (WHCs) in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka.
- WHIN has also launched its automation project where entire WHC operations are automated which enables the team to monitor the WHC remotely. This initiative will not only reduce the instances of plant break down but also the dependency on Operator to manage and report faults.
- In the initial years of its operation WHIN operated through Over the Counter (OTC) distribution system in which the consumer walked into a WHC to collect the water. However subsequently in order to serve the needs of the coverage population and other habitations, the Company launched its delivery program. In the first phase of its delivery rollout plan, WHIN recruited its own delivery fleet –‘Captive Trucks’ to serve the needs of the nearby habitations. As the demand for delivery increased, WHIN launched its second phase of delivery where the Company recruited Delivery Service Providers (DSPs), local entrepreneurs from the village, to manage the delivery operations on the catchment area.
- WHIN has a dedicated 24 hour consumer relation cell ‘Grahak Seva’ where consumers can call and report their complaints including grievances. WHIN works on tight SLAs for resolving such trouble tickets.
- The Company has a dedicated Social Marketing team which engages intensely with the community to create the awareness about the safe drinking water. To date the team has covered all the 500 villages where WHIN has installed its WHCs.
- To better understand its consumers and strengthen its relationships, WHIN recently launched Consumer Smart Cards for consumers. This process will not only ease the daily consumer transactions but also automate the entire water dispensation procedure. Overtime, this will provide a strong framework for understanding the behaviour of the consumers and building loyalty.
- WHIN has effectively utilised the existing eco-system in the village to support its operations, this has not only made its services more affordable but also provided a significant employment opportunity to the local youth.
Innovative Business Model:
Decentralized Community Water Systems
Following table illustrates the advantages of Decentralized Community Water Systems over traditional large scale water treatment systems
|Parameters||Decentralized Systems||Centralized Systems|
|Capital Investment||Small per system Investment||Large Upfront Investment|
|Installation Lead Time||Short – 4-6 months||Long – 3-5 years|
|Operation & Maintenance||Designed to be simpler to operate & maintain||Complex, Requires specialized skills and long down time|
|Quality Monitoring||At local level, where Consumers are served||At central plant, very far from point of consumption|
|Raw Water Source||Optimized to make use of local sources like ponds, canals, wells etc.||Requires extra-large water sources like River, Dams etc.|
|Adverse impact on environment||Low – due to optimum use of local resources||High – due to use of large natural resources|
The Central and State Governments and Municipal Corporations have focused on Centralized Water Treatment Systems over the years, the desired impact is yet to be achieved. However, the Government bodies have lately begun to understand the advantages and importance of Decentralized Water Purification Systems.
Many State Governments such as Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, Karnataka, Rajasthan etc. have already initiated the process of implementing Decentralized Water Purification Systems reach out to underserved communities in rural, semi-urban and even, urban areas through Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) model.
State of the art Technology:
WaterHealth’s proprietary technology based on UV treatment works with pre-treatment systems and removes physical contaminants and deactivates all microorganisms in the water. The Reverse Osmosis system removes all the salts in the water up to 99%. However, through this process, some of the desirable minerals (for humans) are also removed. To arrest the loss of such salts which are required by the human body, but lost when passed through a Reverse Osmosis (RO) membrane. WaterHealth has developed a process wherein the water (after the pre-treatment process) is divided into two streams; one stream is passed through a RO system and the other bypasses the same. The output from both the streams is then blended to provide safe drinking water that is low on TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) and contains certain amount of minerals essential for the human body. This is then passed through the patented UV Waterworks™ (UVW) unit which deactivates all the microbiological contamination that might be present in the water. The water is tested every fifteen days to ensure that the water quality strictly meets WHO standards. This process also helps in reducing the rejection and wastage of water.
Some of the advantages of using this solution are:
- UV radiation does not add anything to the water stream such as undesirable colour, odour, chemicals, taste or flavour, nor does it generate harmful by-products. It only imparts energy to the water stream in the form of UV radiation to accomplish the process of disinfection, ozone destruction, chlorine/chloramines destruction and TOC reduction.
- This technology does not necessarily require the addition of chemicals.
- It is fast, effective and environmentally friendly
WaterHealth’s proprietary UV Waterworks™ technology uses the filtered water from the cartridge filters which is passed through the UV by using the pressure of a supply pump. Here the water is exposed to the UV rays for 12 seconds during which all the microorganisms present in the water are deactivated. UVW is more effective in terms of its performance due to the uniqueness of its design where the water has more surface area and the UV rays penetrate to last layer of the water stream. This enhances the efficiency of the water treatment process to almost three (3) times more as compared to other treatment processes.
WHIN nurtures a culture of openness and transparency and leaders at WHIN ensure their accessibility and respond positively to the people. Various communication channels are established to ensure transparent two-way communication between the Management and the employees. Two such forums are the COOnnect and Samwad.
It is a forum wherein every month five employees are called to the corporate office to meet the COO personally. During the COOnnect, the employees can discuss anything and everything which affect their performance. The minutes of the program is prepared and circulated to all the functional heads for action. The COO personally monitors the progress of the activity.
A town hall meeting, (Open forum for employees to interact with leadership team) which is conducted every quarter. The management team talks about its goals and objectives, how the quarter has progressed, discusses about the achievements and challenges faced by each function and their plans for the next quarter. Employees get an opportunity to ask questions which are answered by the Functional Heads or the Chief Operating Officer. Action items are noted and acted upon.
WaterHealth India (WHIN) believes in the philosophy of recruiting and training fresh graduates (Management/Functional/Engineering trainees) for leadership roles to support the Company’s accelerated growth. BOOT Camp acquires talent from various Business Schools, Engineering Colleges and Professional Institutes and provides them a structured training cum orientation program, the training is intense and challenging. The BOOT Camp Program was initiated in the year 2009 when the first batch of Management Trainees joined WaterHealth. All the trainees who are hired should qualify three gates, Academics (which is the cumulative score of their 10th, 12th, Undergraduate and Post Graduate marks) the aptitude test (which is conducted online) and the interview round. The candidates who qualify all three gates are finally selected.
WaterHealth India (WHIN) fosters a culture of meritocracy and result orientation, to ensure it is attained the Reward and Recognition Program – WHINspire was introduced. It was designed to motivate and reward high performers based on a transparent and fair performance management system. For high performers, WHINspire rewards both loyalty and consistency. WHIN also runs an annual performance management system for the entire organization, these two  programs complement each other.
The WaterHealth Center (WHC) staff who are located in different plants at distant places and who constitutes 70% of WHIN workforce also form part of this program. The Reward and Recognition Program is classified under four categories:
- Individual effectiveness (potential) based recognition: This program recognizes individuals who have either epitomized WaterHealth values/culture or significantly conformed to any one  of the personal attribute(s). The various award categories under this recognition are as follows:
- Practitioner (Monthly)
- Specialist (Quarterly)
- Master (Half Yearly)
- Grand – Master (Annual)
- Contender (Monthly)
- Competitor (Quarterly)
- Challenger (Half Yearly)
- Conqueror (Yearly)
- Warriors (Half Yearly)
- Gladiators (Yearly)
- Zest – Three (3) Years
- Zeal – Five (5) Years
- Zenith – Ten (10) Years
All these Awards/Certificates are conferred to the winners by Functional Heads, Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
- Career Progression Plan – Laid out for field employees to make them aware about their growth path in the Company.
- SMART Hire – A robust hiring process where the field candidates have to take technical as well as aptitude test to qualify for the interview round and make sure only the best talent is got onboard.
- Buddy Program – Providing the new employee with a point of contact for general queries regarding day-to-day operational issues.
- Performance Management System – An online performance review module WHINtrospect which has been designed to drive high performance culture and workforce engagement.
- Hardship Allowance Policy – For employees who are located in remote locations and are constantly on the move.
WHIN has a dedicated 24 X 7 consumer helpline number called ‘Grahak Seva’ where consumers, plant operator etc. can register their complaints, feedbacks and queries. This is the 1st of its kind service offered in Decentralized Community Water System industry. WHIN ensures that each complained registered is addressed by the respective stakeholder within the defined Service Level Agreement (SLA).
Information flow in ‘Grahak Seva’ info system of WHIN is depicted in the attached diagram below:
Process Excellence: Automation
WaterHealth launched ‘anytime water’ (similar to an ATM) which is path breaking achievement in Decentralized Community Water System industry by installing a fully automated water dispensation system that eliminated manual intervention for dispensing water and collecting user fee. WHC Consumers can now receive water 24/7 by using their smartcards instead of cash. All these have been made possible by using world-class automation technology.
Power cuts are becoming frequent in Andhra Pradesh which is making it difficult for Operator to meet the demand. Most of the times, Operators have to work at night and purify water so that water can be dispensed in the morning. In order to overcome this problem WHIN has recently tested alternate sources of electricity which ensure an uninterrupted power supply to WHC. One of these initiatives was tested at Boduppal Water Health Center (WHC) where a solar power plant was installed to test the efficiency of the system. The tests were conducted in the month of February and March. The WHC is equipped with 24 solar panels, battery bank and a solar inverter and it was observed that the solar power plant could generate approximate 26KW per day. Based on the success of this pilot WHIN is planning to implement it in 100 WHCs by the end of financial year.
Rain Water Harvesting
WaterHealth India Pvt. Ltd. (WHIN) offers portable and safe drinking water solutions at very affordable price to rural consumers. This goal is sometime hindered due to paucity of raw water in the communities. The possible remedial solution for this would be ground water recharging through rain water harvesting. Rain water harvesting at WHC is a process where the rain water which falls on the rooftops of WHCs which is collected in half cut pipes (attached to the roof) which channelizes the water to a recharge pit near the bore well. Also, the rain water falling on the roof top area of the nearby public buildings will be channelized to the recharge pit. The backwash water, rinse water and tap-bank waste water do not have any major impurities, except some suspended solids which can also be filtered in the recharge pit.
Social Awareness Campaigns
WHIN undertakes various Social Awareness campaigns to create awareness about importance of safe drinking water and its positive impact on health. Focus of such programs is on creating awareness among women and school children from rural communities.
WaterHealth team conducts surveys from time to time to measure the social impact of its operations, recently the Company ran a survey in over 50 villages and found that the number of cases registered due to water borne diseases had reduced considerably by almost 60% within four (4) months of launch of the WHCs.
Independent surveys or media reports
also capture the impact that WHIN has on the lives of consumers. Case point is a major water contamination that occurred in Andhra Pradesh in May 2010, three (3) people died and sixteen (16) cholera cases were reported in a village called Gurjala. The only water found to be safe (for drinking) during this outbreak was that of Gurjala’s WaterHealth Center which had been installed in 2006. This was reported and covered by prominent newspapers in the state.
Contributing to Rural Eco-Systems
WHIN has effectively utilized the existing eco-system in the village to support its operations, this has not only made its services more affordable but also provided a significant employment opportunity to the local youth, women and entrepreneurs.