What inspired you to start SmartPaani?
“SmartPaani was inspired by a desire to provide clean water in places where access and availability is increasingly scarce. There were already organisations addressing water problems, but there weren’t many with long-term solutions that reached out to everybody. We felt that a private company could fill this gap, especially one that offered sustainable and scalable water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services that were also affordable and aspirational.”
How do you and Simavi complement each other?
“Simavi is one of the first donor organisations to believe and invest in SmartPaani. Simavi is looking to enhance WASH service provisions to everyone, especially people in marginalised communities. This requires aspirational but affordable products and additional levels of communication and marketing strategies; this is where Simavi’s partnership with SmartPaani is groundbreaking.
Our partnership, and also Simavi’s technical support on social impact and reaching people in marginalised communities, is progressive and represents an important next step in furthering public-private partnerships for WASH services.
For example, our project to create new Urban Nodal Point (UNP) franchises that provide WASH services is a new long-term, sustainable initiative. SmartPaani’s business model will incentivise and monitor the entrepreneurs, while creating long-term revenue support. Simavi’s initial investment helped accelerate the setting up of UNPs and SmartPaani’s outreach toward the more vulnerable segments of society by using social marketing strategies. There is a lot of potential for SmartPaani and Simavi to build on this in the future. We hope that more UNPs will be created and networks with civil society and government will be strengthened: providing a social return on investment for Simavi and a good example of working together with local NGOs and government institutes within the WASH alliance.“
How did the earthquake affect the collaboration?
“The earthquake and subsequent political unrest have unfortunately slowed the progress of the project. The UNPs have not been able to become as active as desired, and SmartPaani has been restricted from actively visiting potential municipalities to recruit UNPs.
However, the earthquake did create some new opportunities, as SmartPaani has been approached to contribute to rebuilding efforts in several rural areas through large bio sand filters and rainwater harvesting (where applicable). A new product, the Tulip filter, has been introduced and some project funds are diverted to make this available to entrepreneurs (e.g. UNPs and women cooperatives) on credit.
The large bio sand filters in rural schools also create an opportunity for small entrepreneurs to maintain these systems in exchange for small user fees from households. This provides a decent (and low time commitment) income for entrepreneurs , allowing them to diversify their business into other WASH services – and as it’s easy to do, women can enter the business, too. Both partnerships in this area (7 Summits Women and Kids of Kathmandu) are excited and willing to work together for future social mobilisation, ensuring the growth of franchises and the empowerment of entrepreneurs.”