--By Gaurav Aryal
The amalgamation of circumstances and innovative thinking has made Suman Shakya, managing director of One Planet Solution Pvt Ltd that owns brands such as Smart Paani and Smart Urja, an entrepreneur with a social cause. The crisis of drinking water he faced during his school days in Kalingpong made him wish he would never have to face water shortage ever after. While constructing a house for his family in Kathmandu, he materialised his wish by installing a rainwater harvesting system. While the people of Kathmandu valley were in deep woes of water short-supply, Shakya and his family had no reasons to worry. Shakya says, since then his house is not connected to piped drinking water supplied by the Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL).
Installation of rainwater harvesting system at his home was not an easy process as there was no one offering such services commercially. There were NGOs and INGOs working on rainwater harvesting but they were not providing services to anyone else than their targeted communities and users. Shakya’s friend and now his business partner, known as Tiger, had knowledge and working experiences on rainwater harvesting. He proved a godsend to Shakya.
Selling the Need
One Planet Solution Pvt Ltd
Shakya not only installed a rainwater harvesting system at his home but also planted a business idea. He thought that offering on-demand services will work as a business as well as a pious job to provide people with water to drink. Realising underlying business prospects, Shakya and his five friends set up an office. The same venture won the Surya Nepal Asha Social Entrepreneurship Award earlier this year.
Neither Shakya nor his friends and relatives had imagined that their initiative would take a shape of a successful business. They were even ready to settle for sustenance rather than making large profit. But the lady luck had something in store for them as there were numerous benefits of rainwater harvesting such as groundwater recharge and utilisation of clean water available in the nature for free of cost. As it can also be easily made drinkable, he saw huge prospects for expansion. Shakya says that the company is growing 100 per cent annually.
Branding the Business
Shakya recalls that his team spent two weeks pondering over an appropriate name for their venture. They wanted the name to be easy and catchy. Eventually it was branded Smart Paani. “From that day we have been dedicated to make Smart Paani synonymous to rainwater harvesting,” states Shakya, “People buy trust not a black tank. It is the brand that wins trust in the service industry.”
Quenching the Thirst
KUKL has been failing to quench the thirst of Kathmandu Valley for many years now. On the other hand, rainwater that can be easily made drinkable and used for every household needs, has been wasted. UN says a person needs 50 litres and KUKL says 100 litres but Shakya says a person needs 70 litres of water in a day. So a family of four members needs 280 litres of water every day and 102,000 litres of water in a year.
Furthermore, he explains that a house built in three anas of land has a rooftop of 1000 square feet. On an average, Kathmandu experiences 1430 millimetres of annual rainfall. And, this house can collect 143,000 litres of rain. If 20 per cent of it is thrown away for purity of collected water, 120,000 litres of usable rainwater can be collected in a year. Shakya opines that it is enough to meet an annual need for a small family. However storing it all can be a problem. He adds that rainwater usage during the rainy season reduces the purchase supplied by KUKL or tankers and also minimises groundwater extraction. Shakya says that even during the dry season, 40,000 litres of water can be collected. So, rainwater harvesting could be an easy and cost effective method of minimising drinking water woes in Kathmandu and other places. Shakya says that installing a rainwater harvesting system for a household costs less than a new iPhone.
Within two and a half years of establishment, Smart Paani has made 215 clients which Shakya feels is not a disappointing figure. He shares that overwhelming demand is also coming from outside Kathmandu Valley. Recently, a franchisee has been started in Pokhara. And, the company is planning to expand to 11 urban areas outside the capital city within a year. The company is also planning to work in Dharan and Surkhet in the near future. The company has offered its services to commercial clients such as resorts and hotels in Pokhara and Nagarkot and Shakya says he has been receiving requests from Nepalgunj as well.
Smart Paani, brand owned by One Planet Solution Pvt Ltd does not establish its offices in other places but provides franchisee to interested entrepreneurs. Shakya says that the parent company provides technology inputs, working business model and even provides clients to them as the central office in Kathmandu often receives client requests.
Offering Products and Services
Apart from rainwater harvesting, Smart Paani is offering various other products and services such as grey water recycling for both domestic and commercial purpose. Such recycled water can be reused for washing vehicles, landscaping and flushing toilets, among other usages. Similarly, the company also provides biosand filter for making rainwater drinkable along with offering black water recycling services.
Saraswati Higher Secondary School at Thecho is one of the clients of Smart Paani where rainwater is harvested for using at the school and the excess water is diverted into a well that recharges 5.4 million litres of groundwater in a year. Likewise, rainwater harvesting is installed at Sajha Yatayat premises at Pulchowk where 10,000 kilolitres of water is collected for washing buses.
Smart Paani initially a brand under One Planet Solutions, has now grown as a subsidiary of the parent company. Now, the company is growing Smart Urja, new brand for working in the clean energy sector. It focuses on producing energy from waste as well as harnessing solar power. Similar to Smart Paani that was started from Shakya’s home, Smart Urja started by installing its services at the company’s office building that completely relies on solar power.
Designing the Future
Shakya envisions developing a large scale solar energy project in Nepal. He says that One Planet Solution will constantly move ahead in delivering innovative water and energy solutions. The company has been working on Smart Stove that aims at making homes pollution free. Shakya says that more smart plans and ventures are being designed to make the company a sustainable private sector establishment dedicated to renewable energy. He also envisages providing such services on a mass scale once the current ventures reach a certain growth point.