Thanks to Thank You. Say What?

It’s funny how I used to drink tap water, almost never did I bought bottled water until I moved back to Asia.

At the beginning it felt weird buying mineral waters from the convenient store then groceries wasn’t complete without me purchasing at least one box to stock up at home. I never dare to drink tap water again, even if it’s cooked because tap was never recommended for consumption based on hygienic and sanitary reasons. I don’t want to take the risk of getting diarrhea or whatever possible diseases there is. So here, drinkable water comes from a bottle or gallon, and they cost about

–       RM (Ringgit Malaysia) 0.80  – 2 (USD 20 – 50 cents) / 600 ml bottle

–       RM 2 – 4 (USD 60 – 1.5 dollars) for 1.5 liters

–       RM 7 – 10 (USD 2 – 3) for 5.5 liters bottle

Not a bad price considering that I would hopefully consume without a tummy ache later on. It was something bearable which eventually became habitual, although I knew water should be free (ok 5 cents for the packaging, distribution, etc is still ok  🙂 )! In Indonesia, the cost of bottled water are even cheaper

–       Rp (Indonesian Rupiah) 1,500 – 3,000 (USD 10 – 30 cents) for a 600 ml water;

–       Rp 3,000 –  5,000 (USD 25 – 50 cents) for 1.5 L.

Purchasing drinking water has been on my mindset for a few years now until I visited Australia. Water cost about AU$ 2 – 3 / 600 ml bottle down under *shocked Why does it cost so much? Even a bottle of Coke and juice is cheaper than water, I find this ridiculous.

So, later I found out that water is a AU$ 600 billion industry in Australia that is thriving good due to the needs of convenience from the people. Come on I can get like 10 bottles in Indonesia or Malaysia for a price of 1 in Australia, I wasn’t delighted by the fact but what can I do? Throw a strike and demand refunds? Maybe not. Although I know I could’ve drink tap water again since it’s safe here, but that habit has been erased from my mind and would take some time to allow my brain accept how safe it is to consume a non-bottled liquid once again, even with the assurance of so many, it was still tingling strange.

Such an upsetting thought “What in the world, why pay so much for water that we can get for 10x cheaper back home? rip off!” but then, I found out about Thank You water, which injects their profit to fund clean water projects in developing nations such as Uganda, Kenya, Cambodia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Good thing is, every bottle has a code number for us to check where the funding of each bottle goes. We can find it at the front page of www.thankyouwater.org website, you can track your impact! Just type in the code number written on the bottle to the field and voila see where it goes – for wells, pumps or else.  It even says how many bottles are sold, where the project funds, complete with name of village, its coordinates, the type of project, the strategic rationale, photos, testimonials, publicity coverage, and the number of people impacted, impressive really. Impressive how this business is well packed into a social enterprise projects, .org!

Watch their video

Seems that their strategic rationale behind the motivating cause includes:

  1. Nearly 800 million people do not have access to safe water
  2. Majority of people without access to safe water come from countries that are considered developing countries
  3. Investment into safe drinking water and sanitation contributes to economic growth. For every dollar invested an estimated $3 – 34 is returned in productivity. This means better health, better education, and an improved living standard for the community
  4. The time needed to collect water and the disease and sickness that it causes leaves little or no time to attend school, work or look after the family
  5. In just one day, 200 million hours of women’s time is consumed for the most basic human needs – collecting water for domestic use. In doing this their safety is often at risk and impacts upon their livelihood
  6. Water supply can be used for irrigation, enabling their family to grow vegetable and sell at the market. Money once used for health expenses can instead be invested to the family business
  7. Every 20 seconds a child dies because of unsafe water it with access to safe water children are given a chance of a brighter future.

Ok, I’m not going to use much of my brand marketing perspective right now although I do admit it’s impressive (3rd time’s a charm), rather would like to express more on the humanitarian touch of the social business.

After reading things on it, the sale of each bottle provides at least 1 month access to safe water for the people in their project sites. Imagine what it could do in Indonesia and beyond! It’s simply genius! 43 million are without access to an improved drinking water source as we speak (Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation, UNICEF, 2012); China 119 million, India 97 million, Nigeria 66 million, Ethiopia 46 million, Democratic Republic of Congo 36 million, Bangladesh 28 million, United Republic of Tanzania 21 million, Sudan 18 million and Kenya 17 million. Although 76 – 90% of the Indonesian populations are using improved drinking water sources, we still have homework for the rest of the percentages.

There has been issues of water scarcity especially during dry seasons, when proper water pump  is much needed to dig down under. Although there are wells and rivers available, at times they do dried up, raising difficulties for farming and agricultures even basic household needs. I remembered how difficult it is to access clean water in Kalimantan, yes there are supplies but it was brown contaminated by the soils, twas quite difficult to filter and it was not healthy. So, people would either buy extra pumps or traditionally collect water from the rain with big bucket what we call Gentong (clay) or Jerigen (plastic).

Perhaps one day there’s someone out there *finger crossed start a similar model to Thank You in Indonesia. Although yeah, there are 183 local and international, small and big companies already recorded in 2010 by Indonesia’s Association of Bottled Water Companies, of course with Danone Aqua having the largest market share and rising net profit, but its okay because the demand is also high and starting small also has its niche for a healthy competition.

“Some small-scale entrepreneurs set up re-filling stations that provide treated water sourced from either mountain springs, their own well, or sometimes from a source connected to the piped network. So selling water is big business now in Indonesia – whether you are a large company or a small private vendor.” (The Earth Institute, Columbia University Water Center, 2011)

Apparently, Indonesia is on the top 10 world’s bottled water market.

Having consumed 15.70 billion liters of water in 2009, Indonesia has emerged as the seventh-largest bottled water (mineral and non-mineral) market in the world. In the Asia Pacific, it is the second largest in terms of total bottled water consumption, and the third largest in per capita bottled water consumption. Owing to the rising presence of contaminants in water and relatively low entry barriers, the Indonesian bottled water market is expected to register double-digit growth rates till 2016.” (Frost & Sullivan, 2010)

The consensus is that Indonesia is witnessing a major behavioral shift toward dependency on bottled water. Of course this turn to the bottle is primarily occurring in the middle classes – but the Asian Development Bank this class grew to 43 percent in 2009, which in a population of around 245 million is no small figure. In the same year, Indonesia consumed 15.7 billion liters of bottled water, making it one of the largest total consumers in Asia, second only to China. (The Earth Institute, Columbia University Water Center, 2011)

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan Bottled Water Market finds that the market earned revenues of $1.31 billion in 2009 and is likely to reach $2.89 billion in 2016.

Meanwhile the safe water is accessible, it is possible to use filters or boiling to make it drinkable. But there is also another alternative which is  Air RahMat (USD .40 cents/bottle – lasts for a month on a family scale usage) a notable and affordable innovation. With just one drop of this water purifier, the water is safe for consumption without the worries of E. Coli and the likes. What a helpful little fella. So maybe, just maybe, the enterprise can eventually collaborate together with Air RahMat… mutually providing access to safe and drinkable water 🙂

So who wants to start investing in the source of life?

Much Love & Salam Odyssey

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