I feel like that’s the title of every other blog post we write- apologies. There’s just so much going on, lots of really interesting things happening, and so much we are learning, I forget that people can’t read our minds- we actually have to write about it to transfer information (unless someone has invented telepathy in the time we’ve been over here in India, which would be really amazing.)
Potential Scaling Plans:
So we’ve been eyeing Bangalore, to see if we can actually make the impact we want to. First, as luck would have it, Ashish, an Indian Institue of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA) student from Bangalore, emailed us because he was bored and looking for a project to do during his break. (We love when we get smart people who want to work with us!) He began our market research in Bangalore, and came up with these initial findings:
Ashish is going to continue to interview people, and do an independent market sizing exercise for us, and we expect his report by the middle of next month, which we hope to share with everyone (thanks for being awesome Ashish!)
Basically, Ashish’s preliminary research told us that it was worth investigating Bangalore further. After some more conversations with people from Water.org, they introduced us to one of their local partners in Bangalore, Mythri Seva Sarma Samithi (MSSS) who is working to improve water/sanitation in 19 urban slums in Bangalore (among other things). They graciously took precious time out of their day to show us around, and find out if a NextDrop solution could be helpful to the people they serve. Here is what we found:
- The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) has given a contract to 4 NGO’s to help provide legal in home water connections to 96 slum areas in Bangalore (MSSS being one of the 4 contractors). This means that there is a large population (~96,000 families we know of) who will have access to in home connections, one of the biggest assumptions we had to verify
- MSSS is ahead of schedule, the connections have already been installed, and now they are waiting for the BWSSB to start providing water to these areas
- One of the main problems in the slum areas is simply a lack of water
- Some areas that MSSS works in already have in home connections, and get sufficient water supply.
- Of those areas, we estimate from our conversations, that people (especially women), lose approximately, 4-6 hours/week when the water is off schedule. It was reported that water was off schedule ~ 2-3 times/month (more in the summer season). Also, it was reported that many times, depending on how far work is from their house, one person from the family will miss an entire day of work if they believe water is to come that day.
From our learnings, we believe that if we can get families to change water collection behaviour, we can save each low income family ~$27.59/year, amounting to a savings of ~$500,000/year for the 96 slums in Bangalore with in home water connections. This only includes the monetized opportunity cost of waiting for water, and does not include any benefits from: sharing NextDrop water information, keeping children in school, health benefits from receiving clean water, increased time to do household chores, money saved from buying private water (which seems to happen quite frequently at ~ 1 INR/pot of water-located 1 KM away), and increased access to water due to timely information. These are all things that I believe could be true, but would like to study it further when we operate in these areas.
Here are the assumptions we used when we came up with these numbers (We would love to get input and see if these numbers seem reasonable to you all!) The biggest assumption, I feel, is that we can change water collection behaviour. From our learnings in Hubli, we have found that if we provide accurate information, people seem to benefit from the service- which we are confident we can do. However, those were in middle income brackets, and I believe that we will have to spend more effort in lower income brackets to accomplish this. This is something we are really excited to take on, and a new challenge we would love to enter into, with other partners on the ground who know more than we do- like MSSS. (We love learning, partners, and challenges!)
- An average family loses 15 Hours/month due to unpredictable water timings ( reportedly off schedule 2-3 times per month, and 4-6 hours lost each time it is off schedule, on average)
- The person who stays at home to collect water is the woman
- There are 96 slums which will be receiving in home connections (~96,000 families, at 1000 families per slum area)
- 75% of the people in slums have a cell phone (~72,000)- this is one stat we’re not sure about, it could be low or high
- Assuming NextDrop customers include 50% of the total market (low income residents with cell phones) ~36,000 NextDrop customers
- The average amount a woman makes is 1300 INR/month (and another paper to corroborate this)
- The number of hours a woman works to make the full salary is 160 hours/month (hourly wage= 8.1 INR)
- The NextDrop message will only help the family 50% of the time
- Assuming exchange rate is 53 INR/1 USD
- We need to follow the money. Basically, now we need to get a contract to provide this service to low income brackets. What we are learning in Hubli is that it costs a lot (and more of a headache than its worth), to collect these small micro payments from individual customers (surprise surprise). We can do it, but it’s not something we want to spend our time and resources doing. The reason we wanted to do this in Hubli was because we wanted to see if this information would actually be useful, and we wanted to get actual feedback from users. We’re convinced that it is, which is why we’re comfortable pursuing a contract to provide this information to low income brackets. Also, we’d like to use that bandwidth to shift our focus to other metrics for success, like an increase in monthly earnings, and other discernable social outcomes. We still have to think about this a little more, but it’s something we’re excited about doing: Getting some real impact going!
So that’s where we are with that. We basically need to find a partner who is interested in providing this information to people who could really benefit from it. This is where the business model evolution comes in: instead of end users, where can revenue come from? That’s what we’re working on for the next few months.
It’s not something we’ve talked about, but we have a new Vice President, Nishesh Mehta, who has joined our team recently! He is a World Bank/Charles River Associates guy who decided to quit his job and move to India in September (woot!) He’ll probably be writing about his experiences working with valvemen, as he is in charge of our valvemen incentive scheme (and doing a fine job at that!) He has learned some really interesting things, and I’m excited to have him share those learnings.
Also, we have Thejesh G N, our data loving hacker in residence, who is leading our tech efforts! You can look at all his awards and accolades (most recently a Mozilla Scout– congrats Thej, we’re proud of you!)
And then, of course, you know Quijano, our new Chief Operating Officer.
That’s something we’re really happy and proud of: adding new and amazing talent to our team to really reach our potential and do all the amazing things we want to do!
As always, if you are interested in joining our team, we are always looking for great talent! Drop us a line :)
We’re getting better at troubleshooting, fixing, and getting paid. We’ve increased the number of valvemen who are providing consistent service, and now we’ve put a system in place to fix people in a timely manner, make sure they are getting good messages, and then getting paid! We’ve made progress, but we still have more to go. We’re close to cracking it though, and I’ll let Quijano and Nishesh fill you in on all that good stuff. They’re doing a fantastic job, and I don’t want to steal their thunder!
Phew, I think that’s it! Of course there’s always more to write about, but I’m going to wrap up this post for now. We’ll try to get better at posting at regular intervals.
As always, we’d love any questions/comments/concerns/just want to say hi!