Case | HBS Case Collection | February 2011 (Revised September 2013)

Sarvajal: Water for All

by John D. Macomber and Mona Sinha

Abstract

Entrepreneur wrestles with business model using SMS and RFID technology, franchising, and leasing to rapidly grow off-the-grid water purification business without subsidies. The company seeks to provide potable water services to rural and urban India where the public infrastructure does not exist. Past efforts have been stymied by rural operations problems including expensive technologies, challenging maintenance issues, cash management problems, lack of capital, and lack of a business model that makes sense for retail operators without subsidy. Using a franchising model that relies on seasoned local entrepreneurs, communication technology that monitors flows and quality, payment technology that takes cash out of the equation, and a "capital light" leasing model, the company hopes to create and share a new business model. If successful, the model can be copied by other social entrepreneurs with a market-based pricing scheme to provide other forms of infrastructure in emerging markets.

Keywords: Business Subsidiaries; Business Model; Communication Technology; Private Sector; Social Entrepreneurship; Cost Management; Rural Scope; Emerging Markets; Infrastructure; Problems and Challenges; India;

Citation:

Macomber, John D., and Mona Sinha. "Sarvajal: Water for All." Harvard Business School Case 211-028, February 2011. (Revised September 2013.)