Niranjan Karagi.
Niranjan Karagi.
TheNFAPost Podcast

Belgaum-based Startup NirNal Brings Potable Water With Shoestring Expenses

Bengaluru, NFAPost: To make water affordable to humanity is a difficult idea, that too when globally all entrepreneurs and big companies are in the race. Belgaum-based entrepreneur Niranjan Karagi stumbled upon this issue noticing the travails of school children drinking contaminated water stored in their school water tanks.

Interacting with NFAPost, Niranjan Karagi said growing up in Belgaum, he used to play with his friends on the playground where kids of a nearby government school also used to play and drink water from the school tap.

“But, when I grew up and started the mechanical engineering degree I found that there was no filter in the school. Most of the kids drank water from the tap that was connected to an overhead tank. Upon further inspection, I came to know that the tank had not been cleaned properly. A cleaning would only happen once a year, at most twice. I was stirred, to say the least,” said Niranjan Karagi.

Water filter

His first response to the issue was to immediately donate a filter to the school. When he made inquiries, Niranjan Karagi found that most water filters in the market were expensive. Even if one was donated to the school, the school wouldn’t be able to manage its maintenance cost alone.

“The expense of a water filter could never be borne by a government school, many of which are located in remote areas and run on shoestring resources. So I begin with my research and there I decided to form the startup NirNal for clean water with cost-effective filter technology,” he said.

In many places in India or across the world, safe or pure drinking water is a big concern for most of the people. Niranjan Karagi came up with the revolutionary idea of a cost-effective filter for those staying in rural areas and envisioned to tap this social problem as an opportunity.

As an engineer, Niranjan Karagi said he was always told to innovate and execute. Since this problem came to his mind, he was thinking of a solution that was feasible nor innovative.

“I had to come up with something of my own. Something cost effective that fits in well to solve the pertinent and widespread problem of contaminated water. The NirNal Water Filter, a reusable water bottle with an integrated disposal filter was born,” said the entrepreneur from Belgaum.

Starting with the development of multiple prototypes since 2016, Niranjan Karagi journey to develop the NirNal Water Filter was full of challenges.

“NirNal Water Filter is a cartridge-based filter that uses Nano-composite technology to filter dust particles (up to 5 microns) and bacteria up to 99.9%. A basic version of the filter costs Rs 30 and it can be fit on any regular PET bottle and can filter up to 100 litres of contaminated water. Our first prototype was distributed to almost over 15000 students in government schools across Maharashtra and Karnataka,” said Niranjan Karagi.

Social impact

Till date, the startup supplied over 2,00,000 Portable Water Filter to the government school, farmers and labourers in Northern Karnataka and western Maharashtra. There was an overwhelming response from all the stakeholders and users.

”The unprecedented response towards NirNal Water Filter is substantially justified, especially with respect to its wider social impact. It does not consume electricity, does not waste a drop of water, utilises existing PET bottles for reuse, and is cheap.” reiterates Niranjan Karagi.

Besides schools and villagers, the company also supplied filters to Indian Army, CRPF Commando& INS Vikramaditya. Recently, NirNal Water Filters were given during the Assam and Karnataka floods. He also pointed out that due to the social media coverage, NirNal Water Filte got queries from all around the globe and also given it to Africa, Singapore, Indonesia, Qatar, USA and many other neighbouring countries.

Over the course of two years, NirNal Water Filter is sold and distributed over 70,000 filters and also exported to more than eight countries.

Health care

The growth or scope of the startup can be assessed from the fact that the availability of safe drinking water is massive challenges for India. As per WHO report, 2000 people die every day in India due to lack of clean drinking water. It is a reality that people fall ill due to lack of clean water and spend a lot of money on health care.

“It is found that India’s water purifier market is expected to reach $4.1 billion by the end of 2024 as compared to $1.1 billion in 2015, according to the report of the US-based Transparency Market Research (TMR). We are already working variants on 6 different variants of the filter. But, the goal is to filter seawater into potable drinking water. That’s the goal and future plan,” he said.

Major players in India include Eurekaforbes, Tata, Clean Pani, Water-to-Go and Lifestraw. But here Niranjan Karagi highlights the fact cost of competition product price is Rs.1000- 500 per filter cartridge along-with custom made Bottle-Market Segment. The key differentiator of NirNal Water Filter is that it is Rs. 450/- per Filter Cartridge along with the flexibility to fit into any PET bottle for both rural and urban segment.

Niranjan Karagi made it clear that there is no threat of competition for NirNal Water Filter products in India as it is environment-friendly, cost-effective easy to use.

Innovation challenge

After forming the startup, Niranjan Karagi didn’t raise funds but got grants from various companies and government institutions. These grants include Lead Talaash- Deshpande Foundation, ELEVATE 100 of Government of Karnataka, Social change & Enterprises conducted by Azim Premji Foundation, Jagriti sustainable enterprise Award from COCA-COLA(Asia), 3M-CII Young innovation challenge National Award at Indian innovation summit, FKCCI- Manthan conducted by Govt. of Karnataka and Startup India For social Change award.

With a mission to make potable water accessible to millions of human beings across the globe, Niranjan Karagi says there is a huge gap between the prevailing regulatory environment and what entrepreneurs are expecting from the government to improve the business.

“We need to ensure support for all industry sectors, not just those which are considered just high-tech. Encourage growth across all industry sectors including low, mid and high-tech firms by providing contract work to low, mid sector private Companies. It will help in building a new entrepreneurial culture,” said Niranjan Karagi.

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