Innovation by young minds can go a long way in solving everyday problems effectively, proves young engineers Anto P. Biju and Thomas Cyriac, with a water purifier technology that is cheap and easily accessible to all
According to the 2018 report of The Water Gap –Water Aid’s State of the World’s Water, a whopping 844 million in the world are deprived of safe and clean drinking water and 19% of them reside in India.
Access to safe drinking water has always been a grave problem, the reasons being water pollution, lack of eficient sewage management and growing industrialization.
One of the two victims to such a sad state of affairs were Mr. Anto P Biju and Mr. Thomas Cyriac from Palai town of Kerala. In 2017, when they were on a day-trip, they were given dirty water when they asked for drinking water.
Being engineering students at St Joseph’s College of Engineering and Technology, Anto and Thomas worked on inventions to solve everyday problems. And, here was an opportunity for them to try out something new. Their effort to innovate to find a solution for poor quality water being supplied to people was a pen—one that could detect the elements in the water.
Place the pen in the water and it will list water impurities and comment on whether it is consumable. Though their innovation was appreciated by all, they faced an unsettling question after the product was displayed at an innovation competition organized by the Kerala Startup Mission—they could still not provide a solution for impurities that made water not for drinking.
“Once we designed the special pen, we realised that it wasn’t solving the problem of impurities in water, but only identifying it. We needed to build something more solid. So we embarked on another project,” says Anto.
The duo worked rigorously for nearly two years building a prototype, while balancing their academics. As many as 200 variations of water purifiers were designed and rejected over several sleepless nights, all the while reaching out to experts and putting in a lot of hard work.
Help finally came from scientists at the Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology in Bhubaneswar, who helped the two friends to come up with mini-cartridges that could filter impure water using activated carbon.
In 2018, Anto and Thomas, both 21, officially registered their startup ‘Lamaara Technologies Private Ltd’. With this, their product was now ready to be introduced in the market. They received seed funding of Rs 2 lakh from the Kerala Startup Mission to develop the product.
How does it work?
The water purifier is an indigenous technology, with the size of an index finger that filters harmful microorganisms. Pores that act as micro-reservoirs are fixed over a disc inside the cartridge. It eliminates foul smell, harmful metals and colour from the water.
Moreover, the technology adds minerals that improve the immune system. The result is water that is safe for drinking, according to the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), the quality certification agency that works under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Government of India.
What makes their silicon bottle different from others is the water filter cartridge. The bottle has an in-built organic filter at the centre-bottom, at the base. Its job is the same as the previously built water filter– to remove all impurities. They have named it iBo or ‘Intelligent Bottle’.
It has a three-layer filtration system that consist of a mineral add-on feature that will add minerals to the water and make it slightly alkaline, so that it is beneficial for the health of the customer. The alkalinity of the water has the potential to kill viruses. All one has to do is to fill the bottle with any kind of water and the purifier will provide safe drinking water within minutes! The bottle is priced at Rs. 600.
The student startup has developed different versions of the bottle.
The alpha version comes with an application that is linked with the bottle. On filling the bottle, the app will show the ingredients or matter present in the water. The user can also fill in personal details like Body Mass Index, based on which the app will remind the user to drink water to avoid dehydration.
The beta version is the stainless steel bottle that is foldable, thus eliminating issues of space and weight.
Creating a social impact
The duo developed the technology around the time of Kerala Floods of 2018 and it was put to test during the devastating event. They are a company that aims to provide affordable clean drinking water for all and have patented their filter technology which, they say, can be used in both large industries and households. Unlike RO filters, these filters have zero water wastage and consumes less power and is easy to maintain. Their filter eliminates 99.9% of all microorganisms, turbidity, hardness, chemicals, colour, taste and odour from the water. It also adds minerals and maintains the pH concentration in the water. It has an amazing life of up to three years. This product is estimated to have a huge market potential globally.
Several people showed interest in purchasing their product, as the news about their initiative spread, with funding offers pouring in. With an investment of Rs. 4.5crore, they were able to develop more such water purifiers and are currently working on multiple projects. So far, the startup has sold more than 200 water purifiers in the State, besides the ones donated during the floods.
The Way Forward
Keeping their grade up and working on the product hasn’t been easy for the two friends. But every failure has been a stepping stone to success. “One of the lessons they learnt en route was to develop an efficient team or to outsource the work. “We had received an order of one lakh purifiers from a reputed bank, but we were unable to meet such huge demand due to logistic bottlenecks. So, from then, we have outsourced the manufacturing process. Now our plan is to work on cartridge purifiers that will come in various sizes and capacities. Consumers will be able to fit these in their taps, bottles, and containers and that will help in the horizontal spread of our technology,” say they two friends. -CP News and Features