We all buy water in bubble tops. Is the water pure? More importantly, how good are the cans?
Who knows? There is no way to find out.
No, wait a minute. A Chennai-based start-up, Bookwater, has methods to ensure that when you buy a can of water, you know exactly its quality, when it was filled and how many times the can was used. All you need to do is to scan the can’s QR code, which, by the way, is produced by Bookwater’s associates.
Founded by brothers, Balachander and Bharath, Bookwater has one more pitch to its customers: cheaper water. Twenty litres of water sells for ₹55, including GST. ‘We are 100 per cent tax compliant,” says Balachander.
Balachander is an environmental engineer, and Bharat is an electronics man.
Drinking water is a big business. Billed drinking water sales amount to $25 billion annually in India, but when was the last time anyone gave you a receipt for the water you bought? The business is much larger than the estimated figure; as such, there is a heavy revenue leakage.
Bookwater, started in 2020, aims to address the twin problems of providing verifiably clean drinking water and ensuring that the government gets its due revenue. Its process starts right at the stage of manufacture of cans. Its associate buys only virgin PET from petrochemical companies and manufacturers the cans, distinguished by their blue tinge. Each can gets a QR code.
The cans are designed so that they do not develop tiny crevices in which algae can form. In conventional cans, notes Balachander, algal culture happens naturally when exposed to sunlight.
Then the cans travel to the filling stations at Mangadu and Kelambakkam in Chennai. (Two more are to be added soon.) Controllers developed in-house and produced by 3D printing measure for the quality of water of each batch. On arrival at home, you can scan the QR code to know when and where the water was filled and what kind of water it is. If the QR code is not there on a Bookwater can, you don’t buy it.
Furthermore, after a can is used 30 times, it is sold off—to those who make T-shirts from PET.
Bookwater’s next step is to bring enriched water, either alkaline or re-mineralised. In response to a question, they said that the start-up had raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding and that many investors were keen on taking equity.