India File

It’s money on tap for water players

Rashmi Pratap | Updated on July 16, 2018 Published on July 16, 2018

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There are 5,735 licensed bottlers for packaged drinking water across India, alongside uncountable unbranded ones. In a country where disposable incomes are rising as much as the awareness about clean drinking water, the packaged water industry is growing at nearly 15 per cent every year. As the government has failed to provide clean drinking water at all places, private players have not just filled the gap but also created a robust business. In fact, it is worth considering whether the availability of packaged drinking water has contributed to a public apathy towards keeping water bodies and aquifers in good shape.

While there is no standard market size for packaged drinking water, industry players peg it at ₹8,000 crore. “There are conflicting views on the industry size because the quantum of unlicensed brands is huge. There are over 3,000 unbranded players in NCR itself,” says Tushar Trivedi, founder of www.bottledwaterindia.org, a web portal that provides information about the industry.

Bisleri, the largest selling packaged water brand in India, has 120 bottling plants. The other major players are Pepsi’s Aquafina, Coca-Cola’s Kinley, Himalayan and Kingfisher. The 5,735 licensed brands are registered with the Bureau of Indian Standards.

The industry is growing rapidly as people spend a large part of their time outside homes and prefer to purchase 20-litre bulk packages of water for home use rather than installing water purifiers. They also travel a lot more than before. “People don’t want to carry water as it is available everywhere, even in the smallest of shops, including in rural India,” says Bisleri International chairman Ramesh Chauhan.

The rise and growth of the packaged water industry is also partly attributable to the government’s inability to provide safe drinking water at public places like railway stations. “The government is now putting up small purification plants at stations itself where one can get a bottle filled for ₹5. It is a huge market,” says Trivedi. These water ATMs can be seen at Delhi Metro stations and railway stations in Delhi, Chennai and some other places.

Reducing wastage

While the industry is growing briskly, packaged water companies are also wasting a lot of water, which can be put to alternate uses. Packaged water is drilled from the ground and then processed at plants, during which only 66 per cent of water is used and the rest is wasted due to reverse osmosis. “This saline water can be used by the construction industry or for watering plants. Right now, it is wasted,” points out Trivedi.Moreover, pet bottles used in packaging water also find their way into the stomachs of animals besides polluting land and water.

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Published on July 16, 2018
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