Cos smell mega bucks in water market

Mandatory CSR clause to attract more investments into industry.

Hyderabad: The $30-billion Indian water market is languishing for lack of skilled managers and investment by corporates. The latter shy away from investing in this sector because the business model is not easily scalable and the industry is dogged by challenges.

The governments world over also still continue to neglect the problem of drinking water availability to its people despite health and sanitation being one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the United Nations to be achieved across the world.

According to Vikas Shah, chief operating officer, Water Health India (WHI), business persons want to invest. “But, dealing with the challenges in this market and making it scalable and profitable is very tough. This requires expertise and simultaneously, one has to make it affordable and sustainable,” he said.

Interestingly, water shortage also affects businesses. “Nearly 60 per cent of the employees said that non-availability of water is impacting their business. Sectors like pharmaceuticals, power, food processing and agriculture feel the brunt of poor water quality,” a survey of corporates by the FICCI said.

Pointing at the dire need for drinking water services and investments in India, Shah said this industry requires investments because water is as important to us as food is.

“Hence, we have opened funding to corporates (via Corporate Social Responsibility), philanthropists and commercial funds while their projects will partly be supported by the local governments (which call for tenders),” he added.

Water Health International sees most of its funding from the corporates via CSR and philanthropy, MShah said, adding the mandatory 2 per cent clause for corporates on Corporate Social Responsibility could boost investments into the sector.

The new Companies Act mandates corporates to spend two per cent of their total profits on corporate social responsibility such as social work.

Meanwhile, state-owned companies are already mandated to spend between 0.5 to 5 per cent of profits on social welfare projects.

With WHI, the company has made drinking water accessible to about 5 million people globally and hopes to take this to 100 million by 2020.

( Source : dc )
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