Pi-lo water vending machines are making pure drinking water accessible and affordable to all. They are also attacking the plastic menace created by bottled water.
In 2011, when the massive anti-corruption protests led by Anna Hazare swept Delhi, city cleaners also had to sweep away thousands of plastic water bottles. While the protestors were on the roads shouting slogans throughout the day, they needed water to quench their thirst. But access to safe drinking water was a problem. The most convenient option was bottled water. For those who couldn’t afford these bottles priced at Rs 20 each, cheaply available water packets that are largely unsafe for consumption were the only source of water. The city had no other convenient and accessible public sources of drinking water. At the end of the day, many fell ill from drinking contaminated water and the plastic menace was revolting.
Vikas Malik was shocked to see this situation. He wanted to change the scenario and make safe drinking water accessible and affordable for all. With this vision, Vikas joined hands with his friends Jatin Ahlawat, Parveen Singh, Ajay Yadav, and Mohamad Yunus Ansari. “We are a team of engineers, automation experts, water technology experts and social workers. We decided that we will build drinking water ATMs – water vending machines that will dispense water that is purified using Reverse Osmosis (RO) technology at a cost that everyone can afford. With this intent we started Abhyuday Automation in 2013,” says Vikas.
After investing over two years in raising funds and building a robust technology, the team launched water vending machines called ‘Pi-lo’ in 2015.
Pi-lo dispenses pure, chilled water 24/7 at just Rs 2 for 250 ml and Rs 5 for one litre – four times cheaper than bottled water!
How is Pi-lo able to provide RO water at this price? Vivek Malik explains, “RO purified water is considered 100% pure for consumption. But the technology’s biggest downfall is the wastage. The usual rate of wastage in RO filters is as high as 40-50%. We decided on Zero Liquid Discharge technology, where 95% of the input water is made available for consumption. This helped us reduce the wastage cost. Then we decided that we will not spend any money on advertising. We decided to partner with public institutions and make our vending carts visibly available in public places. We also made sure that our water transportation cost is low by creating water source points across Delhi. All this helped us in keeping our pricing exceptionally low”.
As much as the team wanted to keep the cost low, they also were obsessed with the quality of water. Pi-lo has a real time water quality display, something that no one in the country is currently doing. Its built-in sensors check purity in terms of TDS (Total Dissolved Solids), temperature and ph level of water and display these for the users in real time. They have also made testing kits available at the kiosks for people to check the water quality for themselves. The kiosks display and distribute printed information about the standard water purity indicators to create awareness. “If the water quality is below the standards, Pi-lo just shuts down and will not dispense water. That’s how much we are obsessed with purity,” says Vikas.
Pi-lo stays away from plastic cups and bottles. Paper cups are made available and people are encouraged to bring their own bottles to fill water.
Pi-lo kiosks have also started to sell copper and clay water bottles, which are considered healthier alternatives to plastic bottles. Pi-lo wants people to completely shun the habit of using plastic bottles.
The Pi-lo vending machines are located at over 80 locations, including 28 metro stations in Delhi-NCR. These coin-based self-service kiosks dispense close to 10,000 litres of pure water every day. Pi-lo is coming soon to Hyderabad and Chennai metro stations too. Plans are afoot to make Pi-lo available in schools, communities, supermarkets, and train and bus stations too.
You can write to Pi-lo at firstname.lastname@example.org