India is blessed with good and reasonably well-distributed rainfall for over 5-6 months annually, averaging 1170mm – but this varies widely from region to region, with desert areas of Rajasthan getting just about 100mm to a whopping 11,000mm in Cherrapunji.  Out of the total available 4,000 billion m3/yr of sweet-water, 1,047 billion m3 is lost to evaporation, transpiration and run-off, reducing available sweet-water to 1,953 billion m3 and usable water to a mere 1,123 billion m3.  Indeed it is quite a disturbing situation that just 18% of rainwater is used effectively, while 48% enters the riverine system and drains into the ocean.  Of the total usable water, surface water accounts for 728 billion m3 and replenishable ground water contributes to 395 billion m3.  As against this source of supply, water consumption in 2006 was 829 billion m3, which is expected to rise to an 1,093 billion m3 by 2025.   Considering that the potential for increasing the water utilisation volume is hardly 5-10%, India is bound to face a severe scarcity of water in the near future.

While water for consumption is of paramount importance, it is equally crucial that water is provided for irrigation to increase food production and livestock husbandry, if we are to ensure food security for the masses.  Our exponentially growing population is a serious concern, as it will create a further onus on the per capita availability of water in the future.

PER CAPITA WATER AVAILABILITY IN INDIA
YEAR POPULATION (MILLION) PER CAPITA WATER AVAILABILITY (m3 /Yr)
1951 361 5177
1955 395 4732
1991 846 2209
2001 1027 1820
2025 1394 1341
2050 1640 1140

Source: Government of India, 2009. 

As evidenced by this data, the per capita water availability will drop down to 1341 m3 by 2025 and further to 1140 m3 in 2050.  Based on the average requirement of water for various purposes, when per capita water availability falls into a range of 1,000 to 1,700 m3/yr, the situation is considered as a ‘water stress’ condition and it when the availability reduces to 1000 m3/yr, it is deemed a ‘water scarcity’ condition.  With water available within the country varying widely as a result of rainfall, ground water reserves and proximity to river basins, most Indian States will reach the water stress condition by 2020 and water scarcity situation by 2025.

In India, we have a scenario where over 85% of all available freshwater resources are used for irrigation, and about 10% consumed by industrial units, for municipal use and in construction projects.  That leaves a mere 5% of India’s freshwater resources to meet drinking water needs of its burgeoning population.  Moreover, the quality of this freshwater resource is so suspect, that one study estimates that a whopping 70% of all maladies in India are ascribable to water-borne diseases.

On the positive side, at least during the past decade, access to drinking water for the Indian population has seen considerable improvement.  Yet, one bane that underscores the data put out by the study cited above is the overall poor quality of the water available to rural, semi- and peri-urban populaces and even the water supplied to metropolitan customers by the civic authorities.  Increasing awareness about water-borne diseases, rising disposable incomes, mounting urbanization and low penetration levels are exceedingly contributing to a growing demand for water purifiers in India to deal with water quality, transforming the water purifier industry at a rather brisk rate. On top of that, technological advancements and innovation as well as intense competitive pressures are also playing a key role in significantly altering the depth of the purifier market.

According to the “India Water Purifier Market Outlook, 2021”, the sector grew at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.24% over the past five years. Based on technology, the market is divided into RO, UV and off-line water purifiers, with the RO purifiers dominating the market in 2014, followed by UV filters and gravity based off-line purifiers according to sales revenues. While RO purifiers are the costliest among all the three technologies, rising awareness about its advantage over other purifiers is making it increasingly popular.  Eureka Forbes and Kent dominate this category, with both at striking distance of one another, trying hard to stay ahead through innovation and after sales service.  On the other hand, water purifiers with UV technology are fast declining due to less innovation while off-line water purifiers that require no electricity to purify water are seen as the future of industry and expected to grow at a very rapid pace, given the crippling power deficits most of India experiences.  This segment is also a key focus area for water purifier manufacturers, given the vast target customer base it offers.  Presently combinations of UV, ultrafiltration (UF) and RO systems are also available in the market.

 

The market in India is expected to see a tremendous growth at a CAGR of around 23% during 2016-21. The primary driver for this growth being the increasing awareness about drinking untreated water.  Most of drinking water sources in India contain high levels of toxic materials, due mainly to spillage of heavy industrial waste and agricultural activities using high levels of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.  Lead is the most common toxic material found in drinking water that can cause brain and nerve damage.  Nearly 67% of Indian households do not treat drinking water apart from relying on boiled water.  All these factors are expected to boost the growth of water purifier market in the region.

Competition among vendors in the market is centred on quality, durability, type of purifier, price sensitivity and the after-sales service. The top 5 vendors in the market are:

Other prominent vendors in the market include 3M, Adhunik, Apex, Aquafresh, Expert, Filmtech, Godrej, Kelvinator Quanta, Krona Liquetac, LG Electronics, Livpure Pep Plus, Mannya Grand Plus, Nasaka Xtra, Okaya, Own, Panasonic, Propello Uno, Sajal, Secure Water Purifier, Ventair, and Whirlpool.  The market for water purifiers in India may be segmented by product type as follows:

RO based water purifiers lead the home water purifier market with a share of nearly 53%, and is predicted to witness and even larger growth.  Competition in the market sector is intense with even small brands providing high-quality products at much lower prices. Manufacturers are today investing heavily in branding initiatives with a view to increasing their consumer base.  Kent RO Systems for instance launched the ‘Save Water Campaign’ in 2014, which created a massive impact on consumers and propelled the growth of Kent RO purifiers.  Kent, among the first in India to come up with RO filters, is extremely active in media, spending copious amounts on advertising – to educate potential customers, create awareness, and achieve customer acceptance of a product.  To give the devil its due, Kent ought to be duly credited for promoting the RO category in a big way, and literally building up that segment single handedly.  Kent also has other products like water softeners for washing machines and a water treatment product that is widely being promoted.

There are large region-wise variances in demand and consumption patterns, as is evidenced by the segmentation of the water purifier market in India by region.  Based on region, northern India is of great importance to domestic water purifier manufacturers as it accounts for the highest revenues sales, closely followed by Western and Southern India.  Maharashtra is reported to have the highest water purifier sales in the country, followed by Delhi. According to forecasts, the western region of India comprising Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra account for nearly 40% of the market share, followed by the northern region. (Source: Technavio, 2015)

The key market trend that manifests itself in this sector is ‘innovation.’  The sector, being highly price sensitive and competition among leading vendors intense, manufacturers are investing in product innovation through technology to attract consumers. Eureka Forbes for instance launched a mobile water purification system costing around 600 rupees in 2014 – the sipper shaped purifier is handy and provides 99% protection against harmful organisms.

For the year 2015-16, the overall market for water purifiers in India is said to be approximately worth INR 5,000 Cr.  This market is today growing at a CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) of about 25% and is largely driven by rising sales of low-cost variants triggered by extreme shortage of drinking-water and a dwindling water table.  What’s more, it is now estimated that the sales of water purifiers across India is likely to cross the 1.5 Crore mark by end 2016.

To conclude, while India is not by any reckoning a water deficit country, several regions of the country experience water stress from time to time, due to abject apathy and neglect of water resources development projects, not to mention the lack of monitoring.  Further neglect will indeed lead to severe levels of water scarcity during the next 1-2 decades.

Ergo, it is perforce necessary to immediately take steps if we are to prevent such a crisis.  To start with, we need to firstly make the best use of available technologies and resources to conserve existing water resources and convert them into an utilisable form.  Second, efforts must be made to revive all major water-bodies that have languished, shrinking and almost disappearing.  Thirdly, the much vaunted linking of rivers must be embarked upon with a political will that will augur well for a well-connected network of internal waterways, which will go a long way in the alleviation and mitigation of both kinds of water stress experienced by different regions of India – from floods that occur with regularity in eastern and north eastern India to the killer droughts experienced by central and western India.

And last but not least, the spiralling demand of a fast-growing population both urban and rural for sweet-water to satisfy the need for clean drinking water warrants a two-pronged approach – the promotion and revival of traditional water harvesting systems, methods and techniques; and the adoption of appropriate technologies to recycle and clean any type of available water into potable water.  While governments and administrative machinery at both the state and the centre are today grasped of this situation and efforts are on at all the levels suggested above, the urgency and pace of effort still leave a lot to be desired.  Private industry in India though has been canny enough to recognise this recipe for a disaster in the making for quite some time now, coming up with filters, appliances and technologies to purify water for meeting the drinking water needs of a diverse population, with products to suit every pocket and every type of input water.

 

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