Stage: Alpha (prototype)
Number of employees: 6-15
Profitable year: 2014
Short URL: vator.co/aquanation
Co-founder, AquaNation, Inc.
Description and Executive Summary
AquaNation is a social enterprise that provides safe, sustainable, cost effective, presanitized drinking water solutions to coastal regions in developing countries. We provide scalable opportunities through the marriage of novel technology and an innovative business model that provides a clean source of water in developing nations.
Water scarcity plagues most of the world and seems to transcend the demographics of developed or developing nations. People living below the poverty line cannot pay the premium to access clean, drinking water and consequentially, have to suffer loss of employment productivity in search of water and ill-health in women and children. This is compounded by the fact that water sanitization through boiling is many times a costly procedure, frequently ignored by people in developing nations.
AquaNation is based on a sustainable business model with an integrated commercial and social double bottom line. We use proven and commercially available Seawater Reverse Osmosis (SWRO) desalination technology in conjunction with renewable energy resources to ensure that our plants don’t feed off the grid. AquaNation presents socially conscious investors with the opportunity to derive large financial returns as well as significant social returns. Social returns on investment include improved health conditions, job opportunities and infrastructure growth. AquaNation demonstrates a robust model adaptable across the developing world.
We will establish a proof-of-concept plant in Pakistan, following which we will expand in India, and grow in destinations across the world. Our pilot project will be built in Port Qasim Authority near Karachi, Pakistan representing the right demographic that will benefit from AquaNation and provides access to a huge urban market.
The AquaNation team consists of a mix of individuals with a variety of entrepreneurial experience in technology, product development and development of both business and social organizations. AquaNation requires an initial investment of $250,000, and will incur annual operational and total maintenance costs of $50,000. Part of this investment will come through subsidized loans from the manufacturer of the SWRO plants that AquaNation is looking to install and use. The initial annual revenues are projected at approximately $225,000, and after breakeven, revenues from a single plant grow to $500,000 in 5 years that will be used to invest on future plants.
Srihari Yamanoor is a social entrepreneur and a cofounder at AquaNation. A
mechanical engineer, he brings immense experience in entrepreneurship, business planning and engineering to the foray. Srihari will work with the US team, and lead fundraising, technology transfer and business expansion. Srihari has co-founded gresuccess, an online organization aimed at helping prospective graduate students through the application process. In addition, he has been involved with award winning social enterprises and has consulted for startups in robotics and online group management.
Srihari is currently the in-house water and energy expert at AquaNation and is glad to answer any questions on technology or business aspects.
2. Rahul Zutshi
Currently situated in the U.S. Capital, Rahul has been with AquaNation through its
inception. He leads efforts on fundraising and growth partnership activities. Rahul holds a Bachelors in Business Economics from the University of California at Riverside. For the past several years, Rahul has worked as a business analyst and growth consultant where he has developed strong expertise in strategy development, project management, growth consulting methodologies, market research, forecasting, technical and business communication along with business development. Rahul has a truly global perspective, having worked in different geographies and also from his travels for work to different countries throughout Asia and Europe. Rahul’s versatility and results oriented nature has been evident in the leadership positions he has held at a start up, small to medium sized business, nationally recognized public firm and leading international growth consulting company.
3 Abbas Zaidi
Abbas Zaidi is a co-founder at AquaNation with a vast experiential background. He is currently focused on establishing our Pakistan operations after opportunities in Pakistan pulled him there a month ago. A resident of the Bay Area, he plans to move to Karachi and run Pakistan operations locally. His extended trip to Pakistan is proving useful in identifying partners and potential team members / collaborators who have experience in getting things done in Pakistan. Having connected with the local government, he is working to establish relationships that will be invaluable to Aquanation’s success. Abbas has immense experience in technical and business communication, all of which is he is bringing to building a bridge between AquaNation and our business
4. Sabahat Ashraf
Sabahat Ashraf is a communicator and co-founder at AquaNation. Sabahat's
engagements and interests range across social, business, marketing and technical communication, and include media projects, both "old media" and online/social media. He was part of the founding team of SystemGuru, an IT Consulting and staffing firm. Corporate branding achievements have included naming (besides SystemGuru Inc.) three Silicon Valley companies of which one is now a leader in monetizing usergenerated mobile media through social networking. He continues to advise individuals, businesses and non-profits on their communication and business planning needs and has also participated in other business plan competitions with a modicum of success. Sabahat has a Master's in Technical Communication and a Bachelor's in Computer Systems Engineering.
5. Irfan Ali Khan
Irfan Ali Khan has been a co-founder of AquaNation, right from it’s inception and is working on both the US team with fundraising, and with recruiting team members, partners, advisors and other stakeholders in Pakistan. Irfan Ali Khan, a budding serial entrepreneur is currently a post-doctoral student at Stanford University’s BioX program. He has worked on product development at the D. School. At Stanford, he has enriched himself with entrepreneurship and business development experience, which he actively brings to AquaNation. Irfan has a PhD in Physics from the University of Rochester.
Seawater Reverse Osmosis (SWRO) desalination technology is a mature technology that has been successfully adapted in several countries including the US, Israel, Singapore and India. SWRO has also been successfully used in the Caribbean Islands and other locations where water supply is quite scarce. SWRO provides cost benefits over other technologies.
In it’s simplest form, SWRO uses organic resins to remove 99.8% of all salts, bacteria and contaminants and provides clean, distilled water at the other end, which goes well beyond the acceptable standards of drinking water across the planet. The water is safe and tastes like drinking water arising from clean sources.
Solving the energy problem
Reverse Osmosis is energy intensive and this is where AquaNation will tie in a renewable energy source to make sure we don’t feed energy off a main grid, which will compound our dependence on infrastructure.
Once the water passes through the resin, some post-treatment is required to remove contaminants that typically fall out of the spectrum of reverse osmosis. The brine concentrate is used to recover some of the energy that is fed back into the incoming water. It could also be made available for other commercial applications.
AquaNation will install and operate a specific scale of Seawater Reverse Osmosis (SWRO) desalination plants to address drinking water needs in local communities and commercial markets. The operational model of AquaNation is geared towards horizontal scalability through smaller, optimally sized installations.
AquaNation will follow a horizontal scaling model in solving the water problems of a specific region. RO plants have a specific capacity, so scaling by capacity is not an effective option and will take quite an amount of expense and effort. Instead, a plan will be drawn considering several factors to accommodate for the current and future water needs of a community and established accordingly. With a chain of plants running coast to coast, AquaNation will be well positioned to serve coastal communities in Pakistan and other developing nations. Where permissible, we will also establish plants that desalinate inland brackish water.
AquaNation will not invest in building any major water supply infrastructure. We will partner with local governments and communities and provide advice. Before we establish a plant, we expect the local government to build, repair and maintain the infrastructure. We will need this commitment to establish our plant.
A detailed distribution plan is available in a later section. Our basic distribution plan is to feed the water back to the main supply and let the local government distribute the water per their plans. This way, AquaNation can stay out of any local politics. AquaNation will store excess capacity and feed back into the system or sell the water.
AquaNation plans to use renewable energy sources to drive plant operations. This is a unique value proposition, which is catching up in nations where renewable energy is already used, but AquaNation will be bringing this value addition directly into Pakistan.
The revenue model will be modified based on the approach local governments take to providing drinking water access to rural populations. AquaNation will pay attention to sensitivities toward the politics, policies and demand and supply dynamics surrounding water in each region. Alongside the financial plan, our revenues are listed. AquaNation will accrue revenues from day 1 of operations. At very conservative estimates of $120,000 per year, a given AquaNation plant will break-even beyond the 5th year. Over the course of time, we plan to increase our operational efficiencies and bring down the break-even period significantly.
Competitive Advantage for AquaNation
AquaNation is not in the act of innovating and creating new technology. We are
innovating through the establishment of a unique business model that is nimble and adaptive. Here are some of the unique advantages that AquaNation provides:
1. The introduction of renewable energy to the backend of the business model is
something very unique in Pakistan. This makes plant operations sustainable, keeps AquaNation independent of the grid, and where feasible, introduces a new source of income for the business.
2. AquaNation is building relationships and partnerships, through our current team members and advisors. These partnerships go beyond the local governments and business leaders and include the local community. Through traditional and social media, we hope to involve the communities very deeply in the decision making process and gain their trust and confidence. This, in conjunction with our being first in class will help us succeed.
3. AquaNation is a for-profit, standalone organization, and not a government
“project”. This ensures success because our objectives are aligned with the need to satisfy the customer and provide them with sustainable water solutions. We plan to work without compromising on the fundamentals of a sound business, while keeping environment friendliness a primary goal.
4. With a team in the US, and another specifically focused on Pakistan, AquaNation can provide attention to both emerging technologies and ground realities. This will also allow our foray into new markets and higher returns for our customers.