January 29, 2019

How Jival Revolutionized Drinking Water Business In Udaipur – Interview With Yves Suter

Water is a basic need for everyone and getting clean Drinking Water is not only important for our health but it is also a common basic right. However water is also a substance which can get contaminated very easily just by the way it’s handled or you can say, mishandled.

Providing Drinking Water campers to commercial premises like shops and offices on daily basis is one of the very widespread businesses in Udaipur, there are hundreds of local water suppliers who have their own water treatment and purification plants and logistics to supply campers.

Among all of them, Jival is one such brand which essentially revolutionized the pure drinking water concept in Udaipur with its strong vision, clear objective and innovative approach.

Founded by three friends from Switzerland who got in love with Udaipur during their causal journey, Jival is now one of the most #PromisingBrands in Udaipur and its popularity is now also spreading across the region.

How the founders Yves Suter, Pascal Ribboni and Patrick Schlatter fascinated by the vast and diverse culture in India and started Jival in Udaipur? How and why people trusted Jival more? And what is the future of Jival?

I got opportunity to ask all these questions to Yves, one of the co founders and also CEO of Jival. Below are the excerpts from the interview with Yves Suter on how Jival changed drinking water prospect in Udaipur.

How Jival started?

Yves – The idea of Jival started all the way back in 2013 with a lecture at the University of St. Gallen. The three co-founders, Yves Suter, Pascal Riboni and Patrick Schlatter have attended a lecture about India held by Dr. Roger Moser (University of St. Gallen & IIM-U).

Fascinated by the vast and diverse culture in India we decided to travel India for a few weeks and actually experience what we have learned and read about this vast country. Our journey took us from several metro-cities (Mumbai, Delhi & Bangalore) to smaller cities such as Jodhpur and Udaipur.

We were overwhelmed with impressions and immediately fell in love with India and especially Udaipur. Aside from the cultural shock that we certainly experienced we realized that the drinking water situation (in all the cities we visited) was terrible and most people did not have access to clean and high quality drinking water – we were astonished how many times during our short trip we were faced with the problem to get quality drinking water resp. how many times we were told by various people that they are extremely unsatisfied with the quality of the drinking water they consume. While we were heading back to Switzerland to continue our studies, we were left with immense fascination for India and its people who, throughout our journey have approached us with kindness and offered hospitality wherever we went.

These shocking contrasts to the daily struggle for quality drinking water left us determine to do something about it. With a small team of students from IIM-U we started researching and visiting the different water vendors in Udaipur (total over 100 visits) back in 2014 – it was shocking to see the low quality of drinking water a majority of these vendors were selling to unaware customers (privates and corporates) – people were paying for clean drinking water, while in most cases the water was untreated, poorly treated without any emphasis on hygiene.

The decision was made: We will finish our studies, return to Udaipur (the city we fell in love with) and will bring quality drinking water that the people can afford. Since then 3 years have passed, we have permanently settled in Udaipur and having been building Jival to one of the leading water suppliers having several thousand Udaipurites trusting the quality of our product.

 

Drinking water camper was already an established business sector in Udaipur, what new and innovative idea you had which attracted the customer?

Yves-Even though there are close to 100 water vendors in Udaipur it is difficult to call it an established business sector considering the quality of water that is provided and hygiene practices that are followed – and that holds true all over India (not just Udaipur).

We have professionalized the entire operations (production & delivery) in order to be able to provide bottled water quality at the market rate of local camper water. We employ state-of-the-art purifications systems, have only food grade stainless-steel piping / storage tanks and use a fully “no-touch” automatic filling line – making sure that the water cannot be adulterated at any point in production & filling.

Our campers and bottles are thoroughly cleaned after each delivery – we pressure wash each vessel with product water (filtered water) and sterilize the campers further with UV-light before they are refilled. The only reason we have been able to maintain the high level of quality is through the number of campers we daily supply – with our Enterprise-Resource-Planning Software we are able plan and handle thousands of daily deliveries, which in turn enables us, despite very low margins to offer drinking water without any compromise in quality.

It is actually a quiet simple calculation – water vendors that only supply around 300 campers daily (which constitutes the majority of the water vendors) do not generate enough revenue to employ quality purification systems, maintain the machinery and have expensive quality controls in place to ensure ongoing high level of product quality and service – the logical consequence for them is to heavily compromise in the quality of their product / service (i.e. not filtering the water, using unfiltered ice to chill the water, not employing enough labour for the cleaning process of the vessels, etc.).

In other words, the idea was simply to reliably provide high quality drinking water without any compromise, offer a high service level and charge low prices that are comparable to the local vendors that do not follow proper hygiene practices – in theory it sounds quite simple, the reality on the ground looks a little different!

What are the challenges you faced in the initial days and how you solved it?

Yves -We had numerous challenges – one of the main challenges was that we first had to get accustomed to how business is done in India resp. Udaipur.

A lot of people initially tried to take advantage of us, and tried to capitalize on our unawareness coming from Switzerland. Fortunately, after spending more than 3 years here we have built a very strong support/network locally as well as on national level that keeps on guiding and helping us. We are lucky to have friends and neighbors that have selflessly supported us in whatever situation we have gone through and they literally have become our family!

Another challenge was handling the rapid customer growth and keep the service level high. Due to the high quality of drinking water we had an overwhelming response from the people of Udaipur – growing this fast has been challenging at times. Imagine getting 40-50 new customers a day! Every new customer had to be accommodated on routes that were already running at their full capacity. However, it has showed us our limits and thanks to the loyalty and continuous feedback of our customers, we are able to keep improving.

As a matter of fact we are hoping to release a customer application for mobile phones very soon that will drastically ease the ordering process and improve the communication between us and our customers!

 

Where you see Jival in next 5 years?

Yves -After being fully established in Udaipur we are looking to scale our concept across India – there are already numerous requests from people and government officials in other cities inviting us to offer our services in their hometowns – as previously mentioned, the water problem we are currently solving in Udaipur you can find in every city of the country. I hope that 5 years down the line we have made a significant positive contribution to the health of millions and that our efforts result in a sustainable change of how drinking water is perceived, valued and consumed in India.

What message you want to give to young entrepreneurs of Udaipur?

Yves -Being an entrepreneur is extremely difficult – building a company does not happen overnight. Trust in your team and yourself, be patient and persistent and keep going even in times when it seems there is no way out – but know better times will come! There is a famous saying I like: “Nothing worth having comes easy!” Moreover, appreciate and listen to your customers – without them, there is no you! Listen to feedback as often as possible, take it seriously and act on improving it (even if it takes time to do so).

Feedback can be hurtful at times, especially if you’re trying your level best to live up to your customer’s expectations, but you should embrace it as feedback is a great source for improvement and opportunity.

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