Naandi – Right to clean drinking water

The Challenge

According to the WHO, 84% of Indians who don’t have access to improved water and sanitation live in rural communities. As per the latest Millennium Development Goals review by the UN; out of the 35 Indian states, only 7 have achieved full coverage of having a protected water source for their villages. Ground water in most cities and over 19,000 villages contains fluorides, nitrates, pesticides etc. beyond the permissible limits. Quality of drinking water thus continues to be a concern and this is reflected by the fact that about 21% of communicable diseases are water borne and 75% of water related deaths are that of children below five years. [1]

Naandi Community Water Services and its objective

Naandi Foundation is one of the largest and fastest growing social sector organizations in India working towards eradicating poverty. Established on  November 1, 1998, Naandi’s mission is to build alliances between state governments, corporates and civil society to create and implement innovative strategies for improving the quality of life of the underserved communities. In 2003, Naandi Foundation began its journey to provide safe drinking water with a single mission to provide rural communities with access to safe, potable drinking water.  Rather than relying on an external organization for implementation, Naandi set up an implementation organization, Naandi Community Water Services (NCWS) in 2010.

Naandi Community Water Services installs and operates water centers that reliably and cost-effectively address water contamination issues. Currently NCWS provides safe water to over 400 villages in 5 states – Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. A dedicated team of 585 people makes NCWS the largest and most experienced community water centre operator in India.

Business Model

Naandi Community Water Services’ model is based on a tripartite partnership between a local community, a donor and the entity itself. The roles defined in the partnership are:

The community represented by the Gram Panchayat provides:

  • A suitable location in the village for the installation of treatment facility
  • A reliable water source
  • The power connection for capacity required by the plant
  • Support Naandi in its social activities in creating awareness
  • Support Naandi in collection of user fee and  managing the plant

The Donor provides:

  • Funding for the fixed cost of the project which covers the building, plant and machinery, storage, installation and  commissioning, initial survey, community mobilisation and other connected expenses
  • Funding for the deficit in the operation and maintenance costs

Naandi acts as the project manager. It takes responsibility for :

  • Selection of a suitable location
  • Installation of the water center,
  •  Efficient operation of the water centre
  •  Quality of water – ensures that output water meets national standards at all times
  • The operating and maintenance costs of the system. Naandi collects affordable user fees (Rs. 0.20 to 0.25 per liter or Rs. 4 to 5 per 20 liter- can, depending on the level of water contamination) which ensure the self-sustainability of the project over time.

Corporate Partnerships

Naandi Community Water Services has worked with a number of corporates to set-up clean drinking water centers across different parts of the country. As explained in the business model, setting up of water centers requires an initial amount of capital investment and needs to be funded by an external donor. Companies act as these external donors and fund the CAPEX for setting up of water centers in the local communities where they have their own industrial operations. Many companies also fund some amount of operational costs, thereby subsidizing the costs of drinking water for the local communities. Till date, the social enterprise has received funding support from public sector companies like Rural Electrification Company (REC), Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) and Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) to set-up a number of water centers throughout the country. As these companies have funded most of the costs for the project, the local communities receive purified water at highly subsidized rates of INR 3-4 per 20 litres of water.

Danone, a multinational private company, has also partnered with Naandi to put up clean drinking water community centers across different parts of India. This partnership holds a lot of significance, as Danone has gone one step ahead and has provided NCWS with managerial expertise and capacity building expertise, in addition to the financial help needed to set-up water centers.

Apart from financial and non-financial help provided by the companies, a number of water awareness camps have also been undertaken jointly by the companies and the social enterprise to disseminate information on health implications of unclean water. The beneficiaries are also shown video clips focused on clean drinking water awareness, before and during the inauguration of the water centers.

A number of reputed companies like Mahindra & Mahindra, Danone.communities have also provided equity investment to the social enterprise in order to scale-up their operations throughout the country.

Key problems

Behaviour change in community

Getting the rural Indian consumers to pay a price at which the social enterprise can make its model sustainable; has been extremely challenging. Any price hike usually leads to drop in volumes and resentment among the community members.

The Impact

NCWS has employed around 600 people across the country; with each center typically creating an average of two local hires per plant (operator and support staff). About 70,000 households have access to safe drinking water now. The social enterprise has championed the cause of safe drinking water dispersing 394 million liters per year to 608,025 people including 263 schools and 489 government crèche centers across 408 villages in different regions which were stricken with highly contaminated water sources.


The companies can play a very significant role in enhancing and scaling-up social projects being run by social enterprises. As in the above case study, many of the products/services which are offered by social enterprises to the local community, involve a huge amount of initial capital costs to set them up. As communities at the bottom of pyramid do not have enough purchasing capacity to set up these capital intensive products/services, a company can come in as an external funder who can facilitate setting up of these units and in turn can do a great service to their local communities as part of their CSR efforts.

[1] “Combating diarrhoeal disease in India through safe drinking water” as viewed on 14thApril 2014  on following link: