Water scarcity and access to clean water are problems that have plagued humanity, especially the poor and the underprivileged. Yet, even though the problem was recognised, the solution seemed far-fetched and quite long drawn.
However, this void created a space for people like Divya Yachamaneni to come forward and make a meaningful contribution. Paying homage and recognizing the talent seeping within the nation, “25 Iconic Businesswomen Need to Follow in 2022” tries to encapsulate the visions of great minds. These people have undoubtedly worked hard to make a significant difference.
So, returning to Divya Yachamaneni, she is the CEO of Naandi Community Water Services Pvt. Ltd.
Naandi Community Water Services PVT LTD. (NCWS) is one of India’s largest community-based drinking water solution providers. NCWS is an innovative social enterprise formed in 2010, through collaboration between Naandi Foundation’s Trustees and DANONE.Communities.
The mission of NCWS has been transparent as water itself; - “To save lives of underserved communities in India by providing them access to safe drinking water in a sustainable manner.” The NCWS crew has made it achievable. They work to set up decentralised community water centres (filtration units) in areas where the contaminated drinking water sources (chemical and microbial contaminants) are wreaking havoc on society. However, bearing the torch in these harsh circumstances, NCWS has reached over 650 communities of India living across seven states, affecting over 850,000 lives with their safe drinking program.
Divya Yachamaneni is an alumnus of IIM Kozhikode. Recently she has also completed Stanford Seed Transformational Program from Stanford Graduate School of Business. She has experience working in the corporate sector for over ten years, and after a decade, she felt like doing something more. That is when she stumbled upon Naandi Community Water Services (NCWS).
For the last five years, Divya Yachamaneni has been leading NCWS. Since the time Divya has taken charge as CEO of NCWS, she and her team of high performers have made a significant difference including:
· Strengthening the brand iPure in rural India by focusing on quality, community and sustainability.
· Increasing social impact by 42% (currently at 850,000 people) by expanding the reach of the safe drinking water program to over 120 more underserved communities. Serving 30,000 government school children with daily access to safe drinking water irrespective of the lockdown.
· And last but not the least. launching India’s first social packaged drinking water brand iQuench.
Prior to taking charge of NCWS, Divya in her role as Deputy General Manager at Naandi Foundation and Naandi Community Water Services, made a pivotal contribution to the operations, fundraising and support services functions for diverse range of programs. These programs ranged from safe drinking water for underserved communities to education for the poor living in the underbelly of the cities and sustainable livelihoods for rural farmers.
Naandi Community Water Services PVT LTD has two main target groups that it serves, one is- for rural (underserved) communities they serve portable drinking water under the brand name iPure and the other is for urban areas packaged drinking water under the brand name iQuench.
For the rural underserved communities across the lengths and breadths of India, NCWS is working to provide reliable and affordable access to safe drinking water. Government School children and Anganwadi centres in their area of operations have free access to safe drinking water. They are also involved in upturning the lack of awareness surrounding water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) towards a healthy life. For more details visit website.
Identifying the need for good quality water in cities, they launched iQuench which is a new generation impact business – to provide pure packaged drinking water of the highest quality. In addition to providing good quality water, they are also spreading awareness about the plight of the underserved communities living in the rural areas of the same nation and are living up to their mantra of “Good for me, Good for society and Good for the planet”. For more details visit here.
NCWS works with a mission to save lives of underserved communities in India by providing them access to safe drinking water in a sustainable manner.
Their vision is to be the most trusted brand of safe drinking water for underserved communities in India, driving the category through –
(i) high quality standards and
(ii) strong and sustainable impact on the lives of communities; bringing them happiness through health. They aspire to positively impact lives of 2 million people by 2025.
Solving the water crisis of a large nation like India is complex. For an organisation like NCWS to operate, multiple stakeholders must be aligned. The Village Panchayat, State Government members, district bureaucracy and local politicians have to be on the same page to make a difference.
There are also many stigmas involved that need to be debated and countered with facts and actual groundwork. Removing social/caste borders is one such prejudice that they have been looking into and have been working hard in establishing value and consistent supply of safe drinking water, especially in rural areas. There is also a lack of understanding around the concept of building a social enterprise which has often caused roadblocks for NCWS in collecting funds and acquiring support. However, in each case, they have come back more substantial learning from the incidents, which ultimately helped shape the organization to the place where it is today.
There have been numerous awards and recognitions that NCWS has achieved over the years. After a year of its formation, it was showcased in the UN water conference by World Bank; Hystra awarded it Innovative Enterprise; and Social Enterprise of the Year by CNBC. In 2014, NCWS was again handed with Good Models of Social Enterprise by the Unreasonable Institute. In 2015, they earned two more awards, India Today Safaigiri Awards and Outstanding Entrepreneur by GSBI. 2019 had them teaming up with Stanford University Graduate School for Business for a program to bring transformational change. It became a B Corporation in 2021 and is the “Best in the World” under the customer segment. Other than that, two CSR awards under the WASH category were also given to them in the same year.
Despite all the success and recognition, COVID was quite harsh on the business and brand and the overall progress of work.
However, as water is an essential need for daily lives, the team at NCWS were committed to serving their communities during the pandemic. They survived the situation by setting up committees to ensure business continuity (for both rural and urban) and employee engagement.
They introduced several pivots to the Business model in less than a fortnight to ensure - drinking water services of the best quality standards; despite the restrictions of the pandemic. These pivots helped them to increase their social impact and stay the course through the pandemic while most others in the sector struggled to stay afloat.
Despite the impact of lockdown , the team continued to work on the ground and has gained recognition from several state and village Govt. bodies for the same.
iPure users also continued to access safe drinking water because they believed it’s healthy. Below is a sample of the testimony of the efforts and services put in by NCWS during the Covid times; which ensured that users continued to access to safe drinking water.
Mr. Subash Kamble of Mouje Wadgaon in Mharashtra has a small iron shop. From the onset of COVID, people began to stay at home and mostly used comfort clothing. Apprehensions on contact at Dhobi were also high. Mr. Kamble’s livelihood was deeply affected. Nonetheless _ his family continued to take iPure water because they believe it is healthy.
• Continue to expand their reach and increase penetration in the rural model for the underserved communities, to positively impact the lives of 2million people by 2025. Provide access to safe drinking water and educate them on the importance of WASH and nutrition for good health to 100,000 children by 2025.
• In the urban packaged drinking water model, they aim to be the brand of choice for the urban socially responsible consumer.