Water SMART Blue Communities and Users - Managing Water from Source to Source, at Source

A cost-effective and sustainable solution for billions of people living off the water grid or where the municipal water grid is deficient.

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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

ECOSOFTT - ECO Solutions for Tomorrow Today

Year founded

2012

Initiative stage

  • Scaling (the solution has passed the previous stages and is growing its impact on a regional or global scale)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $1mil - $5mil

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • More than 100,000

Organization type

  • Social enterprise

Secondary Focus Area

  • Water
  • Rural development

Headquarters location: Country

  • Singapore

Headquarters location: City

Singapore

Location(s) of impact

Singapore: Singapore
India: Delhi, Jabalpur, Omkareshwar, Damoh, Satna, Nashik, Thane, etc
China: Hong Kong
Malaysia: Mersing
Vietnam: Phu Quoc

Website

http://www.ecosoftt.org

Facebook URL

https://www.facebook.com/ecosoftt.ecosolutions.for.tomorrow.today/

Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

Competing demands for water in agriculture, industry and domestic applications are creating stress. Fresh water sources are depleting while there is major water wastage. Despite heavy investment, centralised municipal water systems have not provided adequate access to the most of the world's population. Piped water and sewer coverage remain low in most developing countries. The adoption of more sustainable options for total water management from "Source to Source" is critical to meet the needs of a water-scarce world.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

ECOSOFTT's Water SMART Blue Communities and Users platform enables total water sustainability through end-to-end, Source to Source management of the water cycle for living communities incl townships, residential developments, hotels, schools and villages. It includes Source Protection, Drinking & Non-Potable Water Treatment, Water Conservation and Wastewater Recycling which can be implemented in a decentralised modular manner that reduces/eliminates dependence on municipal systems.

We serve paying private and govt customers in our For-Profit activities through Design, Building and Operation of systems. Using a hybrid model, we channel technology, expertise and funds towards Social Impact (Non-Profit) water, sanitation and livelihood projects for rural communities that cannot afford (full) cost of solutions.

We also actively create a global movement through education on water issues. Our work fills major gaps left unserved by public utilities, commercial water companies and NGOs.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

1. Population Served – Our water and wastewater technologies have been employed in 50 projects that serve over 200,000 people who now gain access to total water sustainability. 100% project success rate across 5 Asian countries

2. Aggregate Volume - 8 Million Litres of Water Treated and Recycled Per Day

3. Rural Underprivileged Uplifted – Over 1,000 persons living at the Bottom of Pyramid gained 24x7 access to Clean Water at 70 litres/person/day, dedicated Toilets & Bathing Rooms, Wastewater Recovery systems and improved Livelihood. Capacity building at community level and water pricing ensure source and financial sustainability

4. Students Engaged on Water Issues- Our AQUA Water Education programme has engaged over 50,000 global citizens in Singapore, Hong Kong, the UK and India through classroom experiences and applied learning

5. Social Return on Investment – Every dollar invested in ECOSOFTT’s Social Impact programme generates 10 dollars of economic and social returns

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

90% of our income is Revenue from For-Profit activities, i.e. sale of Water and Wastewater technologies and services to customers who face water challenges and have ability to pay. Due to technological superiority, Gross Margins are healthy at around 30%, comparable to commercial players despite lower pricing. We are growing at over 100% p.a. as our model and technologies gain strong traction in the market.

10% of income is sponsorship from corporates for Social Impact activities benefitting rural communities in Water, Sanitation and Livelihood improvement. Beneficiaries cannot afford the full cost of complete Water, Sanitation and Wastewater solutions. Corporates such as Barclays, Tata and ISS thus subsidise Capex. Beneficiaries self-govern and pay for water (20 cents/m3) to fund Opex.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

We address the TOTAL water management needs of communities by using innovative technologies to reduce water footprint and pollution, going beyond Drinking Water which many organisations narrowly focus on.

Profitable and scaleable For-Profit activities allow access to Capital, Technologies and Talent. This eliminates constraints faced by NGOs, while avoiding issue of cherry-picking profitable customers by commercial players. Water pricing and governance enable sustainability of Social Impact.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

Stanley Samuel and Marcus Lim started ECOSOFTT while completing their Executive MBA at INSEAD and Tsinghua University.

Stanley is a former Nestle executive. He became passionate about water and inclusive social development from a young age. In his home town in India, he witnessed rivers run dry during summer months, lakes shrink and gradually disappear, ancient man-made water reservoirs become landfills. Deep down inside, he wanted to start up an enterprise that would play a part in helping address the issues of water quality, scarcity and shortage.

Marcus came to experience the vast inequality in wealth, misallocation of capital and issues of shareholder value maximisation during his 16-year mgt consulting career. He became passionate about leveraging his skills and experience to channel technology, capital and talent to where they are most needed in financially sustainable ways.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Upon recommendation from others

Program Design Clarity: We are hungry to know more about what exactly your model consists of. Succinctly list a) what main activities are you doing with your beneficiaries, b) where you carry out the activities? c) how often? d) for how many hours? e) who delivers the services? and f) any other brief details

Our model comprises 4 For-Profit and Social Impact activities that are mutually-reinforcing:

1. Water & Wastewater Technologies (For-Profit): We Design, Build and Operate water and wastewater systems for paying customers, e.g. developers, hotels, building owners and government using in-house technologies including ACFB, ABWS and AIRR which are low cost, use low energy with high removal efficiency. Where needed, we integrate products from 3rd parties, e.g. UF/RO Membranes to meet local user needs. Small footprint systems are applicable even in tight urban areas

2. Professional Engineering Services (For-Profit): We provide engineering services such as Water Audit and Technical Feasibility Studies for private and government customers

3. Solutions for Underprivileged Lives (Social Impact): Our Community-Led Transformation programme enables marginalised rural communities to obtain 24x7 access to clean water, sanitation facilities and livelihood opportunities. Villagers build and operate the infrastructure under guidance of ECOSOFTT. Each household pays a fee based on volume of water consumed to cover maintenance cost and minimise water wastage. The process and funds are governed by an elected village council with full gender and social class equality

4. AQUA (Social Impact): Our AQUA Programme is an educational initiative that embeds water and environment protection into the curriculum of schools and colleges for citizen engagement and long-term market cultivation

Focus area

  • Water

We are interested in learning more about your initiative's broad impact on sustainable development. Please reply ONLY to the question(s) related to your above focus area.

Over half of the world's population is expected to live in urban areas and "city-like" conditions in the years to come. However, most will not be connected to municipal water grids or will be on deficient grids, e.g. limited supply or water supply without sewage networks. Utilities and private water companies largely focus on serving customers in city centres or metro cities. Communities in peri-urban and rural areas are less accessible or profitable, and thus underserved.

ECOSOFTT's solution provides a new paradigm through decentralised and integrated management of water and wastewater. It allows townships, homes, hotels, buildings, schools and villages off the grid or on deficient grids to a) reduce their water footprint and wastage by 50%, and b) recycle ALL wastewater on site for landscaping, toilet flushing and recharge. Our technologies outperform conventional systems at a low cost, thus providing a way to reduce the load on municipal systems, where they exist or replace municipal systems altogether.

Through a hybrid business model, we channel technology, expertise and over 10% of surplus from For-Profit activities to develop "Good Living" rural communities with well-functioning water and sanitation facilities. Users are engaged and educated in the process for long term sustainability.

This Shared Value model provides a holistic solution to conserving Shared Resources - Rivers, Lakes and Groundwater while promoting development and benefitting people.

Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?

ECOSOFTT's growth is inextricably linked to benefiting multiple stakeholders simultaneously:

- Our Customers have needs beyond procuring a water product, and value our comprehensive set of activities. For example, our work for schools includes implementing Water and Wastewater Technologies on campuses, AQUA Water Education and engaging students on rural projects. We thus enable them to Create Shared Value as well

- We transform Rural Communities in terms of water, sanitation and livelihood. By doing so, we gain trust and goodwill which is good for business, esp for a company operating in international markets

- Our Employees include many Generation Ys who are passionate about work that is aligned with their values and are thus willing to go the extra mile

- Our Investors include corporate leaders, professionals and family offices who have no shortage of investment opportunities. Their choice to invest in ECOSOFTT can be attributed to the company's purpose which they value

How is your initiative funded, now and over the next 5 years?

The business is commercially viable without any subsidies, and is capable of generating market-returns without sacrificing impact.

Projected results for year ending 31 March 2018 (in USD):
Revenue: $1.8m, Gross Profit: $0.5m, EBITDA: $0.2m
The orderbook exceeds $3m. We expect to double our Revenue in FY2019 and become a $10m company within 4 years. Profitability will improve with increasing scale, experience and stronger branding.

To date, we have raised $1.5m, comprising:
- Founders' cash investment,
- Equity and debt from individual and institutional investors,
- Grants from Singapore government for technology innovation, won on technical and economic merit

We aim to access capital markets to fund growth in the future.

How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the CSV Prize?

1. Shape the Future with Nestle
Develop models and shape policies where industrial, agricultural and domestic water users share the same common water pool amicably and live in equilibrium. This will benefit Nestle and its stakeholders across the value chain, especially in regions where water is scarce and/or contaminated

2. Engage the Next Generation
Expand AQUA to engage young people on water issues and to co-create solutions so that Shared Value and water conservation eventually become the norms in corporate boardrooms

3. Nurture Other Enterprises
Pay forward by investing time and money in the next generation of social entrepreneurs in related fields. Set up a fund/investment platform for water projects and social enterprises

How will you leverage an investment from Nestle to expand the impact of your work?

A CHF400,000 investment will scale up ECOSOFTT’s proven model and shape the future. It will be deployed as follows:

1. Expand existing team in India and open offices in Pune and Bangalore. This will allow us to address huge opportunities across India which we are currently forgoing due to resource constraints (CHF65,000)
2. Build core team in Vietnam to support newly-secured customers and fund working capital for 9 months (CHF45,000)
3. Procure Project Mgt tools and ERP system, with back office improvement (CHF40,000)
4. Invest in new technologies, with co-funding by Singapore govt (CHF70,000)
5. Working capital for projects (CHF180,000)

The investment will allow us to grow our Organisation, Revenue and Impact by at least 3 times.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact? What’s the projected impact for the coming years? Are you planning to expand your programme into new locations? On what assumptions do you build your scale-up plans?

1. Deepen Presence in Existing Markets, especially India, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. In both emerging and advanced markets, we have developed proven models and competitive cost structures to expand rapidly in private and government segments. With investment, we can further expand in SE Asia, Middle East and Africa

2. Shift the Paradigm. We have demonstrated that Water SMART Blue Communities and Users are viable and efficient. We are thought leaders educating students, engaging practitioners and pushing policy-makers to make changes

3. Create a Million Entrepreneurs. The need is much larger than what one organisation can meet. We invite aspiring entrepreneurs to adopt ECOSOFTT's proven model, and profit from a partnership with us

Our Goals by 2050:
1 trillion litres of wastewater treated per day
10 million students engaged on water issues
1,000 rivers and lakes restored and protected
10,000 rural communities transformed in water and sanitation conditions

Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, number of full-time vs. part-time staff, board members, etc.)? How will this team evolve as your initiative grows?

Team ECOSOFTT comprises 32 passionate professionals:
20 Scientists (PhD and Post-Grad), Engineers and Technicians with expertise in Environmental, Civil, Mechanical and Electrical engineering for design, implementation and innovation
3 Business Development Managers to co-create solutions with customers
3 Social Impact Officers dedicated to community engagement and beneficiary support
4 Finance and Admin staff
2 Founders who continue to be dedicated to the purpose
We expect to grow our team to 100 members within 4 years.

In addition, ECOSOFTT has a network of advisors who provide expertise on complex technical issues. The Board is made up of 5 members including the Founders. Each has over 20 years of academic and corporate experience with INSEAD, Nestle, Intel, Technip and PwC etc.

Awards: What awards or honors has the initiative received?

Technologies:
Buckminster Fuller Challenge- Global Top 20
Singapore Int'l Water Week- Blue Building featured
FICCI India- 1st Prize in Technology Innovation

Business Model:
Singapore Institute of Directors- Best Social Enterprise
ASEAN- ASME Success Story
Ernst & Young- Accelerating Entrepreneur
Unreasonable Impact by Barclays- Awardee

Organizational leadership: How are you influencing your field of work in the present?

ECOSOFTT has emerged as a pioneering enterprise that is shaping the future of water by
1. Inspiring Young Minds on Social Entrepreneurship and Engineering with a Purpose. Students previously engaged in AQUA and rural projects have joined our team

2. Influencing Policy-Makers on decentralised water mgt standards and economics of water mgt through advocacy and model projects. Our work has led to policy changes

3. Creating a Model of New Capitalism that is engaging corporates and nudging them towards CSV

To hear what others say about our influence, refer to Attachments for Reference Letters from:
PUB, Singapore's National Water Agency
World Toilet Organisation
Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise
Gram Vikas
Tsinghua University

Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend the Ashoka Impact Boot camp and Creating Shared Value Prize Live Pitch Event at the World Water Forum 13-16 March 2018

  • Yes, I am available to attend the events on 13-16 March 2018

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 0%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 33.3%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 0%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 66.7%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

2. Innovation

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 33.3%

3. Social and/or Environmental Impact

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 100%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

4. Financial sustainability

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 100%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 50%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%

5. Potential to Scale / Replicability

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 66.7%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 33.3%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

6. Organizational Leadership

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 100%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

7. Potential for Creating Shared Value

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 66.7%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 33.3%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

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Attachments (20)

Recommendation PUB.pdf

Reference on ECOSOFTT's work and recommendation by Dr Pang Chee Meng of PUB, Singapore's National Water Agency

Recommendation Joe Madiath.pdf

Reference on ECOSOFTT's work and recommendation by Dr Joe Madiath, Founder of Gram Vikas and Winner of Ashoka Changemakers

Recommendation Jack Sim.pdf

Reference on ECOSOFTT's work and recommendation by Jack Sim, Founder of World Toilet Organization and Ashoka Fellow

Recommendation Prof Steven White.pdf

Reference on ECOSOFTT's work and recommendation by Prof Steven White, Professor of Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Strategy at Tsinghua University

Recommendation by raiSE.pdf

Reference on ECOSOFTT's work and recommendation by Mr Alfie Othman of Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise (raiSE)

ECOSOFTT COMPANY PROFILE 2017.pdf

ECOSOFTT Company Profile - Model, Solutions and Track Record

IWA -Water Practice & Technology.pdf

Blue buildings: decentralized and integrated management of water from ‘Source-To-Source, At Source - Technical article written by Team ECOSOFTT published by the International Water Association

SIF Water is Life.pdf

Water is Life - Article on ECOSOFTT's work published by the Singapore International Foundation

5 comments

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Comment
Photo of Zoé

It is a very comprehensive and promissing solution! Isn't space an issue in urban settlements? (usually one of the biggest problem in aeras of high density of population? ) best regards

Photo of Marcus

Thank you for the encouragement. Space is indeed an issue in urban and densely populated areas. However, technological advancement has allowed us to compact treatment solutions. For example, our smallest wastewater recycling system is the only size of a refrigerator. It can fit into backyards, gardens, basements or rooftops.

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