Rural India will be the main thrust of the RO plants industry in India. Many big corporations and small firms are now turning their attention to the Tier II cities, towns and villages of India where the growth of demand has outpaced that in urban areas. This is only natural as competition becomes fiercer in the larger cities.
There are multiple benefits of the RO penetration into the rural sector. The rural sector is still largely unexplored and has not been saturated by the RO companies. By investing in this sector, the RO industry is poised to spread in a new and virgin territory. The government is also actively encouraging the setting up of RO plants India in the rural sector.
But before we start on this course, we have to understand the challenges we are likely to face in the sector. It is important to understand that this market is significantly different from its urban counterpart in terms of consumer awareness, expectations and behaviour.
A major hurdle in the establishment and running of RO plants in India in rural areas. RO plants need a constant supply of electricity. Their consumption can also be considerable. The electric supply to most rural and remote areas is erratic at best. Frequent power cuts can seriously hamper a plant’s functioning, making it increasingly inefficient with time.
Some RO plants manufacturers have faced an even more unique situation when applying for electric supply. One village was slapped a bill of pending bills by the electricity supplier when they applied for electricity to the local plant. Many poorer villages face the same problem where unpaid bills and defaulting has resulted in backlogs and severance of electric connection.
Lack of awareness
In many rural communities the lack of awareness in the working of RO plants is other biggest hurdle. Many villagers are suspicious of the entire process, not trusting the purity of the final product. In remote villages where the inhabitants are not educated, explaining the scientific process itself has been challenging.
The scepticism about the quality of the water means that the people are not interested in investing precious resources in the plant’s running. Ultimately the plant has to be run by the people and the lack of interest means that the plant is abandoned after the initial stages, soon after company employees leave the supervision.
Availability of water
The rural areas of India have a very supply of water. For years, many of these villages have been using groundwater sources. Unfortunately, expanding population and increasing demand has severely depleted these groundwater sources. As a result, many RO plants in India are dependent on water tanks, which drives up the cost of operations.
One of the unexpected challenges faced in running RO plants in rural areas is the village politics! The running of the plant in many cases is taken over by the village panchayat, which is plagued by politics that is usual with such bodies. This has some unexpected and unforeseen consequences as plant management works according to its own interests rather than focusing on teh efficient running of the plant.
Running an RO plant can be expensive. Apart from the installation costs, there are also heavy running costs. Electricity bills and water bills from third parties (where water supply is scarce) hikes up the bill. The situation becomes all the more challenging because rural communities often cannot bear the cost of installing and running such plants. The most viable solution here has been some kind of public-private partnership where the government funds the seed money or provides other incentives for private companies to invest in the sector.
Availability of operating staff
Once installed the RO plant has to be ultimately run by the villagers. This can be challenging with the lack of availability of personnel who can be trained. One may find the ground staff, teh real challenge lies in hiring experts who can handle repairs and other complications. Ideally such positions are held by people with technical expertise like engineers. This is difficult in a rural set-up where availability of such personnel is severely limited.
These are some of the most common challenges faced by rural RO plants in India. We must find a viable solution to ensure a sustainable supply of safe drinking water in India’s villages and remote areas.