Chandrasekaran J is the reason behind safe water availability and cleaner hygiene for a lot of lives across villages in rural India.
A fireball of energy, Chandrasekaran exudes genuineness. Chandrasekaran has traveled across India and has a very sharp understanding of the water and sanitation challenges that this country faces. His experiences and his knack for swift adoption has helped him understand what it takes to create sustainable solutions. He refuses to let situations put a hurdle to his goals. His drive to do something is surreal.
Inven Trust brings you yet another innovation love story.
Q. How did you get into innovation?
A. Being the youngest of 5 siblings and a child of two very hard working parents, I learnt the value of education and hard work very early in my life. Right from my childhood, I developed the art of focusing on multiple activities. I draw inspiration from my environment. I am one of the co-founders of the country’s only NGO which is gazetted in the GOI’s books as heritage conservator, REACH FOUNDATION, through which we have restored as many as 30 plus temples, some as old as a 2 B.C. period temple. This was where the absence of affordable and sustainable water filters and toilets caught my attention. After five years of search and fine tuning the right technology for purification and building toilets, WATSAN was founded in 2013.
From my early working days, I have been building products, from scratch. I ran a factory, end to end, between 1995–2002 in Baroda that was focused on plastic fabrication. Although the business didn’t work, the experience only made me better. This was one of my initial lessons that an idea alone isn’t enough, an ecosystem is essential.
Q. What made you want to do something about global water and sanitation conditions?
A. Your readers may almost twitch their noses upon reading this! Apart from my core work, I am also a heritage restorer. This makes me travel widely in the country. Once, while I was in a village to photo document a dilapidated temple, I could not get good drinking water nor a toilet for relieving myself. It was such a harrowing experience that I was dissuaded to stay back, fearing that I may have to defecate in open, if I stayed back for one more day.
That incident left a deep impact on me. I decided to work on water and sanitation and do something about it. This is how the name WATSAN was coined and the company was born.
Q. What have you innovated and what problems does it solve?
A. WATSAN’s sole purpose is to provide water and sanitary solutions to the rural population by manufacturing and distributing low-cost, yet effective electricity-free water filters to urban slums and rural families who cannot afford other expensive options. Our products last for about 10 years, a boon for the less privileged families in rural India. We were the first to work on Arsenic removal from water in many parts on India like West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, North East, Jharkhand, Punjab, few districts in Tamil Nadu, parts of Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka. WATSAN has also developed the Fluoride removal purifier and the field tests are very encouraging.
We make affordable, electricity free, maintenance free and zero water wastage water purifiers, both standalone and larger sized community purifiers. We have been able to reach out to 2,10,000 rural households, BSF posts like Wagah and Kargil borders, many anganwadis or child care centres through CSR of few companies, larger size water purifiers for companies like L&T ECC, RAMCO etc. all through collaborating with NGOs and SHGs and not trough traders. We have also built Any Time Water dispenser, which can be fitted on wheels or run as a kiosk to dispense water in variable volumes like 1,2, 5 and 20 litres, using smart card. This can monitor the place where the dispenser is running, how much water is dispensed and how much money is collected and recharged through the smart card, all through remote monitoring using IoT.
We also build toilets without sand, water and cement, but with glass fibre waste, which otherwise would end up as landfill, recycled and reused to build toilets. It takes 6 people and 1 day to make one toilet. There is no thought process given to sustainable treatment. The faecal waste is converted to fine powder and used as natural manure. WATSAN not only provides products but also trains villagers on how to maintain them and help make them self-sufficient.
Q. Your opinion on disruption in innovation?
A. Unless there is disruption, what is innovation?
Q. How would you describe an ideal environment for innovation?
A. I think innovation as an idea that can alleviate a pain point or need. Innovation starts with an understanding of a pain and then putting yourself into working on a solution for it.
Q. What are your plans for the future?
A. We want to expand WATSAN and establish it as the go-to place for water and sanitation needs. It was a tough start but with time, we have made significant progress. Currently, we are expanding our presence to all regions.
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