We always get excited when entrepreneurs from outside the sector choose to focus their talents on water issues. Prateek Joshi of Pluto AI is a perfect example. After starting his career at Qualcomm and NVidia, Prateek is now an author of multiple books and a regular speaker on AI and Machine Learning, and has turned […]
dloHaiti: Reaching the 50 million liter mark
By Jim Chu, Founder and CEO of dloHaiti. dloHaiti (IH2O ’13) continues to make significant progress toward our vision and I’m pleased to relay some recent wins and challenges.
In March, we surpassed the 50 million liter mark — that’s the amount of affordable, clean water dloHaiti has delivered to underserved communities in Haiti, now serving communities with over 300,000 people in the West, North, and Northeast departments Of those served, an estimated 85% or more live on less than $2/day. Our price for water has not changed in the last 4 years and is the lowest on the market, despite the > 30% devaluation in the local currency in the last 2 years.
We have a strong, 100+ person, 100% Haitian team, employed mostly in the countryside where 80% unemployment is the norm.
Our sites are all economically self-sufficient, meaning they no longer require subsidy to operate. Overall, operations in Haiti have a run rate of US$400,000 in revenue annually. We have been able to serve poor Haitians at less than 1/4 the per capita capital cost and less than 1/2 of the opex for of similar interventions by both public sector and NGOs.
I am the most proud of our Clean Water for Schools program, whereby we serve, through cross-subsidy and generous donations from foundations such as the Chao Foundation and D3 Impact as well as corporate sponsors such as Unilever, clean water daily to over 19,000 students at 142 schools.
Recently, we closed an equity investment from Danone, the world’s #2 commercial water company (they own Evian and Volvic among other brands). With a strategic view of catalyzing the emerging water kiosk sector, they have led in developing a global alliance of funders and operators of decentralized water services. We are happily part of that network and hope to contribute to spreading the benefits of distributed water services to growing populations. In a recent study, Dalberg estimates that 1.46–3.86 billion people may benefit from this model which they call “Safe Water Enterprises.”
Of course, there were — and still are — challenges. 2016 was plagued with political uncertainty and we were unable to secure investment for expansion. This has led a frustrating inability to meet demand — we have not been able to grow our energy, production and transport capacity to fulfill all of our orders.
Some sites have chronic issues we are slowly overcoming. For example, Bois Neuf, our site in Cite Soleil, a slum area near Port-au-Prince, has suffered from poor security which has dampened sales and led to declining morale and a tense environment. Luckily, the security environment has improved and we have been successful at getting it to break-even but only in the last month.
Looking to the future, we have been developing a platform to help water companies deploy this model in Africa and Asia. By offering the systems, expertise, tools, and eventually financing, we hope to drive growth of this model. Under a new parent company name, UNTAPPED, we have engaged partners in South Africa, West Africa and East Africa to help them deploy the distributed water model in their markets. We are in the process of raising a $5M round for this endeavor as well as to expand in Haiti.
With that, I have personally committed another $1M equity investment to the company. I believe we have the chance to improve the lives of hundreds of millions in a business-driven way. Africa is expected to add another 1 billion new people in the next 20 years. Centralized models for water and energy will not serve them efficiently. It’s both a humanitarian challenge as well as a commercial opportunity to serve them better.
My personal goal is to catalyze an ecosystem that can improve the lives of 100 million people by 2030. More than ever, I believe we can accomplish that goal.
I hope to see you in Haiti or in Africa in the not so distant future.
Connect with Jim and the dloHaiti team here