IP Delivers for India
Millions do not have access to safe drinking water.
But one company in India is utilizing intellectual property to tackle this enormous issue in a country of over one billion people. This week in Geneva, I had the pleasure of meeting Anuj Sharma, the chief operating officer of Sarjaval, a small Indian startup with big dreams.
Sarjaval distributes a water filtration and purification technology to local Indian entrepreneurs which helps provide rural Indians access to toxin-free drinking water. Its patented monitoring technology allows Sarjaval to remotely track each individual machine’s water purity, energy, use, and operations. Since the introduction of this technology, 75,000 Indians have gained 24/7 access to safe water—a daily luxury we in the United States oftentimes take for granted.
Sometimes small technologies and innovations like these can have huge impacts. The hope is that greater distribution of Sarvajal’s purification machine will also bring significant improvements to public health and help prevent the 40 million cases of waterborne diseases and 1.5 million diarrhea-induced infant deaths in India.
There are significant roadblocks to reaching the 150 million Indians exposed to non-potable water, however, as Sharma notes:
The challenges of getting water to people is NOT about awareness, attitude, or technology. It is about building a viable and sustainable business model to deliver services…and, yes, we needed to innovate technologically to manage and enable such a business model.”
Part of that business model is the need to protect and secure intellectual property, like patents. Without the incentive to innovate, water filtration technologies like Sarvajal’s and the hundreds of jobs supporting it may never come to fruition in the first place. Furthermore, while imitation is indeed a great form of flattery, knock-offs can sometimes lead to inferior products that could provide false confidence for those who need it most or even raise prices and hamper access.
Indian entrepreneurs like Sharma have the potential to make significant progress in India and well beyond, but that reach and potential could be stifled in the absence of strong IP laws and enforcement.