Now, a machine that produces water out of thin air
On Friday, shoppers and passers-by outside Sobo Central Mall in Tardeo, south Mumbai, were greeted to an unusual sight. Perched atop an open truck was a machine no bigger than a decent-sized refrigerator that had a nozzle attached to it and a suction pipe linked to an exhaust fan at the other end. People were invited to take water (in a glass) from the nozzle, which the promoters, Eureka Forbes, makers of the Aquaguard and AquaSure brands of water purifiers, claimed was safe to drink.
Shapoorji Pallonji, owner of Eureka Forbes, also the single-largest shareholder in Tata Sons, the holding company of the Tata group, is test-marketing the product, called an air-water generator, in collaboration with a city-based firm called WaterMaker, a specialist in this segment. This is the first time such a product is being indigenously built. Eureka Forbes will sell this under its Aquaguard brand.
While the company did not indicate the investment behind the project or the cost of the machine it proposes to launch, industry sources say it is likely to be priced at nothing less than Rs 90,000-1,00,000 a unit, if benchmarked against similar products available in the West.
The technology, used in countries such as Israel and Singapore, sucks in humid air with the help of a suction pipe that is exposed to the atmosphere. The humid air then passes through condensers that separate the water from the air. This water is then purified and made available for drinking purpose through a nozzle (tap). “The machine works on electricity or alternate sources of energy (such as solar energy) to collect, condense, filter and dispense water,” says A V Suresh, chief executive of ForbesPro and president (international business), Eureka Forbes.
ForbesPro is the institutional business segment of Eureka Forbes.
The product, which took two to three years to develop, will be commercially rolled out in schools, colleges, hospitals, offices complexes, factories, etc, in two to three months.
Eureka Forbes is also contemplating machines that can be used at home. This was likely to be part of the project’s second phase, once it had successfully pushed products targeted at institutions, Suresh said. The hope is by that time, the cost of producing the machine would significantly come down, he added.
Areas to targeted as part of the commercial rollout would be the coastal belt, including cities such as Mumbai and Kolkata, Suresh said. The company, one of the leading manufacturers of water & air purifiers and vacuum cleaners in India, is currently running a month-long consumer awareness campaign here. It might also make its way to other coastal cities in a bid to sensitise consumers there, Suresh said.
The prototype displayed outside Sobo Central Mall on Friday permitted the dispensation of 120 litres, or 500 glasses, of water in one operation, Suresh said. He added the company was working at producing machines with higher capacities, to be rolled out in the near future.
Internationally, air-water generators are available for $1,500-2,000 a unit, depending on the sophistication of the technology and the amount of water it can produce. There are products that are priced higher as well, experts say.