Launched in 2008, the BCtA aims to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by challenging companies to develop inclusive business models that engage people with less than US$8 per day in purchasing power as consumers, producers, suppliers and distributors. It is supported by several international organizations and hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Across Pakistan, 40 percent of illnesses are water-borne, including cholera, typhoid, and hepatitis. The UN estimates that more than 3.5 million children in Pakistan are at high risk of contracting deadly water-borne diseases.
The 10 million people living in the city of Lahore alone consume an estimated 16 million litres of untreated water each day. Much of this water contains high levels of chemical and microbial contamination. According to a United Nations survey, 62 percent of Pakistan’s urban dwellers lack properly treated water, and this problem is particularly acute in poor neighborhoods.
Pharmagen Healthcare Limited has stepped in to provide clean, affordable and accessible drinking water to Lahore’s most vulnerable communities. Its inclusive business model involves establishing franchise-based water kiosks run by local micro-entrepreneurs. Each kiosk extracts water from underground, purifies it through a reverse osmosis plant and re-mineralizes it, yielding water quality to World Health Organization standards.
This network of kiosks not only meets residents’ demand for healthy clean water, but is building a sustainable supply chain that encourages entrepreneurship and improves local livelihoods.
According to Hussain Naqi, CEO of Pharmagen Healthcare Limited, “Consuming untreated water constitutes a major health risk for Pakistan’s people. By providing access to clean, safe and affordable water, we are not only preventing water-borne diseases and child mortality, but creating sustainable local businesses in some of Pakistan’s most marginalized communities.”
Pharmagen is able to minimize distribution and packaging costs through its decentralized franchise model. Customers bring their own containers, which are cleaned before filling. At a cost of them PKR1.5 (less than two cents) per liter, Pharmagen’s reverse osmosis purified water is the most affordable in Pakistan.
The company is also engaged in raising awareness among low-income populations about the benefits of the bottled water. As this inclusive initiative reaches scale, Pharmagen plans to partner with local NGOs in order to expand its awareness-building campaign.
“Access to clean water is among the world’s most pressing challenges, and is one of the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Paula Pelaez, Programme Manager of the Business Call to Action. “Pharmagen is taking the lead in bringing affordable and accessible clean water to urban communities with a model aimed at empowering them to achieve sustainable growth.”
Pharmagen’s newest services include home and workplace delivery of clean water, enabling customers to have similar service offerings as affluent people, but at an affordable price. By 2020, the company aims to scale up within Lahore, adding more than 100 water kiosks, and expand into Punjab and Sindh provinces. In the process, Pharmagen’s inclusive water kiosk distribution system will provide business opportunities to over 200 micro-entrepreneurs throughout Pakistan.