NextDrop Uses Big Data, Texting To Improve Water Distribution
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
The proliferation of mobile-supported business models in India is substantial. Given its ubiquity amongst lower-income groups, mobile technology is recognized as a maximum impact tool, particularly for grassroots data collection. This “tech” model of social entrepreneurship has become the norm not only in India, but also in other emerging markets throughout Asia, Africa and South America.
Case in point: NextDrop, a social enterprise launched in 2011, is simplifying urban water collection in India. With its “Smart Grid ‘Lite’” solution, the enterprise collects and shares water delivery information with city residents and water utilities. In this way, efficiency and transparency are improved upon.
NextDrop started as a pilot during an UC-Berkeley project competition in Hubli-Dharwad, twin cities in the Indian state of Karnataka, which have seen rapid urban growth in recent years. Main Street has made way for shopping malls and American fast food chains, but access to water is still a challenge. It is therefore unsurprising that NextDrop’s Smart Water Supply Message Service has over 25,000 household subscribers paying a monthly fee of INR10 (USD0.16) to receive advance water alerts.
“At the basic level, we collect information. But that’s just the beginning,” Anu Sridharan, NextDrop co-founder and CEO, explains. “You gain access to lots of interesting bits of data. And what you do with that data – now, that’s where it starts to get fun.”
NextDrop’s work is deceptively clear-cut. Though the medium of its work is mobile and the Internet, it is not inventing a new technology. Rather, NextDrop is using existing technology to collect data and understand customer behavior – an increasingly important proficiency to have when serving the bottom of the pyramid (BoP).
Though the BoP represents the fastest growing consumer segment worldwide, remarkably little is understood about its behavior and needs. It is this latter fact that gives few enterprises a competitive edge in emerging markets. And for social entrepreneurs, it is only when armed with this knowledge that real social change can be affected.