Business brisk at ‘water shops’ in the Chennai

CHENNAI: Every problem is an opportunity in disguise. This holds true for many micro-entrepreneurs in Chennai, who have seen a business opportunity in the acute water shortage that the city is currently facing. With the metro water supply falling short, and quality of water from hand pumps turning poor, many small businesses in areas such as Old Washermenpet, Mannadi and Sowcarpet have installed big tanks in their shops and are selling water to public in small quantities.   

Though prices are steep — at Rs 10-15 per pot and Rs 15-18 per can — these shops are doing good business. In comparison, a potful of metro water supplied by tankers costs just Rs 1-3. “These shops supply water round-the-clock. On the other hand, metro water tankers come late in the night,” says Nuzrat Fathima, a customer. 

Shops supply water round-the-clock, say locals 

Residents, however, are comparing the prices with packaged water, which costs `35 per can. "These shops supply water round-the-clock. We do not have to wait, unlike for Metro Water tankers which come late in the night and in-hand pumps for just a couple of hours," says Nuzrat Fathima of Old Washermenpet.       
Express visited four such shops in Old Washermenpet and near Mint Street. A majority of owners said their source of water was private tankers, which fetch groundwater from places such as Madhavaram, Redhills, and Vichoor.

In Sowcarpet alone, there are 15 such shops, say some of these shop owners. About 10 of these sprung up only a few months ago, they say. A handful of these shops, however, started this business about 2-3 years ago.   Saraswathi Water Supply and Provision Stores at Amman Koil Street in Sowcarpet sells an average of 15,000 litres a day. "Our monthly revenue has increased by Rs 10,000 in the past three months," says the shop owner EVK Prasad. "But since tanker prices have shot up, I am paying around Rs 4,500 for 10,000 litres. Rs 1,500 more than April rates." 

Many people whose previous business failed have now turned to selling water. On Parthasarathy Koil Street in Old Washermenpet, a small shop that used to sell Idiyappams is now selling water for `16-20 per litre. "We now have five such shops in this area," says the owner. "We provide RO purified water, which is safe for consumption. Though this is a profitable venture, our idea is to help residents who struggle to get even five pots of water from tankers."

Cost high, demand higher
Though prices at these shops are steep compared to Metro Water tankers, residents are happy as it’s still cheaper than packaged water

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