Water Business Kit – Kenya
A guide to starting your own water treatment and vending business.
Small-scale water treatment and vending businesses serve customers safe, treated drinking water that meets internationally accepted drinking water quality standards. These businesses operate profitably and sustainably in many parts of the world, and are particularly popular in Southeast Asia and Latin America. Recently, this business model has begun to emerge in Kenya.
Water treatment and vending businesses are a local entrepreneurial response to consumer demand for safe drinking water that is lower-priced than traditional bottled water. These businesses have thrived where municipal water supplies are unreliable and/or potentially unsafe to drink. They treat raw water that they collect from different sources (springs, deep boreholes, tanker trucks, and municipal supplies) using state-of-the-art technologies that require minimal pre-existing technical expertise to operate.
They then package and sell the treated water in reusable, sealed bottles. Most businesses are located within the neighborhoods that they serve, and offer consumers convenience at an affordable price. Shops typically operate as ‘cash and carry’ operations although some shops also offer delivery service.
Small-scale water treatment and vending is a proven, profitable business model in many countries. Water shops throughout the world are run by independent entrepreneurs just like you. These businesses can be very profitable, as the data from a sample Kenyan business in the table below illustrates.
The traditional bottled water market in Kenya is thriving with sales estimated at KShs. 12 billion per year and over 100 brands in the market (Githinji, 2010). While this data is indicative of significant competition in traditional bottled water, it also shows that there is consumer demand for high-quality drinking water and a business opportunity for businesses that can offer comparable quality water at a lower price. This market data is reinforced by consumer demand research among middle-income households in Nairobi which shows further evidence of demand for treated drinking water in Kenya (Aquaya, 2011).
With the Kenyan water treatment and vending industry just beginning to emerge, there is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to enter the market now. Entrepreneurs who act quickly are likely to be rewarded. In other countries where these businesses have emerged, it is the early movers who have earned the greatest profits and, in some cases, been able to open a network of successful shops.