Amid quality concerns, packaged water industry sees rapid growth

Amid quality concerns, packaged water industry sees rapid growth

One lakh cans sold daily in City as non-ISI manufacturers proliferate

When the focus is on quantity, quality suffers. That is precisely the case with the packaged drinking water industry which has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years in the State, especially in Bangalore. 

Sample this. There are 322 manufacturing licences for packaged drinking water in the State, up from 80 a few years ago. Still, the industry is largely unregulated as there are an equal number of players which do not possess the ISI mark issued by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). But for most people in Bangalore, ISI or non-ISI, a 20-litre can of potable water is a precious commodity in times of ever-growing demand. 

When the packaged water industry began to flourish almost a decade ago, the demand was for just a few hundred cans. It increased to thousands soon enough, and now, almost one lakh cans are estimated to be sold per day in Bangalore alone. A manufacturer, who supplied 200-300 cans per day six years ago, is now supplying about 1,500 cans, and up to 2,000 cans during summer. 

Like every growing enterprise, the packaged water industry too has minuses. Non-ISI cans are giving tough competition to brands like Kinley and Bisleri. 

“In and around Bangalore (Urban and Rural districts), there are about 152 water treatment plants-cum-manufacturers. Sixty non-ISI manufacturers have now been added to the list after they received ISI certification,” Prashant Aradhya, president of Packaged Drinking Water Manufacturers’ Association, Karnataka, told Deccan Herald. 

Over the years, the demand has certainly gone up because of awareness among the public about drinking water and the harms associated with consuming non-potable water, he added. Besides, the Cauvery water is not seen as potable, as it is said to get highly contaminated at various places. Besides, many areas do not get Cauvery water, he said. 

But the proliferation of non-ISI manufacturers, who sell a 20-litre can for as little as Rs 15-30 per can be compared with the Rs 30-50 per can pricing of ISI firms, is bogging the industry down. Then there are consumers who settle for nothing less than a branded can which comes at Rs 60-80. 

Vinay Kumar of Himalaya Aqua Mineral in Hosur said: “We have set up the plant on the outskirts of the City as the groundwater level is good there unlike in the downtown. The demand has shot up by 25-30 per cent in the last four years and people are so informed that they even enquire about the ISI mark.”

The numerous apartment blocks are driving the increasing demand. “Installing a water purifier is expensive, so most of them prefer a 20-litre can for their day needs,” Kumar added. 

Manobendu Mandal, CEO, Aquatech Enterprises, pointed out that while many manufacturers had licences, they lacked the adequate infrastructure such as a laboratory where water could be purified as per the norms. 

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