Suneeth Tatineni, co-founder of the Hyderabad-based startup Caro Water, recalls a recent trip to Tirumala, Andhra Pradesh when I ask what prompted him and fellow co-founder Chaitanya Ayinapudi to come out with India’s first water box service.
“We noticed we were using at least 24 one-litre water bottles during a single trip. All these bottles have to be dumped and there’s no way to check if they are being recycled properly,” says Tatineni. “If we are using 24 bottles, imagine how many of them are being used by people across the country?”
This, however, was just one of the reasons that pushed these two former IT and software professionals to set up Caro Water earlier this year. The general refill and hygiene issues with plastic water can services were another angle. “Some of these water cans are refilled at least 200-300 times,” adds Tatineni.
Research studies conducted across the world in recent years have also found the presence of microplastics in drinking water bottles, which could prove to be a major health hazard in the long-run. It’s no surprise that now we have innovations such as aluminium water cans too. “We asked ourselves: why can’t we get a single-use (water) box that could solve this problem?”
Caro Water’s boxes use corrugated paper and the ‘BIB’ system, which stands for bag in box, where a spout is surrounded by a corrugated carton box. They come with a built-in tap, like a water dispenser. These tamper-proof water boxes are recyclable, and use 85% less plastic as compared to usual water cans. A consumer orders a Caro Water box, uses it and the startup then takes these boxes back for responsible recycling. For every box returned, consumers also get credit points that can be used for future transactions through the Caro Water app, which is available on both Android and iOS. “The app delivery system is helpful since consumers don’t have to call us repeatedly to get their boxes delivered,” adds Tatineni.
Prices start at ₹75, for the five-litre water box; the 20-litre capacity water box costs ₹120. Tatineni says these boxes are also completely free of BPA, or bisphenol A, an industrial chemical used to make certain plastics and resins.
The water, he explains, is sourced groundwater which goes through a proper purification process -- it is treated, enriched with copper and added minerals and nutrients. Currently, Caro Water is servicing only the western Hyderabad region, but Tatineni says they are also working on starting operations in Bengaluru by March 2022 as they look for funding opportunities.
Apart from completely eliminating the use of plastic in their boxes (currently they have just 40-45 gm of plastic, including the tap), one of the key challenges is to ensure that these carton boxes are collected and recycled properly. “Once we get the cartons back from the consumers, they are separated: the corrugated box and plastic. We have tied up with recycling units for this.”
Demand for the boxes has obviously been impacted by the pandemic. But Tatineni remains optimistic. “People are more attracted to eco-friendly options. Single-use plastic has to be handled properly and that is our main motto: reducing plastic waste,” he adds.