After several years working as a medical doctor, Dr. Rajiv Bhanot switched his path to become a serial entrepreneur in various industries. He is currently the CEO of H2GO Global, a water tech company that aims to tackle the global humanitarian water poverty crisis.
H2GO launched the #Walk4Them campaign, a viral initiative where the firm will donate 1,000 liters of clean drinking water to underprivileged communities when someone walks, or runs, six kilometers and motivates other friends on social media to do the same. Six kilometers is the average distance women and children in marginalized countries walk to obtain water, which in many cases, can be contaminated with life-threatening diseases.
Click here to learn how you can take part.
Each year, millions of dreams fail to come true because of waterborne diseases.
As unbelievable as it sounds, waterborne diseases have been termed as the world’s leading killer. In 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported the alarming number of 2.2 billion people who continue to consume contaminated water. In India, 21% of the country’s diseases are water-related, and children in 100 million homes lack water.
These statistics were shocking enough for Dr. Rajiv Bhanot to decide to do something about it. While visiting a military exhibition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, he saw a technology that caught his attention. “There was one particular booth that demonstrated a technology that had the ability to pump very muddy water into a hydro carry backpack. The technology within allowed them to process the water, and from a little straw, they were able to get droplets of clean water. It was used by frontline British troops that had served in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Mesmerized by what he saw, Bhanot realized that this technology could be adapted to help many ordinary people that don’t have access to clean water. In 2011, he launched the water technology company H2GO based on this technology.
However, as with all businesses, especially those aiming to tackle global issues, Bhanot had huge challenges to overcome. “The hardest part was to get the product tested in rural communities because many of them had been exploited before. There had been many instances where people often brought in promises with a negative ulterior motive, which eroded their trust. As such, it was challenging for us to set up a communal system in the village, and convince villagers that clean water could be available without the need for boiling or chemical additives.”
To gain the trust of local rural communities, Bhanot spent almost a year in 2012 visiting these communities in Malaysia and living among them to understand their way of life. That was crucial in making a positive impact, he said. “If you are just sitting in an air-conditioned room, making assumptions about the conditions of these areas, there is going to be a huge disconnect. Being on the ground and understanding their needs have played a pivotal role in bringing our product into the market.”
His work has allowed the company to also expand into other countries. Currently, H2GO has established an active presence in Columbia, India, the Philippines, and South Africa.
Given that there have been instances where businesses seeking to make positive impacts end up being diluted due to funding issues, Bhanot spoke about how he managed to create a positive social impact while managing a business.
“I wanted to create a unique structure that would give the company that balance. As important as it is to elevate communities out of water poverty, we also want to keep innovating and create new products that can be cheaper and more accessible,” Bhanot explained.
“We do our work in both nonprofit and for-profit sectors. When we work with disaster relief organizations and remedial fundraising activities, these are all nonprofit initiatives. Our revenue comes from working with authorities and government sectors that help to sustain our growth. This model, coupled with the right team, made up of talented individuals, has helped the company progress a lot.”
Bhanot is really passionate about his cause and genuinely believes in every single impact his company makes. He said that his time as a doctor has helped him with his entrepreneurial pursuits.
“Having spent six years in medical school, and two years in a government hospital after returning to Malaysia, something that came out of this experience is that I always try to create a human touch with whatever I do,” he said.
“With all my current businesses, it is always important to me that I create some sort of positive impact. For example, I recently set up a restaurant, Jama, where we work with many independent farmers in Malaysia. The food being served is all cooked by local rural communities. I believe that with any business, holding on to the right values and principles that are beneficial to others within the supply chain is crucial.”
While it is seemingly a common perception that financial gains control the direction of businesses, he has proved that it doesn’t have to be that way and that any business could still be run while making a positive impact.
His entrepreneurial ventures have also changed his outlook on life. “My time spent in rural communities to understand consumers opened my eyes to a side of humanity that I think we take for granted,” he said.
“I was in a rural part of Borneo, and the people were really happy there. We are constantly under the assumption that happiness comes from some form of materialistic achievement in the city. We end up chasing time, huge promotions, money, and success. However, when I was in these communities, I saw that these individuals were very happy and content with the lives they had. They lived together, ate, and cooked together. I think that was really fascinating. That side of humanity has kept my passion and fire burning within H2GO for more than a decade.”
When asked about his next goals for H2GO, Bhanot laughed and then said, “I think this might sound very naive of me, but I truly believe that eradicating water poverty is an achievable goal. Since last year, we’ve managed to see everyone coming together to fight against COVID-19 because there has been a common objective. Unfortunately, when it comes to the water poverty crisis, the difference is that it discriminates, unlike the pandemic, which affects everyone.”
“When we look at statistics, there are so many invisible numbers that live in rural areas. Hence, there is a stronger need to work with media organizations, government sectors, and anyone out there to create awareness. For example, we’ve recently started to work with Meals in Minutes, a food-based organization in Malaysia. For every meal that they sell, they allocate a couple of liters of water to rural communities that we’ve identified. We really try to work with anyone and everyone to get an inch closer to our end goal, which is to bring as much drinking water to the people out there.”
Throughout the day, many people drink or use water, often without even thinking about it. Bhanot is trying to not only help rural communities but also make people aware of one of the biggest threats to our world. For now, companies like H2GO are doing their best to bring attention to this issue and help those in need, even if it’s just a few liters at a time.