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BACKSTORY: How Kent founder's kids helped usher in RO water purifiers

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"When I inquired about the kind of water purifiers available, they were all based on the mechanism of a UV lamp killing the bacteria," says Kent founder Mahesh Gupta. That's when he realised the importance of RO purifiers.

BACKSTORY: How Kent founder's kids helped usher in RO water purifiers
Mahesh Gupta never intended to get into the business of making water purifiers. In fact, he never even had one at his home till he was suggested one by a doctor.
A mechanical engineer from IIT Kanpur, Gupta was content running a small enterprise in oil conservation.
“This was around 1997-98. I thought the water supply in our home was good so I never felt the need to have a purifier,” he recalled in an interview with CNBC-TV18’s Mangalam Maloo. (Watch the part of the interview above from 2:36 minutes.)
But as it happened, Gupta’s children would periodically fall sick. He went to see a doctor.
“The doctor told me it was a good idea to have a water purifier because the water supply could be contaminated ,” Gupta said. “I realized he was right and set out to buy one.”
Thanks to Gupta’s engineering knowledge, he had a good idea about the water purification process as he hit the market to buy the best one.
“But when I inquired on what kind of water purifiers were available, they were all based on the mechanism of a UV lamp killing the bacteria,” he said.
He asked the salespersons how the purifiers would filter the water if it had dissolved impurities. “They said the purifier will not be able to remove that,” Gupta said.
He knew that the reverse osmosis process could remove impurities dissolved in water but he couldn’t find a single water purifier model in the country based on the technology.
“I had a small oil conservation business. So I had the setup ready . So I decided to import the components and make one for myself,” Gupta said.
He was happy with his efforts in making an RO-based water purifier and the edn result. That’s when the idea of starting an RO purifier venture took root.
“I couldn’t find an RO water purifier in the market. I thought there must be others who may also want or need one. Let me start this as a small business,” Gupta said.
That was then. Today, Gupta’s company, Kent, is among the top players in the Rs 5,000-crore plus water purifier market, and its RO purifiers are among the most highly-rated.
But the journey wasn’t without its share of struggles.
“In 1998, when we launched it, the price of our RO water purifier was Rs 20,000 against a UV purifier, which was available for Rs 3,000. It was very difficult to sell at that price,” Gupta recalled.
Two, Kent was not a known brand and Gupta did not have much of a track record to show.
“People said what if you sell it and disappear from the market. Who will service the product then? So it was difficult to convince people to buy it but we kept going,” he said.
What encouraged Gupta to keep at it?
“In the first year, we sold only about 200 pieces, but whoever bought our purifiers, they would swear by the product and the quality of the purified water. That gave me confidence,” he said.
“I thought: If I find the product useful and these 200 guys find it useful, at some time, we will certainly be successful,” he said.
(Watch video for the full interview)

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