Under the aegis of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the national transporter is apparently slaying two demons with one spear… err one dump at a time.
The Indian Railways is struggling with Rail Neer, its packaged drinking water brand. A product by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) under the Ministry of Railways, Rail Neer is a key revenue generator for IRCTC, but despite continued efforts, the bottled mineral water is failing to meet the demand. Last year, it could quench the thirst of only 20% Indians who were thirsty inside railway stations, and clocking sales of only Rs 150 crore.
The brand is now looking for growth. India has over 7000 railway stations and over 1000 passenger trains, but not many bottles of Rail Neer. This gives other brands a free pass to fill the void, and the Indian Railways a wasted opportunity. Rail Neer, a brand that reportedly contributes 10% to IRCTC’s annual revenue, could easily be doubled in a tropical country like India.
The problem statement and the identified objectives were both very clear. This set thoughts in motion for the Chief Innovation Officer of the Indian Railways, Mr. P K Shitamurthy. Inspired by Aajit Kumar’s bestseller, ‘Think Beyond’, Shitamurthy found his ‘Eureka!’ moment one fine morning as he sat on his pot.
So many travellers on a train and so many more at the stations. Imagine the amount of crap being generated at every railway station, and on every train. What if we could gather all that crap and put it inside ‘that’ machine that produces pure, drinking water out of it. NASA does that to quench its 19 or so astronauts in the International Space Station. Bill Gates took a sip of it years ago, and had said, “It was delicious.”
Surely, this would be a win-win for Rail Neer, the different punchlines could go something like – ‘Swachh Bharatiya desi pani’, ‘Boond boond – ek ehsaas’, ‘Keval pani aur kuch nahi’ or the direct ‘Hamara potty, hamara pyaas.’
Designed for areas with no access to clean, drinking water, this water-faeces machine could be implemented as a way to ‘think beyond.’ More like a ‘two birds with one stone’ solution for the problem at hand. The now even-more-famous Shitamurthy recalled at a press conference later, how his chest had puffed to a 56 inch one after having shared the innovative solution with topmost boss of the country, our PM.
Apparently, our PM immediately jumped up to the idea of fulfilling Rail Neer’s raw material needs as well as the addition of another shiny, clean feather on his Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. But, he also doubles up as the country’s ‘Make in India’ salesman, so he proposed to Shitamurthy to invite as many foreign companies as he can, to convert our poop into drinking water.
The Minister of Railways is reported to be very pleased with this innovative idea; he was fed up with being mollycoddled his way every year in presenting (somebody else’s) rail budget in parliament. When he was sworn in, little did he know that this was his only role.
“Let’s do this shit!” he exclaimed in an animated gesture, not knowing that he was to take the first sip of that water at a public demonstration of the wonder machine, amidst journalists from national and international publications.
Parallelly, Rail Neer is taking a deep look at cost-cutting measures. It has begun the process with its own. The Rail Bhavan in New Delhi has reportedly refused to provide Rail Neer to its officials. “Bring your own water else drink from the installed RO plants in the premises,” a circular stated.
Meanwhile, Shitamurthy and our PM are basking in glory, as reports have come in. ‘Crap in India,’ was an inside joke, taken literally!