Biggest challenge is educating people about water-borne fatal diseases, says Mahesh Gupta, Founder of Kent RO Systems
Biggest challenge is educating people about water-borne fatal diseases, says Mahesh Gupta, Founder of Kent RO Systems
First Person

The entrepreneurial journey of Mahesh Gupta, Founder and Chairman of Kent RO Systems Ltd, began in 1985, from a small room in his home. He had nothing but dreams and self-belief, and a mere Rs 20,000 savings from his job at Indian Oil Corporation, when he started manufacturing instruments for oil conservation, earning fame and half a dozen patents to his name. In 1998, he laid the foundations of Kent RO Systems, which is today a leading player in the RO Water Purifier category and has expanded to several product categories such as air purifiers, water softeners, cooking appliances and AI-driven automotive security devices.

Here, Mahesh Gupta, a distinguished IIT Kanpur alumnus who describes himself as 'versatile', tells us why he felt compelled to give up his well-paying corporate job to start making water purifiers as he takes us through his eventful journey.

How I got into water purifiers…

I accidentally landed in the water purifier segment. When both my children were suffering from jaundice and the culprit was found to be drinking water, I was forced to look for a water purifier to install at my South Delhi home. The stuff available in the market left me unimpressed. The IIT-ian in me then decided to invent my own water purifier. After several trials and six months of hard work, I zeroed in on a technology - reverse osmosis (RO) - which promised the results I wanted, and thus the first Kent purifier was born in March, 1999. Recognizing its potential, and to promote a healthy and happy life for other families, I decided to market this invention. At that time, it was an audacious move for me as I had to leave a well-paying job to start making water purifiers in India.

The journey of Brand Kent...

It's been challenging and exciting at the same time. When Kent started its journey, no industry by the name of water purifiers existed in India. A handful of brands were trying their luck in this sector by selling very conventional purifiers through door-to-door marketing. Who would have thought that in a couple of years, the Indian water purifier industry would become one of the most lucrative sectors for national and international consumer durable brands to tap into, and aim for a share of the over Rs 3,500 crore industry. After starting out as a water purifier company, Kent has evolved and transformed in terms of technology and new product range, in sync with the brand's philosophy of Drink Pure, Eat Pure and Breathe Pure. Hence, each and every product of Kent RO is designed and sold to fulfil these three objectives. At present, the products in the Kent RO family are Air Purifiers, Cold Press Juicer, Vacuum and Bed Cleaners and Vegetable Purifiers. A revolutionary product is a low-cost water purifier, the Kent Gold AS, capable of removing arsenic, a root cause of cancer, from water. So far, only RO purifiers were able to remove dissolved arsenic, but Kent Gold AS, which costs just Rs 3,500, is capable of removing arsenic. Last year, we also ventured into the artificial intelligence segment. Kent Cameye and Cam Attendance are the latest fruits of labour of our R&D team. Not just these, we have a complete range of innovative smart kitchen appliances coming up, in addition to Noodle & Pasta Maker, Dosa Maker, Pizza & Omelette Maker, Turbo Blender, Rice Cooker, Atta & Bread Maker and others. During the lockdown, I happened to cook a lot and experiment with different cuisines. Smart kitchen appliances were a big-time saviour, making the cooking experience fun and exciting!

Our solutions for real problems…

As a consumer-centric brand, we focus on adding value to our offerings. We also come up with solutions to current problems. For example, cities such as Chandigarh, Gandhinagar, Patna, Bengaluru, Jammu, Lucknow, Chennai and Dehradun are listed among the cities where tap water quality has been found to be below par, as per a report by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). It has further exposed the failure of water supply agencies across cities to provide safe drinking water — a basic right for all. Hence, RO water purifiers have taken a front seat. But this led to another challenge, that is, wastage of water through these conventional purifiers. Acute water shortage and depleting groundwater levels together have led to an upsurge in demand for water treatment products that help save water by reducing wastage. The zero-water wastage technology from Kent is an answer to such a problem. We spend a lot of time and money on R&D, along with sales staff training, which is crucial as product knowledge is extremely crucial to connect with the consumer.

The values I hold dear...

I believe economy, society and environment are the three pillars of sustainability. I believe in ecological integrity, that the earth's environmental systems need to be kept in balance while natural resources within them need to be consumed by humans at a rate where they are able to replenish themselves. Economic systems should be intact and activities available to everyone to secure their livelihood. For healthy communities, we need leaders who safeguard personal, labour and cultural rights of all. I firmly believe that all brands that offer an all-inclusive solution, look at holistic growth, and have sustainable development strategy intact, can be easily identified. They are a cut above the rest, as it is they who will survive and thrive in the long run. From picking our brand ambassadors to our marketing strategy, our aim is to develop a strong consumer connect; hence we have Shah Rukh Khan and Hema Malini for our brand, their mature and responsible image work for the brand.

The need to educate people…

My biggest challenge remains the need to educate people about water-borne fatal diseases. A large section of people still consider water purifiers a luxury, which is not correct. It's a necessity keeping in mind the water quality we get in our homes. To an extent, people are now becoming more health conscious and understand the need for pure and clean water; still we have a long way to go as there may be washing machines and TV sets in every home, but water purifiers are not even in 1% of the households in India.

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