Flowing with generosity

"SOME people believe in telling stories. Some believe in doing things about which stories will be told in times to come" is a quote that aptly describes the hard work that social entrepreneur Ganesh Muren channelled into Saora Industries.

He founded this social enterprise to provide underdeveloped communities with access to clean water at a low-cost and sustainable manner.

It all began in his university days when this top student created a solar-powered water purification device as part of his final year engineering project. Although he received a grade C for it, he wasn't the least bit discouraged as industry experts thought that his idea was brilliant.

According to Ganesh, the idea for the project came when his zeal for off-roading and camping encountered him to Mira; a young girl who suffered diarrhoea as frequent as six times a week due to the scarcity of clean water.

Recognising it as an ongoing issue that has yet to be rectified, he was determined to address this problem. And within five months, he designed a solar powered device that can draw water from nearby sources – be it river, mountain or a well – to purify it through several mediums, so that the water becomes safe for consumption.

Mira, unfortunately, passed away during that time frame. This prompted Ganesh to take his innovation beyond his degree because he strongly believes that no other children should suffer the same fate as her.

A year later, he joined the inaugural Global Impact Competition in the United States where his idea finished first runner-up. There, he was approached by a funder who gave him a blank cheque to transform his blueprints into tangible results.

Throughout your journey in implementing this device, which was the most eye-opening experience?

It has to be in Sarawak because the village atmosphere is vastly different from Peninsular Malaysia – the people there are so accepting and warm that in a short period of time, they'll welcome you as family. Unlike in KL, where every one is fixated in the rat race, you will only find pure love over there. This sense of community is heartening because I live in a neighbourhood where I don't even know who my neighbour is!

What's the best advice you have ever received?

"Humility goes a long way."

Can you tell us some of the challenges you initially faced?

In the beginning, it was mostly about the funds. When the funding came in, I mistakenly ordered the wrong parts for the system which incurred losses of about RM25,000. There are a lot of things to learn when you're a small company and we discovered it the hard way.

How about your proudest moment?

Besides clean water, we also provide solar lighting through the generation of electricity. Hence, when a mother from Sarawak sent us a picture of her children studying around the lamp, I was overjoyed. After the amount of work we put in, that picture – and the meaning behind it – made everything worthwhile.

If you can change one thing about the water industry, what would it be?

I'll raise water prices to discourage people from abusing it. Water is so cheap in certain cities that people do not appreciate it at all. It's similar to when you advise the public to minimise carbon footprint by taking public transportation, nobody would do it. However, when you raise the petrol prices, many would eventually turn to public transportation. As such, the most effective deterrent is often finance-related.

TRIVIA

Best trait: Persuasion.
Ideal superpower: Mental control over the actions of others.
Comfort food: Dimsum.