It was the year 1998 when South Delhi-resident Mahesh Gupta’s kids fell ill, the reason being contaminated water supply. Disappointed by the available options of water purifiers in the market, Gupta took the matter in his own hands with what all knowledge he had on the subject being an IIT-Kanpur alumnus, and decided to develop a suitable machine for his family.
“The purifiers available in the market in those days worked on ultraviolet (UV) technology, which kills bacteria in the water. I knew this was not good enough since the water we drink also contains many dissolved impurities, which cannot be treated with this technology. I wanted to develop a water purifier that would also take care of the undesirable dissolved elements, while recognising and retaining the good minerals,” says Gupta.
RO is the way forward
After months of hard-work in his garage, Gupta finally narrowed it down to reverse osmosis (RO) technology as the solution he was looking for and thus shaped up the first Kent system in March of 1999. Contented with the successful functioning of the purifier, Gupta decided to take it up a notch by introducing his invention to the market.
“Though I did not conduct any market survey before starting my business, I was aware of the fact that 80 per cent of diseases in India are caused by water-borne micro-organisms, and that 80 per cent of urban families do not even purify tap water. Obviously, there was a huge market for my product,” says Gupta.
The perks of being one-of-a-kind
Gupta served as the Deputy Manager (technical service) to Indian Oil Corporation for 11 years, after which he decided to take the entrepreneurs’ road in 1988 with his first foray S S Engineering, a business making oil meters used to test the quality of oil.
A decade later, Gupta entered the market with his second venture by investing about Rs 5 lakh as seed fund from his saving from first venture. But the beginning was not a smooth one.
“It was tough initially since I had to manage both my ventures simultaneously. In the first year, the sales were a dismal 100 units, and we were even accused of overcharging by some customers. This was because we had priced our product at around Rs 20,000, whereas most of the other water purifier companies were selling their products at around Rs 5,000. KENT was offering a superior technology and we had to recover the cost of imported equipment that we were offering,” he says.
However eventually customers realized the superiority of the product and word of mouth played a vital role in hiking the sale. As a matter of fact, Kent RO became the first to introduce wall-mounted water purifiers for modern Indian kitchens.
Roping in Celebrities as ambassadors
“Given the lack of manpower penetration, getting the servicing pipeline in place was a huge challenge. We’ve managed to overcome the obstacles, and today, our company has a team of more than 3,000 service engineers in different corners of the country,” says Gupta.
In 2006, Kent on-boarded very popular Hema Malini as the face of the brand followed by her daughters, and then later on actor Boman Irani for a new product ‘Kent Tap Guard’.
From a meager investment of Rs 20,000 to Rs 250 crore+ foray
By 2010 Kent RO Systems became Rs 250 crore worth company, selling more than 2.25 lakh units annually. Today, Mahesh Gupta is not only credited with the invention of an innovative 4-stage water purifier that has bagged prestigious awards like ‘Best Domestic Purifiers Award’ by UNESCO and ‘Water Digest International Award’, but also recognized as the man who carved out a dominant 40 per cent share of the Rs 1600 crore water purifier market.
“I still have no formal training in this field, but I’ve managed to keep myself abreast of the market by going through reference books, conducting Internet research for innovations, and visiting various industries and markets. And the continuous support of my wife Sunita and both our children, 30-year-old Surbhi and 28-year-old Varun has been the backbone of my venture’s success,” he concludes.
— Kent RO (@KentROSystems) July 26, 2017