How does a business cover a wide geography, provide personalised customer and technical service while keeping costs low with a lean team and overheads?
Africa has led the world in adoption of new technologies and platforms that leapfrog traditional centralized distribution systems and networks. Small-scale solar power generation has provided lighting and electricity beyond the distribution grid, mobile phones have left fixed-line telecoms obsolete and e-wallet banking has made safe, cashless transacting accessible to millions of people.
We took our inspiration from close friends and Oxford classmates who co-founded M-Kopa in Kenya in the design and build of a bespoke connected network platform that allowed us to remotely monitor and control each of our water purification and dispensing machines in real-time.
Combining mobile-phone network connectivity, municipal water and electricity supply created the perfect Venn diagram of variability and complexity in African markets. We have iterated and improved our connected network technology numerous times, including scrapping it entirely in 2016 to redesign and build it from scratch, a move that’s had long-term benefits in stability and resilience.
By using the mobile phone data network and built-in sensors, I-Drop can track a range of performance data, diagnose problems and remotely oversee service support from contract technical partners in both local and remote areas.
The I-Drop connected network platform has also helped us gain valuable insights into shopper preferences and the state of municipal input water across Africa. It has helped us demonstrate to shop-owners, retail chains and shoppers how much impact they have had by choosing refill water over bottled water, and enabled us to engage with local artisans and technicians to service I-Drop machines across Africa.
We are proud to be part of the emerging network of African entrepreneurs pioneering new applications of technology platforms to address large-scale social challenges and market opportunities.