All his life, Sivakumar, who looks an unlikely capitalist in his casual trousers, shirt, and bushy white moustache, has been interested in understanding what makes some people rich, and others poor.
At the Delhi School of Economics, where he completed his doctorate, his thesis was on this subject. He studied 200 families across three generations in rural India. His conclusion: “Affluence is a matter of chance.”
That discovery changed his political viewpoint…His interest in understanding the genesis of wealth did not…he was convinced that water, or the absence of it, held the key.
The idea for Akash Ganga came to Sivakumar in 2004, mainly as an offshoot of his research…The scientific basis behind Sivakumar’s air-to-water conversion is the heat exchange process: In this case, it involves sucking in air from the atmosphere and blowing it over cold gas resulting in the creation of water (in much the same way, condensate, or water, forms on the outside of the windows of a heated room in winter or an air-conditioned room in summer).
To Sivakumar, Akash Ganga, named after the tributary of the Ganga that provides water to the heavens in Hindu mythology, is more than a company; it is a mission. “I am doing this under a business format because there is no other format to take it to the people,” he says.
By mid-2004, Sivakumar and his team worked out how to make water from air. AGL invested in a modest 3,000 sq. ft manufacturing facility and started rolling out its products. Priced between Rs9,200 (USD 235) (for an 8-litre version) to Rs42,500 (USD 1,087) (for a 120-litre one), the machines were powered by electricity, and sold through stores that sold consumer durables such as television sets, washing machines and refrigerators. The Akash Ganga machines produced a litre of water at an average cost of Rs0.80 a litre (USD 0.02c), but, surprisingly, found little success. The company was unable to sell the product as it lacked the resources to market the product on a larger scale.
Since the process of converting air to water results in a drop in temperature (one reason why some air conditioners leak water), AGI has pitched its products as a three-in-one as the company terms it: an airconditioner, water creator, and air cleanser.
The machine produces ISO standard water for drinking and the company has sold some 400 machines till now. Considering fresh water is a major decreasing resource in the entire world and particularly in India, this innovation has some good potential if the economics work out.