As water rapidly continues to become a scarce commodity in most urban and rural towns, one has no choice other than to pay for the service despite the limited or no supply. Failure to pay may result in disconnection. Buying tokens for the water just like electricity before consumption seems to be the better alternative.
Swiss Quest Water Supplies Co. Ltd is a utilities technology company specializing in the supply, installation and management of smart/prepaid water metering solutions that support mobile money payments in Kenya such as M-pesa, and Water Revenue Management Software (Water Billing System). Swiss Quest was incorporated in 2015, and has been operational for a year and a half. The company offers their solution to water companies to improve their efficiency in collection of their water revenue.
A customer has the option of sending money to the water company via M-pesa to purchase water credit, or buying from an M-pesa agent. If the customer chooses to purchase directly on their phone, after sending the money, the water company sends a 12-digit token on their mobile phone which is fed to the water meter ICU. Another unique feature of the meter is that it rings when your credit is low, so you are never caught off guard.
Swiss Quest has ten prepaid water meter systems installed in Lake View Estate located in Naivasha. They have also done a pilot in Kiambu, Eldoret, Kajiado and Kwale Counties. Their clients are the water companies, they therefore work hand in hand to ensure the systems are installed and customers are satisfied. Piloting is currently the main marketing strategy for Swiss Quest.
Swiss has also worked with private developers where they have installed meters especially in the gated communities where people buy water from a common private vender. In 2017, they are planning to have their prepaid water meter systems in Kisumu, Meru, Embu, Machakos and Muranga counties.
Just like any other business, the company has been facing some challenges. Since the company is relatively young, they outsource their staff which is quite expensive. In most instances, the four directors are forced to foot some costs from their pockets.
Some customers are not quick to grasp the technology and need several explanation sessions therefore the cost of transport becomes high as Swiss Quest is required to make several visits.
Swiss Quest imports their systems from China thus the taxation and import duties are very high. Due to water rationing, customers are forced to buy water from outside (tanker) thus not making use of the meters. Sometimes payment for their services is delayed therefore hampering the smooth operations of the business.
In order to grow, the company is in need of marketing services especially for the pilot exercises to create awareness about their products and services. This year the company is targeting to have 10,000 meters installed in homes across Kenya. After Proof of Concept, they looking at Water Companies ordering the prepaid water meter systems in bulk.
The mentorship services provided to Swiss Quest by KCIC for six months was helpful despite the difficulty in timings. The company also aims to participate in more exhibitions which will be instrumental in expanding their customer base since the business relies on customer referrals.