Project Year



South Asia



Project Description

sarvajal1Mass urbanization across the globe is bringing fresh waves of migrants into urban slums—220 million people are moving from the Indian countryside to cities in the next twenty years alone and many of these are resettling in poorer communities. With this migration comes demand on utilities including, of course the need for clean drinking water. A failure to meet these needs creates significant upheaval from social interaction to healthcare, to business, spanning every aspect of city life. When people think of the places that represent our global future their minds turn to modern metropolises like Seoul, Tokyo, or San Francisco. But over the last decade we have seen globally cutting edge thinking and services shifting to include places like Manila, Nairobi, and Mumbai. This innovation is often driven by widespread, affordable connectivity and is increasingly supplemented by new ways to sense and interpret the world around us.

Recently a venture funded by the Piramal Foundation introduced a for-profit pilot to sell clean drinking water in slums through a novel "water ATM," supplying water at a fraction of the current market costs. It has great potential to be a force for good not least through providing a consistent service at a far more affordable price; located in proximity to the people it serves; remote monitoring of water quality and usage, and considered use of mobile technology. At the same time there is significant social, economic and political capital invested in current water practices from: the nuanced give-and-take of neighbors looking out for each other in a tight-knit community; the promise of water-for-votes; through to bribes paid to have water delivered. For a slum-dweller putting faith in a technology, regardless of the benefits over existing practices can be daunting not least because it requires trust that the underlying system will permanently change. It also requires trust in technology: that it is prudent to store something of monetary value in a pre-paid smart card, and that value will be released when required. Journeys for Water explores the strategies adopted by slum dwellers to ensure that their households have the water they need not just to survive, but thrive. In doing so, it provides a small, but important contribution in addition to Piramal Foundation's vision of bringing "water for all."


Jan Chipchase, Nitin Gupta, Gaurav Bhushan and Jennifer Fuqua

About the Researcher(s)

Jan Chipchase is founder of Studio D Radiodurans, a research, design and innovation consultancy specializing in identifying nuanced patterns of human behaviour. Jan was previously Executive Creative Director of Global Insights at frog, a global design and innovation consultancy, where he headed up the global research practice. Prior to that he was Principal Scientist at Nokia where he specialised in entry level products. He has worked on products that have collectivity sold over a billion units. His first book Hidden in Plain Sight was published in English, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Russian and became a best-seller in South Korea of all places. He is currently working on The Field Study Handbook.

Nitin Gupta is Managing Direcotr and cofounder at carbon12 creative; Nitin was previously Creative Director at Frog Design. He graduated with a Masters in Human Factors from the State University of New York at Buffalo, NY. He has previously been a researcher at Motorola Inc, conducting Human Behavioral Research in various countries including India and USA.

Gaurav Bhushan is Design Reearcher with frog; he is a graduate in Information Design from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. While at frog, Gaurav has been a project lead and key team member for engagements with clients in the US, India and Japan.

Jennifer Fuqua is an Associate Director, Program Management at frog's Shanghai Studio. With extensive experience in design research, communication design, and business strategy,
she applies her multidisciplinary skills to assist design teams in reaching project goals and objectives. At frog, she works with diverse teams including designers, researchers and technologists through the successful completion of client programs.

Synopsis of Research Results


Link to white Paper: Journeys for Water by Gaurav Bhushan, Nitin Gupta, & Jennifer Lee Fuqua

Link to research blogpost: Journeys for Water: A report on water ATMs in urban India

Presentation: Journey's for Water: Survival Strategies in Urban India


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