Roundabout Outdoor and PlayPumps International: A Hybrid Business Model to Tackle the Water Scarcity Problem

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Case Details:

Case Code : BSTR380
Case Length : 23 Pages
Period : 1994-2010
Pub Date : 2010
Teaching Note : Available
Organization : Roundabout Outdoor / PlayPumps International
Industry : Social / Safe water
Countries : Africa

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Please note:

This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Trevor Field, who wanted to help solve the water problem faced by communities in Africa through his 'business solution for a social problem', found himself confronted with various challenges in scaling up operations. His innovative PlayPump and the business model he adopted to achieve his mission were both widely appreciated by experts. However, issues related to funding and other challenges related to international expansion posed potent roadblocks in the way of his achieving his mission.

In Africa, 40% of the people lack access to potable water supply (Refer to Exhibit I for key facts & figures).

The lack of access to water leads to deaths and economic loss. Moreover, women and girls, on whom the burden of obtaining water for the family falls, have to trek long distances and spend hours collecting water from dams, springs, rivers, streams, and farm reservoirs. Where such traditional sources of water are not available, they have to rely on bore wells and toil hard to work the hand pumps. While this is back-breaking work, alternatives such diesel, petrol, or electric pumps are too costly to install and maintain.1 They have also to contend with the fact that hand pumps break down often and remain un-repaired for a period of time.2

Since this responsibility is linked to gender, women and girls spend a disproportionate part of their time hauling water - time that could be better spent with family, on economic activities, or in school. According to experts, in many regions of sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls have to trudge an average of 8 kilometers to the nearest water source every day, and haul back containers of water weighing about 40 pounds.

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1] Nicholas McDiarmid, "Borehole Pumps While Children Go Roundabout,", August / September 2005.
2] Geoff Hopkins, "Kids Play, Water Pumps: A Sustained Investment,"

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