The Optimist Citizen
Niranjan Karagi with Nirnal Water Filter

World’s cheapest water filter at Rs. 30 that can change millions of Indian lives

I am being shown a regular cola bottle (PET bottle) filled with what is told to be water, but is black, hazy, and resembles more of dust and dirt. Then a finger long cartridge is corked in like a bottle cap.  The chap who shows me this is tacitly observing the curiosity in my eyes, smiles, and takes a dramatic pause. He takes a long, transparent glass and starts squeezing the liquid from the bottle into the glass. That’s when ‘it’ happens. The liquid coming out on the other end is clean, crystal, transparent. After filling about half the glass, the chap gulps down the clean water in a gulp. Magic. Pure magic.  23 years old, dressed in a crisp blue shirt with ironed black trousers and eyes gleaming with a subtle hint of curiosity. The attire won’t give you clues about Niranjan Karagi and his innovative magic. He would seem clouded in a shroud of normalcy. But, he indeed is a magician. 

Growing up in Belgaum, Niranjan Karagi used to play with kids of a nearby government school. Every now and then, the kids would naturally feel thirsty and would drink water from the tap. No harm done. But, it was when Niranjan Karagi grew up and started his mechanical engineering degree that he found a sad peculiarity. “I saw that there was no filter in the school. Most kids drank water from the tap that was connected to an overhead tank. Upon further inspection, I came to know that the tank had not been cleaned for a year. A cleaning would only happen once a year, at most twice. I was stirred, to say the least,” says Niranjan. 

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Niranjan’s first response was to donate a filter to the school. Upon inquiry, Niranjan found that most water filters in the market were expensive. Even if one was donated to the school, the school wouldn’t be able to manage its maintenance cost alone. “The expense of a water filter could never be borne by a government school, many of which are located in remote areas and run on shoestring resources,”remembers Niranjan. 

But, our magician didn’t stop there. 

“As an engineer, you are always told to innovate and execute. I was thinking of a solution that was neither feasible nor innovative. I had to come up with something of my own. Something that fits in well to solve the pertinent and widespread problem of contaminated water”, he adds. 

Nirnal Water Filter by Niranjan Karagi

That is when Nirnal Water filter came into the picture. Starting with the development of multiple prototypes since 2016, Niranjan Karagi and his brother Pradumn have developed the Nirnal Water Filter. Nirnal is a cartridge-based filter that uses Nano-composite technology to filter dust particles (up to 5 microns) and bacteria up to 99.9%. A basic version of the filter costs Rupees 30, can fit on any regular PET bottle and can filter up to 100 liters of contaminated water.

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“Our first prototype was distributed to almost 15000+ students in government schools across Maharashtra and Karnataka. Over the course of two years, we have sold and distributed 70,000+ filters, not only to school children, but to members of the Army, CRPF, and INS Vikramaditya. Our filters have also been exported to 8+ countries,” says a proud Niranjan. 

Niranjan Karagi and Pradumn at the India Innovation Summit 2019
Niranjan Karagi and Pradumn at the India Innovation Summit 2019

The unprecedented response towards Nirnal Water Filter is substantially justified, especially with respect to its wider social impact. “It does not consume electricity, does not waste a drop of water, utilizes existing PET bottles for reuse, and is cheap.” reiterates Niranjan, laying down why products like these are imperative. 

Niranjan Karagi and Pradumn winning the 2019 3M-CII Young Innovators Challenge Award
Niranjan Karagi and Pradumn winning the 2019 3M-CII Young Innovators Challenge Award

For their work with Nirnal Water Filter, Niranjan Karagi and Pradumn won the 2019 3M-CII Young Innovators Challenge Award in the Product Innovation category. This award only goes on to reaffirm the widespread viability of Nirnal Water Filter and the unfathomable potential it holds. 

Talking about unfathomable, and ambition, I asked Niranjan what is the plan for the future. Where do you want to take it? “We are already working variants on 6 different variants of the filter. But, the goal is to filter seawater into potable drinking water. That’s the goal,” Niranjan concluded.

Spoken like a magician. A large vision and a seemingly impossible task at hand, but still brimming with the confidence that it can be achieved. The greatest magic is yet to come.    

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