An Ice Story from Hell

Imagine walking to a shop to purchase some ice for your home on a hot day. Imagine the local store keeper - who also happens to be a butcher - takes the knife with which he his cutting a chicken and cuts a large slab of ice for you. How would you feel about putting that ice in your drinking water? 

That's the experience our team had when we went to purchase ice from the local ice shop. Ice available at stores like this is not only made from contaminated water in unregulated ice factories, but is often kept in unhygienic environments like the one we encountered that day. Due to the scorching temperatures in a city like Karachi, virtually no one has water without cooling it first through some mechanism. Many households at the bottom of the pyramid do not have fridges, and face daily electricity outages. As a result, many rely on externally purchased ice to cool their water. 

When we began to report on this problem to friends and well wishers in the Sukoon Water ecosystem, the common response was "why don't you educate them to not use dirty ice". Education is often seen as a magic bullet to drive behavior change. While education is essential, alone it does not alleviate the constraints that drive bad behaviors in the first place. Teaching people to use safe ice does not alleviate the income constraints that prevent them from buying a fridge or prevent a regular source of electricity from their homes. A second response to the problem was, "why don't you start making ice". In theory, this seems like a logical response, but if maintaining a robust supply chain for safe water has been difficult, maintaining a cold chain for ice seems like a gargantuan task. While we haven't written off this solution, we are exploring cheaper, less logistically challenging ways through which we can expand the range of cooling options that people have. This has become one of the core areas of innovation that we believe is essential to developing a delivery model that has real impact on the ground. It has shifted our definition of what the last mile of innovation and delivery entails.