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From Zero to 30% Market Share: Mahesh Gupta’s Kent RO Revolutionizing Water Purification

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From Zero to 30% Market Share: Mahesh Gupta's Kent RO Revolutionizing Water Purification

Have you ever stopped to appreciate something ordinary, something you use daily without a thought? Imagine a world where that seemingly simple thing suddenly became a precious commodity, a source of worry.

This is the story of a man who had his world shaken by a harsh reality. A seemingly ordinary vacation turned into a desperate scramble for a solution, a quest that would change lives for millions. From complete ignorance, he embarked on a path to transform an entire industry, challenging Tata’s and HUL.

Who is he, and how did his actions impact a nation? Read on to discover the answer.

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How the Journey Began

Dr. Mahesh Gupta, a man of sharp intellect, wasn’t always the water purification guru India knows him as today. Fresh out of IIT Kanpur (1975) with a mechanical engineering degree and later a Master’s from IIP Dehradun (1977), he landed a dream job at Indian Oil Limited. 

But he wanted to do something of his own. That’s when he started “Kent Oil Meter,” a business focused on oil conservation. While the venture took off, a more personal challenge was about to rewrite Dr. Gupta’s story. 

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A Father’s Worry

Dr. Gupta’s world turned upside down during a seemingly ordinary family vacation. His children, living in a posh South Delhi neighborhood, fell ill with jaundice.  A wave of panic washed over him. Jaundice? In their own home?

The realization that this was a waterborne illness hit him hard. It was a terrifying glimpse into a potential health crisis for countless families.

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The Spark of Change

Fueled by a father’s worry and an engineer’s problem-solving spirit, Dr. Gupta embarked on a personal mission – to create a superior water filter.

There was no fancy lab, but his own home was in Noida. With limited experience but unwavering resolve, he started experimenting with water purification. He quickly discovered the limitations of existing methods and looked for a more effective solution.

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Exploring Reverse Osmosis

He explored Reverse Osmosis (RO) technology, a concept relatively unknown in India then.  With a mere ₹20,000 saved from his previous job,

Mahesh imported parts and spent months experimenting. Finally, he had a breakthrough: his design for an RO water purifier was born.

Jul 5, 2022

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Small Fish In A Big Market

In 1999, with a four-member team and a one lakh rupee investment, Kent RO entered the market. It was a fierce underdog in a world dominated by established players.

The leading brand, Aquaguard, held a whopping 70% market share and offered a product priced at ₹5,000. With its superior RO technology, Mahesh Gupta’s Kent RO came in at a significantly higher price point of ₹20,000. He believed in his innovation, but sales figures told a different story.

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Silver Lining Amidst Challenges

The initial years were a brutal test of perseverance. Kent RO sold a mere 100 systems in the first year. The high price tag and unfamiliar technology proved to be significant hurdles.

Yet, there was a silver lining. Despite low sales, brand recall remained high. People who witnessed the RO purification process firsthand were impressed.

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From Limited Resources to Creative Solutions

Mahesh Gupta, ever the resourceful entrepreneur, recognized this as an opportunity. With limited capital of just ₹5 lakh and no budget for advertising, he devised a bold strategy – direct sales. 

Kent RO representatives went door-to-door, showcasing the effectiveness of their technology and converting interest into sales. This approach, though slow, started to yield results, with sales climbing to 20 units per month.

He placed the products at retail outlets that specialise in kitchenware. People bought on the spot after seeing the purity of the water. Kent RO had hit the sweet spot. By 2005, its sales jumped to ₹30 crores. 

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The Power of Branding

Starting small, Kent RO began to gain momentum as Mahesh Gupta recognized the power of branding. With the legendary actress Hema Malini as their brand ambassador, their message of “ Kent Ro hi lena” struck a chord with families, emphasizing the importance of safe drinking water. 

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Expanding Production

Their ad campaign paid off, with revenue soaring to ₹250 crore by 2010 and a 45% annual growth rate. The production expanded to a massive facility in Roorkee, Uttarakhand to meet demand. 

By 2015, sales reached 5 lakh units annually, and by 2017, revenue had already crossed ₹950 crore. Kent RO’s distribution network expanded rapidly, with over 600 distributors and 150 franchise outlets.

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Towards Market Domination

By 2023, Kent RO captured 30% of the market share in India, with water purifiers contributing 80% of revenue, toppling giants like Aquaguard.

Even industry heavyweights like HUL and Tata attempted to replicate Kent RO’s technology, but none could match their innovation and brand loyalty.

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A Well-Deserved Recognition 

Their success earned them prestigious awards and recognition, including the Kalaam Innovation Governance Award, the Best Domestic Purifier Award, and a Swachh Bharat Ambassadorship from the Prime Minister himself.

Kent RO continued to innovate, introducing new models and receiving certifications from leading organizations like the National Sanitation Foundation.

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Beyond Water Purifiers

Kent RO has now diversified to offer healthcare products like air purifiers, vegetable cleaners, and kitchen appliances. It aims to ₹2,000 Crore within three years and plans to enter the US market through a partnership with Black & Decker.

With investments in energy-efficient appliances, Kent RO’s commitment to innovation and purity remains unwavering.

Mahesh Gupta’s journey from concerned father to industry leader exemplifies the potential for extraordinary change from humble beginnings.

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I’m Archana R. Chettiar, an experienced content creator with
an affinity for writing on personal finance and other financial content. I
love to write on equity investing, retirement, managing money, and more.

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