Safe Water Ceramics of East Africa

By Hannah Lee

In Tanzania, people don’t trust very easily and will come up with any excuse to turn your product down. Unfortunately, that is what happened to Safe Water Ceramics of East Africa’s CEO, Mesiaki Kimirei (Mr. Kim), and salesman, Fred. They have a unique product that has an innovative production process. They use a combination of clay, sawdust and colloidal silver to form the initial shape of the pot. The colloidal silver is the key ingredient (also expensive) that kills the bacteria.

It is then burned at 900 degrees in a kiln for about 24 hours, using a small stick of clay (a different kind) as an indicator of temperature (when it’s 900 degrees, it will start to melt). The cooling process takes about 24 hours. It is then transferred to the “drying station,” where it will solidify for a few days. The purpose of the sawdust is to create the tiny filters through which the water will travel. The sawdust will burn when in the kiln, leaving tiny holes all over the pot. Even the machine used to form the initial shape is handmade by Mr. Kim. It is a combination of wood, metal and the tool used when changing the tire of your car. It is constructed to minimize labor. Talk about doing it yourself! After the pot has dried, they test it to see if the water flow is as expected (2L per hour) and the water is bacteria-free. The latter is done at a local clinic. However, they have an in-home test as well where you stick a small tube containing the filtered water next to your body for a day or so and if the water turns brown, it means it contains bacteria. If not, it’s clean and safe to drink!

While his product is innovative without a doubt and even award winning, Tanzanians have less interest to learn about the product/technology or worse, trust that it produces clean drinking water. A lot of it is behavioral, which is unfortunate and hard to change. In the meantime, all they can do is stay focused on keeping a consistent messaging scheme and come up with creative sales strategy!

In addition, they are burdened with costs. Due to high costs, they can only sell the pot at a high price (90,000 TSH for the smaller one). While the pot may last 5-6 years depending on the water used, the initial upfront cost is very high for their target market (low- to middle-income earners). Even if someone expressed interest in the product, he/she will end up just walking away due to their schedule for the day. Tanzanians will usually have a schedule in mind when going about their day, and generally don’t like having to change i.e. go home earlier to avoid carrying the pot around all day.

The bucket itself is almost 40% of the cost (part of which is VAT), not to mention the high cost of the colloidal silver. Mr. Kim ends up making a margin of 20,000 TSH per pot (after salary, etc.), which doesn’t include some expenses. The Anza team proposed two major sales tactics: (1) get certification and (2) partner with health-related vendors i.e. dispensaries, pharmacies, etc. Safe Water Ceramics can get a certification from TSB (a Tanzanian standards office), which states that the product is up to the bureau’s standards.

By partnering with health-related vendors, Safe Water Ceramics can be present when a person comes looking for diarrhea relief medicine. This can be used as an opportunity to talk about the benefits of the pot, incentivizing the customer to purchase due to his/her state of health.


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