Improve Access to Safe Water through Local Entrepreneurship ("Shujola")

The ready-made garments sector is one of the fastest-growing industries in the Bangladeshi economy. The influx of workers from rural to urban areas and the high demand for housing in locations close to ready-made garments clusters have resulted in the rapid expansion of unregulated residential communities in urban and peri-urban areas of Bangladesh. In these communities, the designated government agencies responsible for providing basic public services such as water, sanitation and sewerage are often absent. A recent study conducted by Oxfam in Bangladesh indicates that more than three-quarters of ready-made garment workers have no running water inside their residences. Unofficial and informal service providers fill this gap. They charge high costs for low-quality services. The inadequate access to safe drinking is the main contributor to the poor health of residents.

District Dhaka
District Gazipur 
District Chattogram
Project duration
2019 - 2021
Financed by
  • Japan Tobacco International

The project

The project “Shujola” aims at providing ready-made garments (RMG) workers in their – often unregulated – residential communities with access to affordable sources of safe water for drinking and bathing. “Shujola” is a Bengali word, meaning clean water source.

The project gives ready-made garments workers and their communities access to safe water at low cost from “water kiosks” that are run by entrepreneurs. A water kiosk can be a water dispensary, a water ATM (Automatic Teller Machine), a bottling plant, or a combination of several of these.

The designated public agencies will engage authorised private sector players to extend the water supply network to new areas. The Dhaka Water Supply & Sewerage Authority has already piloted this concept with Drinkwell, a water technology company, and established water ATMs providing safe drinking water across Dhaka City. The results so far are very encouraging and water from ATMs have gained traction in thousands of households and small businesses across the city. Shujola will add value to the existing concept by:

  • Assisting all market actors to establish detailed business plans and test the commercial viability of the business model.
  • Identifying, selecting and training local entrepreneurs to operate and maintain water kiosks in local communities.
  • Conducting awareness campaigns amongst ready-made garments workers to create demand.
  • Facilitating in partnership with commercial banks the offer of loan products for local enterprises who want to invest in water kiosks.
  • Creating pathways for scale based on the commercial viability of the business model, learnings and experience of the different market actors during the 15-month pilot phase.

Project goals

  • Local enterprises are selected, trained and ready to operate water kiosk as a business franchise in selected locations.
  • Landowners and the public authorities provide necessary space and water connections for water kiosks operated by local enterprises.
  • Low-income households in ready-made garments clusters are aware of the clean and safe drinking water available in water kiosks.

Project partner

  • Drinkwell
  • FloWater Solutions


  • 5 local entrepreneurs were trained, set up and operate water kiosks.
  • Over 5,000 people in ready-made garments clusters have already benefitted from affordable safe water from these kiosks.
  • Over 15,000 people consume safe drinking water through more than 600 water jar sales to institutional clients.
  • 100,000 litres of water supplied to RMG workers’ residential community members and institutional clients.
  • Over 10,000 RMG workers’ residential community members were reached through awareness raising campaigns.
  • 40 low income people are employed by the entrepreneurs.

Financing partners

This project is financed by Japan Tobacco International, among other donors. As part of the Swisscontact Development Programme, it is co-financed by SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA).


Entrepreneurial ecosystems
Man with a Mission – Hannan’s story
Having witnessed first-hand the magnitude of distress caused by the scarcity of safe drinking water, Md. Abdul Hannan, a development practitioner, decided to take matters into his own hands. With a vision to contribute to the well-being of the community, he became the first water entrepreneur for the Shujola pilot establishing “Shuddho Drinking Water” in Gazipur, Bangladesh. A proud entrepreneur in his own right, Hannan now has the opportunity to make meaningful difference in society.
Dare to Dream Big – Obayed’s Story 
Obaydul Haque is an example of how hard work and perseverance can make your dream a reality. After years of financial struggle, he jumped at the opportunity to become a water entrepreneur with support from the Shujola project. He is now the proud owner of “Tresta Drinking Water” in Ashulia, Dhaka. And this seems only the beginning for Obaydul as his fire to succeed is driving him to grow his enterprise further to serve his community.
Cycle of Water – Lipi’s Story
Lipi Akhtar, a small grocery shop owner, is a loyal consumer of a water enterprise established by the project in Ashulia, Dhaka. Her journey from a young runaway bride with no experience nor possessions to becoming a shop owner is a story filled with laughter and tears. Her struggles taught her not to give up at the face of adversity. So, when her family was plagued by waterborne diseases, affecting their health and putting a strain on their financial condition, Lipi, a loving wife and mother, sought out the most dependable safe drinking water for her loved ones – the RO filtered water from Shujola’s water ATM.