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How COVID has Accentuated the Need for Us to Bring Running Water to Every Urban Home

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Grégoire Landel CityTaps

Grégoire Landel, CEO and Founder of CityTaps tells us about the mission to have running water in every home.

First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times? 

Grégoire Landel: We are fine, thank you, and feeling very fortunate.  

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded CityTaps.

Grégoire Landel: I studied at Princeton, MIT, and Columbia University and gained additional software experience in San Francisco and Kampala. Prior to CityTaps, I worked as a Project Manager at SEURECA, then as a Senior Project Manager at SAUR, a Local Expert at The Nile Project, and a Project Director at Louis Berger, SAS. 

While working in Uganda, I witnessed water unavailability directly first-hand, which inspired me to focus on the water-related problems in developing countries. More than a billion people live without access to water at home and face a triple tax in health (jerrycans contaminate clean water), in money (up to 20 times more than the regulated tariffs), and in time (up to two hours per day). I felt that we have a moral imperative to solve this problem that affects the dignity, economic opportunity, and health of billions, with an outsized impact on women and girls. I believe that CityTaps’ solution is one part of solving this puzzle of bringing running water to every urban home. 

How does CityTaps innovate? 

Grégoire Landel: CityTaps’ solution, CTSuite, offers the only smart PAYGO water meter that works with mobile money and makes data accessible online to help utilities monitor their network in real-time while being 100% compliant with any tariff plans mandated by the utility or local regulatory authority. Today, smart and prepaid water meters transform the business models of utilities: the smart-PAYGO solution is the next step.

With CTSuite, subscribers can pay for at-home water anytime, with any mobile phone, from anywhere, as and when they have money, allowing them to manage their water budget more carefully. Utilities are paid upfront and can recover subscriber debts to regain the positive cashflow necessary to maintain and expand their networks. They also get access to data to help reduce Non-Revenue Water.

To continue to innovate, we are constantly listening to what our clients (and their subscribers) want and adapting to their needs. As a result, our solution is developed and progressed. What started out as a technical solution to bringing running water to urban homes has also become a financial solution. By improving the meter to cash process, CityTaps opens financing for water utilities critical to reaching SDG6.

We want to bring running water to those less fortunate and support utilities through their digital transformation, but above all, we want to be respectful to these organizations and their subscribers, understanding their environment and their situation to ensure that our solution is useful and appropriate. 

How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business, and how are you coping?

Grégoire Landel: COVID-19 has undeniably impacted our business. During the first lockdowns, we were unable to travel, and water utilities had to prioritize their day-to-day operations, slowing down their decisions to start new projects. Fortunately, we were still able to deploy the largest project of its kind in Kenya in 2020, and we have several new projects planned for 2021. 

Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?

Grégoire Landel: I was fortunate enough to avoid making any truly difficult choices during the pandemic, and we are hopeful that 2021 will help us bounce back. 

I have learnt a great deal from my team and my shareholders, who have been not only supportive but gone beyond my expectations to continue their work and commitment to our projects during a difficult time. Our team’s ability to continue to provide a service that ensures water utility subscribers continue to get running water at home has been tremendous. I have also learnt a lot about my own personal resilience. 

Of course, I am also grateful to the French government for their financial assistance to startups during the pandemic. 

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

Grégoire Landel: We don’t have any direct competitors; although many providers offer similar solutions, they are not exactly the same. We continue to innovate and expand, improve our solution, and offer financial solutions to utilities to help alleviate any issues they may have to access our solution. 

Your final thoughts?

Grégoire Landel: I am grateful to have been able to work through the pandemic and be able to spend time with my family. COVID has changed our way of doing business, and I hope this will encourage a new way of working in the future, with less travel and more remote work. This not only helps our budget but also reduces our carbon footprint.

The global pandemic has emphasized that CityTaps’ solution is needed today more than ever. A quarter of the world’s population lacks access to a reliable water supply, and we are still so far from the aspirations of Sustainable Development Goal 6. The pandemic has heightened awareness of both the extent and consequences of this catastrophe and reminded us that frequent and proper handwashing is an important defense against the spread of an epidemic.

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