Trained as a lawyer in the United Kingdom, Rukhsana Kausar left the legal profession in Dubai two years ago to work full-time for her company, Liquid of Life. The company reduces the use of bottled water by promoting water filtration systems. Ms Kausar, 34, spoke about the issue at Social Enterprise Week in Dubai last month.
You provide water filtration products. How did you start?
I did get some seed funding for the company, which started in 2009, and my family remortgaged their UK house to finance Liquid of Life. I also got good business mentors in Dubai. One of them is Edward Roderick of Envestors Mena. I took several courses in environment and sustainability in the UK and wanted to do something that would change the lives of people. We import filtration systems from the United States and dispensers from Canada. The dispensers filter and tank heated or chilled water for consumption.
Who do you target - domestic or corporate clients?
One of our first clients was Microsoft in Dubai. We have 30 corporate clients now. We focus only on corporate clients and never really marketed to domestic clients, and have no intention of doing so in the near future. But when we approach clients, some of the staff members might want the filtration system for their homes and we do not say "no". Sometimes the clients say the system would not work for our business but would work for home. We have distributed 200 to 300 systems to corporate clients and more than 50 to domestic clients. We are also working on a project that would introduce filtration systems for the staff working at Dubai Metro stations.
What is the cost of the systems?
It can cost from Dh2,300 (US$626) to Dh4,600. We also provide maintenance and change filters and sanitise the system. In less than 12 months, the clients can have 50 per cent less expenditure than what they had for bottled water.
What are your revenues like?
The actual revenues for last year were in excess of Dh1 million. This year we are working on several projects and hope to touch Dh10 million. It is based on some large projects we are involved with and also a lot of the companies we met with last year are now going to be implementing our solutions this year. We are also doing more work with labour accommodation in providing filters for drinking water that improves on the quality of drinking water currently being provided to some facilities, while at the same time reduce the operational, administration and actual cost of filters. The market for providing drinking water filters in labour accommodation sites is significant.
What are the challenges that you face?
As a young business we have no huge marketing budget. A lot of the business is through referrals from existing clients. I also belong to a networking group called BNI High Flyers Chapter in Dubai. I would recommend that to any business owner.