Harnessing the energy of water current to lift water to hilly areas

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Ramesh is a fourth-year Chemical Engineering student at Kathmandu University who aspires to solve water-related problems in the hilly regions of Nepal. As one of the finalists of Udhyami Yuva Challenge (UYC), we got to talk about what inspired Ramesh to come up with this idea, the challenges he might face while executing it and his journey at UYC so far. Follow along to know how the conversation went about. 

1. Can you tell us about your idea in brief and what inspired you to come up with it?
One of the major problems I had seen in the hilly areas, where I am originally from too, is that of water scarcity. Whenever I used to visit home during the Dashain holidays, I used to think of the solutions for this problem but then, I didn’t have enough knowledge at hand. After getting my education and finding out about different mechanisms, I figured that I could make a pump that can lift the water up in the hilly areas without requiring electricity. This kind of device had already been made and used in a lot of countries but we designed one ourselves by mixing two kinds of devices- Hydram and Rampump. 

We got to present this idea in Hult prize organized by KU where we also made a prototype of the machine with the help of mechanical engineers, winning us the runner up prize. After that, we presented it at NASA’s worldwide program in Kathmandu where we experimentally verified our idea. So, that was a great start for us.

2. Can you tell us more about the prototype of your machine?
Yes! We combined two devices to make the prototype ourselves. It lifted water to a certain height by only the force of water current and we know that if we can perfect this design then it can lift even higher. It’s currently in Dhulikhel at our university.

3. How many people are there in your team?
We were initially four people but right now, because of this situation, my team members aren’t working on it. We haven’t really thought of starting a company as there are a lot of constraints plus these are just our preliminary knowledge. So, I guess it’s just me for now.

4. What social problem are you trying to solve or what social change will your product or service bring in society?
Having seen the problems first hand in the hilly areas, I’m sure that if we’re able to provide electricity and water to these areas, the people there will have a bit of an easy life. They’ll have access to the internet and get to learn about different ideas and developments happening around. As awareness creates a spark for development, I think it’ll have a massive impact in the lives of people there. 

5. How do you plan to generate revenue?
We thought we’d generate revenue in two ways. First, we would sell the machine to organizations that work towards development in hilly areas and second to sell it to municipalities as farmers won’t be able to afford individually.

6. Is there another machine already existing that’s similar to yours?
Ncell has a similar machine in one of the villages in Nepal, not sure of the name. But they brought the machine from abroad so I think if we make the machine ourselves, we’ll be able to call ourselves first to design that sort of machine in Nepal.

7. What are the challenges you might face while starting the company?
First would be financial because it’ll require a lot of investment to make one device. If we import then it’s even more expensive. If we start a company then we will also face challenges in terms of technical knowledge. A lot of students go abroad after completing their bachelors so we lack people who know the technicalities. Likewise, we’ll also need experts so that we’ll get an idea about how to perfect our machine. 

8. How was your experience at the UYC bootcamp?
I couldn’t attend it live because of my internet issues and couldn’t be interactive but I watched all the videos later and got a good understanding about topics that were beyond my horizon.

9. Was there any session you liked the most? Or was there any other session you think could be added?
I think all the sessions and trainers were very nice. All their insights and practical knowledge were very helpful for all of us. Things that we had never learned in Nepal  was very interesting to know too. But, I feel like if we had been able to have live sessions instead of virtual then we could’ve gotten more hands-on skills and knowledge. That’s a different thing though because of the situation. 

10. What were your expectations from the bootcamp? Were those expectations met?
This is my first time attending this kind of bootcamps so I didn’t know what to expect in the first place. I got thorough knowledge from the sustainability and digital marketing sessions. For engineers like me, topics such as finance is kind of new. Although we do have courses about it, we do not have practical knowledge about it. So, that session also helped me gain an insight on financial statements, taxes and certifications.

11. If you get the seed fund, how do you plan to take your idea further?
That’s like a challenge actually because of the situation we are in right now. Maybe we’ll begin after a year but for now, we can implement but for now, it is an unsure time.

12. If you do not get the seed fund, how do you plan to take your idea further?
We haven’t finalized that we will be continuing on this idea as we still have our education to further and things are very unpredictable as of now for entrepreneurs. So, we will be continuing with our higher education.

For more information about this idea, please connect with Ramesh at rameshpokhrel5@gmail.com

Interviewed and article by Yangzum Lama.