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The Power of Patient Capital: RISE Teams Up with Insitor and KWSH

Founded in 2013, Khmer Water Supply Holdings (KWSH) is a social enterprise on a mission to increase safe water access by delivering piped water to remote areas in Cambodia, where four million people still do not have reliable sources of clean water in their homes. KWSH’s portfolio includes three micro water utilities that cover license areas of 21,000 households.

A KWSH beneficiary at Tram Khnar. Three years ago, she relied on truck deliveries of water from unknown origins. But now through KWSH she as access to clean piped water, which is cheaper, safer, and more reliable and convenient. Photo by Leap Philanthropy

 

The company intends to pursue considerable expansion soon, bringing clean water to more households within its geographic licensing area and investing in additional utility stations. However, KWSH encountered a challenge that proved a barrier to its growth, and which required significant funding and expertise to address. Thus, KWSH was introduced to Regional Investment Impact for Entrepreneurs (RISE) through KWSH’s investor-partner, Insitor Partner as a RISE technical assistance (TA) facility is created to support more resilient growth for high social impact businesses to generate impact for the base of the pyramid.

 

The Challenge
KWSH encountered a challenge in scaling when its growth began to outpace the technology it had in place to monitor its expanding data points. On the company’s aging computer system, it was becoming increasingly difficult to monitor each utility’s performance and the efficacy of the company’s marketing and sales strategies.

"As a hands-on investor, Insitor Partners worked closely with KWSH over the past year to identify and problem-solve for obstacles that may hinder scaling,” said Nicholas Lazos, Partner & Chief Investment Officer at Insitor Partners. “The need for a more advanced CRM system emerged as crucial for KWSH to achieve its long-term objectives and grow in a sustainable manner.”

 

Though the company realized its need to install a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, it did not have the capital to allocate to the project as its resources were earmarked for use in building water treatment plants, laying pipelines, and acquiring additional utility stations. Nor did KWSH have the expertise necessary to identify a viable software vendor who could create these new systems and tailor them to meet the company’s specific needs. 

The Response

RISE TA financing solutions proved ideal to meet the challenges KWSH was facing. The RISE model is a flexible one, reliant not on a complex screening process but on a set of basic criteria that include the investor company’s viability for social impact -- criteria which KWSH’s social mission ensured it met. RISE engaged in a formal partnership with KWSH in March and provided the company with an affordable financing solution for the TA the company required, covering the costs of hiring a consultant to design the new system, training the team on how to use the new solutions, and refining and improving the system as it is implemented.

“RISE has offered KWSH a repayable grant to fund the tech project so that they don't have to divert resources from pipeline expansion projects at this critical juncture,” said Lazos. “RISE's repayable grant is a great innovation in the TA delivery space.”

In addition to providing the funding, RISE also assisted KWSH in the recruiting and vetting of TA service providers. Insitor consultants enumerated the necessary and preferred technical specifications and features of KWSH’s new TA system, and RISE then used this information to draft a ToR and contact local and regional consultancies well-suited to provide these requirements. RISE vetted three different vendors’ proposals, then KWSH and Insitor scored each proposal in order to make the final choice.

Pouk Station Manager supports pipeline welding training at Chhlong Station. Successful scaling the KWSH infrastructure will require significant human and financial resources in order to extend safe piped water to a greater number of rural consumers.

 

Moving Forward
RISE’s patient financing of new technical solutions for the company has proven beneficial: it allows KWSH to maintain its focus on its social mission, investing in physical assets without being hindered by an aging technical system.

By the end of 2019, KWSH intends to begin operations at two more micro water utility stations, in turn acquiring the licenses to serve an additional 16,000 households and bringing the total number of homes it is licensed to serve to 37,000. It will also be expanding its service to more households within its current licenses, with the goal of expanding distribution capacity to cover 90% of the households within its licensed territory and adding a minimum of 10,000 to 20,000 new households to its portfolio annually.

As the company engages in a fresh round of fundraising this year, the promise of its soon-to-be-installed CRM system -- made possible through the RISE program -- contributes to KWSH’s increasing attractiveness to potential investors. KWSH’s mission of providing clean water to underserved communities is one that has been shown, over time, to spur economic growth and improve educational outcomes in the communities it impacts.

For further information, contact SokHuy Lay, RISE TA Facility Manager, at sokhuy.lay@STOP-SPAM.swisscontact.org.

 

Entrance of KWSH's Pouk Station

Story Cambodia Enterprise