By Ronald Y. Perez, WC&P Associate Editor
Everythingaboutwater.com, or www.eawater.com, is the hottest thing from India to hit American soil (or at least our computer screens) since Deepak Chopra. With water quality issues seeping into our daily lives at such a rapid rate, it was only a matter of time before someone took the initiative of tackling water in such a grandiose manner.
And India, home ironically to some of the driest land anywhere, has answered the call.
Capitalizing on water
To begin with, some background is necessary on this virtual water portal. First of all, it’s a commercial site and, while we generally shy away from such reviews in this column, the foreign nature and unique presentation of this one drew our attention. The site first became available in July. Targeting the “$400 billion” water industry, eawater.com buys, sells and provides information on issues and products related to water. Recently, CEO and co-founder Sunil Ghorawat—former Pentair manager for India—told The Pioneer, an Indian publication: “We have 35 storefronts in India. By the end of the financial year, we are looking at a listing of 20,000 service providers from the water industry on our site, along with 100 storefronts by the year end.”
All of this begs the question: Where are the revenues coming from? It breaks down this way: product sales (30 percent), maintenance services (22 percent), rental storefronts (17 percent), commission (17 percent), catalog services (8 percent) and advertising (3 percent). Sure enough, the banner and flash ads we’re accustomed to seeing at other sites are virtually absent at eawater.com. The portal acts as a web distributor for various companies, and has over 350 business-to-business and business-to-consumer products and services.
By selecting the business user page, many options become available. Near the top of the page and toward the middle, the eye catches boxes reserved for registered visitors: “Take me to my page.” Another box below is reserved for “Dr. H2O,” who serves as the site’s leading guru on all water-related problems and possible solutions. The idea is for the portal to organize water collection centers, or Dr. H2O clinics, in various locations where people can furnish water samples they need tested.
Dr. H2O is a handy resource as he allows us to post questions at liberty. If the question isn’t listed in a large bank of FAQs (frequently asked questions), then the good doctor promises a response within 48 hours. It also helps that the doctor has a panel of experts and hired consultants who take care of the questions. Then again, a human-shaped water droplet is a lot more appealing than a bunch of guys in white lab coats and clipboards.
Questions are listed under different headings including Water Treatment, Pumps, Water Heating, Water Cooling, Water Proofing, Marine Equipments and Water Gadgets and Others. Indeed, it would be extremely difficult to have a problem and not find it, or at least something similar, among the multitude of categories provided.
On the left column of the business page, I went to the Events tab and selected three upcoming events between September 2000 and November 2000. Two of the three were logged in the database. Well, as ’70s pop singer Meatloaf once said… Anyway, it also allows you to register at the show online along with basic information.
If you seek a particular business in your area, the Yellow Pages feature is of utmost importance. It will look up any business by name as well as product category and city, and boasts a listing of 20,000 names. Unfortunately, all locations provided are in India. A Buyer’s Guide is also available for those seeking products in four different areas—vessel, valve, resin and pumps. Plus, those looking for a career change or someone to fill that open position can point their cursor toward Careers. It even permits you to post your résumé. The only downside is getting to your interview in India.
Like the business user page, the home user version offers the Yellow Pages and Careers, as well as a Discussion Forum pages. It also has a home store for water products. An emphasis is placed on the health aspects of water (Water & Health) and some general data (Tips & Facts). With product sales being the main piston that makes this site’s motor run, a Home Store is available for the home user as well as the business user.
For free water testing, you must be registered with the website. As an incentive to register, eawater.com provides benefits such as business transactions, discounts and online tender posting. Unless you are familiar with items like the Thane district in Maharashtra, the News section comes off as India-driven and perhaps uninformative to those outside the continent. However, there is a search function that allows access to archive material, which I found to be useful.
Under Water & Fun, visitors are treated to a potpourri of hot spots—beaches, lakes, hot springs, waterfalls, water sports, water and arts and even water and religion. From the latter reference, I learned more about the mythology, religious practices and pilgrimages associated with water. I then remind myself that this site is called “everything about water.”
For more information
Still, the site definitely needs some work on the informative sections such as Health. For instance, I do learn that “over 85 percent of the patients in hospitals are there on account of waterborne diseases.” Interesting, but it fails to go in-depth. Instead, we’re left with small talk about impurities, waterborne diseases and bottled water.
Perhaps the most informative segment of the site goes back to our new best friend—Dr. H2O. Highlighting the buttons on the left, water is broken down and visitors can search subjects using major headings like “hard water,” “smell in water” and “water testing.” And much to the site’s credit, you aren’t inundated with flash advertisements or testimonials of “in the case you are looking for a home water treatment system, brand X has a great deal…” That kind of pitch is relegated to the home store for both types of users. Even then, the sell is relatively low-key.
As I navigated eawater.com, I kept saying to myself, “There are so many topics presented here, but only a few of them presented in full scope.” I get to a topic I find interesting, and I end up wanting to know more about it. This isn’t to say this site should serve as the Encyclopedia of Water per se, but I can’t help but think of the possibilities if more attention was paid to informing visitors about each topic broached. Yet, in its defense, the foundation exists for a site like no other. Just the fact alone that somebody—other than a government agency or academic institution—could even tackle a subject this imposing is impressive.
Shop ’til you drop
Of course, a discussion about this site isn’t complete without remarking on the shopping available to visitors. As you can probably gather, the options are as extensive as the topics. For home users, categories include purifiers, mineral water, testing kits and on down the line. To get beyond basic information on any one product, you must be registered with the site first.
Business users, on the other hand, have an option that home users don’t—an E-Catalogue, though eawater.com is careful not to call itself an e-commerce site. Each of the 14 headings (everything from water gadgets to water consultancy) breaks down even further into more specific groups. Although the information on most products is rudimentary, the site does provide links to other sites of companies and manufacturers to initiate the actual buying process.
Yes, I believe we have seen the future—and it is here at this website. Aside from the lack of an e-commerce component, this site reflects the changes happening in the industry and how water is affecting the way problems—once viewed locally—are now approached interactively on a global basis. With its panel of experts and consultants and the fact it provides water testing from around the world, eawater.com has only scratched the surface of its formidable capabilities.
I leave you with this closing thought: Net Holdings, the holding company for the site, has registered 100 “everythingabout” domain names. Plus, 10 portals in all are planned. Can’t you just see it now—EverythingAboutEarth.com. You may laugh, but the little engine that could from New Delhi is doing just that and, at the same time, putting water professionals and concerned consumers at the forefront of a possible new revolution.