Roundabout Outdoor and PlayPumps International: A Hybrid Business Model to Tackle the Water Scarcity Problem

Roundabout Outdoor and PlayPumps International: A Hybrid Business Model to Tackle the Water Scarcity Problem
Case Code: BSTR380
Case Length: 23 Pages
Period: 1994-2010
Pub Date: 2010
Teaching Note: Available
Price: Rs.600
Organization: Roundabout Outdoor, PlayPumps International
Industry: Social, Safe water
Countries: Africa
Themes: Business Models, Hybrid Business Models, Strategic Planning
Roundabout Outdoor and PlayPumps International: A Hybrid Business Model to Tackle the Water Scarcity Problem
Abstract Case Intro 1 Case Intro 2 Excerpts


Roundabout Outdoor & PlayPumps International

Subsequently, Field and his colleagues made more changes in the PlayPump's features and named the product 'PlayPump Water System', which they registered as a trademark. For most of the 1990s, the promoters worked tirelessly to improve the water system's functionality and durability...

The Water System

The PlayPump water systems were installed in places such as school playgrounds, clinics, and community centers. According to Field, "It's a positive displacement water pump, and as the children spin around, it transfers their energy into vertical or reciprocal motion, and that pumps water from an underground borehole or well to the surface where it's stored in a tank for future use."...

A Social Innovation?

Experts felt that the PlayPump was a social innovation that was also sustainable. Herman Diale, Eskom's corporate social investment consultant, said, "Eskom decided to get involved because of the project's sustainability and the viability of improving the quality of life for rural communities...

Growing Through Collaboration

Many investors were attracted by the simple yet ingenious technology and the business model that supported the installation of PlayPumps, and since the late 1990s, RO was able to scale up significantly...


Experts felt that RO and PI faced various challenges in meeting their stated mission. The challenges started with finding groundwater sources. "We use professional ground scientists or geologists to test the holes which are generally the starting point of installing a system...


In addition to the numerous challenges, the water system and the business model adopted by Field also came under scrutiny of rival water charities and other experts. They questioned the appropriateness of the technology used as it was quite costly at US$ 14,000 (this did not include the cost of drilling a borehole)...

The Road Ahead

By mid-2009, PI/RO had set up more than 1,500 PlayPumps in six countries and was in the process of expanding to four more in sub-Saharan Africa (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia). According to the company, moving into new countries was proving the viability of its business model for sub-Saharan Africa...


Exhibit I: The Water Problem: Key Facts & Figures
Exhibit II (A): PI's Statement of Financial Position: Fiscal Year Ending February 29, 2008
Exhibit II (B): PI's Statement of Activities: Fiscal Year Ending February 29, 2008
Exhibit III: PlayPump Water System: How it Works
Exhibit IV: 100 Pumps in 100 Days: Donation Levels
Exhibit V: A List of RO and PI's Partners
Exhibit VI: A Short Note on the Elephant Pumps
Exhibit VII: Some Business Models Adopted by Organizations Operating in the Safe Water Sector

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