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The Business Times

Eyeing bigger share of water market

Riding a wave of success, H2O Life Source says its key focus is to develop the overseas market this year, reports JASLENE PANG.

Alkaline Ionized water specialist company H2O Life Source (SEA) is positioning itself for a bigger share of the water market through regional expansion.

The two-year-old company – now the main distributor of KYK Alkaline Water Ionizers here – reported revenue of several hundred thousand dollars in 2008. And in 2009, it crossed the million-dollar mark, despite the economic downturn. Riding a wave of success, H2O Life Source is now aiming for bigger things.

“This year our key focus is to develop the market,” says founder and general manager Jeanie Wong. “We hope to have fully operational overseas offices with the right partners, which could be in the form of franchises or direct investment via partnerships.

“In three years we hope to achieve annual sales of about $6 million and have secure additional regional markets – Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.”

Mrs Wong says there is a market for alkaline water: “In fact, there is a greater need in the region outside Singapore as the quality of water is often questionable and poor. We even get enquiries from India, Syria, Israel and the Middle East, but we are keeping our focus on developing Asia first.”

Alkaline water – the result of an electrolysis process – has its molecule cluster size reduced from the normal 11 to about five. This is supposed to allow it to cross cellular barriers inaccessible by normal water, providing maximum hydration.

Alkaline water is also said to have other health benefits – such as the ability to fight obesity, enhance detoxification, improved immunity and slower aging.

“I have people telling me I look like I’m in my 30s” days Mrs Wong, 42.

More seriously, she relates that when a friend, and then her father, were diagnosed with cancer, the treatment was quite destructive to their bodies. “We were trying to help them find a nutritional balance because key to good health is what we eat and drink,” she says. “That eventually led to the start of my learning journey on alkaline water.”

Her husband Kenneth Wong, managing director and co-founder of H2O Life Source, adds” “Water is used for cooking, drinking. It makes up 70 per cent of our diet.”

Research shows that most people’s bodies tend to be over-acidic due to the food – especially fried food. If this acidic waste is not flush out, it is stored as fat, in places such as pancreas. Moreover, the body steals alkaline minerals such as calcium from the bones to neutralize the acids. This can cause osteoporosis and other problems. The “easiest solution that makes sense” is to change the water consumed, according to H2O Life Source.

But not many Singaporeans know about alkaline water, and still feel that the water from the tap is the best.

“When we first started we received a lot of calls,” says Mrs Wong. “People have heard of mineral water, distilled water … but they have never heard of alkaline water. It is scary for them, as alkaline batteries come to mind.”

In a market survey – of sample size of 200 – done by Singapore Polytechnic, School of Business, more than 70 per cent of respondents said they had not heard of alkaline water, although 80 per cent were keen to find out more.

To solve this, H2O Life Source organizes workshops – most of which are free. It is also going live on radio 93.8FM’s Health Bites – a 93.8FM healthy lifestyle programme – every Thursday for a year.

H2O Life Source, headquarted in Singapore, has three outlets in Singapore, distributors in Indonesia and franchises in Thailand, Myanmar and Australia. Distributors are authorized to sell its products, but unlike franchisees, they do not take on H2O Life Source system and mark.

A franchisee has to pay and upfront fee of about $20,000 and subsequent royalties. Mr Wong says that depending on the location of a shop, a franchisee can do business with an investment as low as $100,000. The Wongs stress that when it comes to finding a partner or franchisee, what matters is not the money but the person.

“This person needs to first believe in the technology,” she says. “Second, they need to embrace a healthy lifestyle.” Which makes “finding a partner a challenge even up to this day”.

H2O Life Source is optimistic. “In five years we hope to see a healthier generation – people will carry their own alkaline water instead of buying soda and bottled drinks,” says Mrs Wong. “Currently, one in four Singaporeans suffers from at least one chronic sickness.”

business times

Challenging task: The Wongs stress that when it comes to finding a partner or franchisee for their products, what matters is not the money but the person.