Minhaj Chowdhury, Public Health Studies Class of 2011, is now the CEO of his own company: Drinkwell.
Drinkwell uses a micro-franchise model to establish local water businesses in areas affected by arsenic. By providing affected villagers with water filtration technology and business tools, Drinkwell empowers communities to create jobs, generate income, and improve health outcomes.
Chowdhury, who was included in the recent Arts & Sciences Magazine article on the PHS program, became an advocate for safe water as a sophomore when he traveled to Bangladesh to work on arsenic poisoning—a problem common to many of that country’s wells. Since then, he has had five years of experience implementing arsenic projects with the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (“BRAC”), the largest NGO in the world, and Johns Hopkins University. As a Fulbright Scholar in Bangladesh, he researched villager willingness to pay for clean water.
His work has been acclaimed by UNICEF, WaterAid Bangladesh, the U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh, and the Bangladesh Health Secretary, and serves as the basis for Drinkwell’s growth strategy. He was also a winner of an Echoing Green fellowship, considered to be the most prestigious in social entrepreneurship: they provided the first funding to Wendy Koepp’s Teach for America, City Year Boston, SKS Microfinance, and other notable social enterprises.
Chowdhury was recently interviewed by WGBH Boston television as a finalist for the 3rd annual “Startup Jackpot” event, which he won. This puts Drinkwell in the MassChallenge accelerator program, which provides finalists with a base in Boston, access to mentors and advisors to prep for the final prize (to be awarded in October), and the opportunity to build a solid foundation to their business.
This year MassChallenge had an 8% acceptance rate: more than 1,200 startups across 30 countries applied for 128 slots. This financial backing will provide drinking water for 10,000 more people.
Drinkwell recently closed its first contract in India for $200,000 to deploy 10 systems and cover costs to strengthen internal operations financed by the U.S. and Indian governments.