Faridul Islam, employee of a private company, would avoid tap water and drink so-called "filtered water" found in jars at restaurants or shops whenever he felt thirsty.
But he even stopped drinking this water after he saw reports that it contains faecal bacteria. He now buys half a litre of bottled water for Tk15 whenever it is necessary.
Like Faridul, many others now depend on bottled water as there is a lack of sources of safe drinking water in the country, especially in the urban areas,
The bottled water business is expanding 20% each year in the country as the consumers' dependence on it is increasing, said the manufacturers.
Kamruzzaman Kamal, director of marketing at Pran RFL, told The Business Standard, "The lack of safe water in urban areas is driving the bottled water business. People cannot trust other sources of water."
Taqsem A Khan, managing director of Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa) said the water they are supplying is not drinking water, but drinkable water which should be boiled for at least 10 minutes before drinking it. That means, water from the Wasa, the biggest source in Dhaka, it cannot be consumed directly.
Meanwhile, the business of supplying jars of filtered water has flourished in the last few years in urban areas. However, the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) and agencies concerned found that these jars often contain low quality water with harmful bacteria. As a result, people are losing confidence in this source of water.
According to the people involved in the business, about 35-40 crore liters of bottled water worth Tk850-950 crore was sold in a year across the country before the pandemic struck.
The bottled water business shrunk by more than 50% last year as the offices, schools, colleges, hotels, restaurants, and various social events were closed over the Covid-19 pandemic. But, it started growing again when the countrywide shutdown was over and the officials concerned think that the business will return to normal during this summer.
Industry insiders said the bottled water business started in Bangladesh in the 1990s. At that time the use of bottled water was popular among the affluent people. But gradually the situation changed and bottled water currently has become popular among a larger section of the population. Currently people are drinking bottled water regularly when they go to hotels, restaurants, offices, ceremonies and travel.
Investors too see Bangladesh as a good market for bottled water business. Multinational companies like PepsiCo joined the bottled water business here with its brand "Aquafina" in 2014 and Coca-Cola with "Kinley" in 2016.
Currently, there are more than 30 water brands in the country including Partex Group's water brand Mum, Meghna Group's "Fresh," Pran-RFL Group's "Pran," Dhaka Wasa's "Shanti," Citi Group's "Jibon," and Acme Group's "Acme Premium Drinking Water."
Partex Group Assistant General Manager (Brand) Md Nahid Yusuf said, "Maintaining the water's quality has increased people's confidence in bottled water. Although the growth of water business was hampered last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I hope there will be good business this year."
Not only in the country, the bottled water market is also growing rapidly worldwide. According to a study by The Business Research Company, a research institute covering various businesses in Asia, Europe and America, 437 billion litres of water worth $238 billion was sold in 2017. The study estimates that 623 billion liters of bottled water worth $349 billion will be sold in 2021.
The study estimated about 10% growth in the bottled water business.
Nestlé, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company, Danone, Primo Water Corporation, Voss Water, Nongfu and Spring are some of the popular bottled water brands across the world.