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

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

Case Details:


Case Code : BSTR380 For delivery in electronic format: Rs. 600;
For delivery through courier (within India): Rs. 600 + Rs. 25 for Shipping & Handling Charges


Business Models / Hybrid Business Models / Strategic Planning
Case Length : 23 Pages
Period : 1994-2010
Pub Date : 2010
Teaching Note : Available
Organization : Roundabout Outdoor / PlayPumps International
Industry : Social / Safe water
Countries : Africa


This case is about Roundabout Outdoor Pty Ltd. (RO), a South African for-profit social venture. RO sought to provide a business solution for the water problem facing various communities in Africa in association with its non-profit partner, PlayPumps International (PI). Its product was a water system - a child's roundabout fitted with a pump that could pump water as it turned. RO installed and maintained these PlayPumps in various parts of Southern Africa.

The funds for installing the PlayPumps were arranged by PI. By mid-2009, more than 1,500 PlayPumps had been installed in six countries in Southern Africa. However, the organization started facing various challenges in scaling up further.

In addition to problems related to funding, the enterprise had also started attracting criticism from some experts and rival water charities who claimed that the PlayPumps were unsustainable and dismissed PI's efforts as a marketing gimmick.


To study the business model adopted by Roundabout Outdoor in association with PlayPumps International, to cater to the Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) population in certain African countries.

To understand the concept of developing and emerging markets and the BoP segment.

To understand the issues and challenges in catering to the needs of the BoP population.

To understand how, in regions like Africa and other developing countries, companies can adopt hybrid business models to address social problems while still making a profit.

To study the reasons for the success of RO and PI, and the criticism it was attracting, and explore ways in which the venture can be scaled up further in Africa and beyond


  Page No.
Introduction 1
How It Began 2
Roundabout Outdoor & PlayPumps International 3
The Water System 4
A Social Innovation? 5
Growing Through Collaboration 7
Challenges 9
Criticism 10
The Road Ahead 11
Exhibits 13


Business models, Hybrid business models, Emerging markets, Bottom of the Pyramid, Innovation, Business solution for social problem, Social Innovation, Social entrepreneurship

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