Conscious of increasing pressure on China’s water supplies resulting from pollution of waterways with industrial waste, Olivia Lum raised $1.2 million from friends and university colleagues to establish a water purification business in Shanghai.
It was a brave and prophetic move. For the first three years, handicapped by her youth and lack of guanxi (business relationships), she lost money. But then, letting her technology and a 60-year old Chinese associate do the talking, the business began to grow.
By 2010 she had built 40 water purification plants, treating wastewater from China’s booming chemical, pharmaceutical and pulp and paper industries, as well as the biggest desalination plant in the country, at Tianjin.
"I grew up in a hut with no proper sanitation and no running water. From a young age, I learned to value water"