Alison K. Lanier
Innovation is often born of necessity. Inspired by the “rankness” of a friend, as Gizmodo termed it, a college student from South Africa may have concocted a solution to issues of hygiene that face millions of people with a limited supply of potable water. His invention is called DryBath, and it comes in the form of a simple gel.
From Inspiration to Reality
Ludwick Marishane, the student behind the idea, got his product up and running on the market using only his phone. Marishane gave a TED Talk in May of last year, describing his invention and the inspiration behind it, as well as how he successfully brought it to the market.
Credit: DryBath website
“So with my trusty little steed, my Nokia 6234 cell phone—I didn’t have a laptop, I didn’t have Internet much, except for the 20-rand-an-hour Internet café—I did research on Wikipedia, on Google, about lotions, creams, the compositions, the melting points, the toxicities,” Marishane said. “I did high school science, and I wrote down a little formula on a piece of paper, and it looked like the KFC special spice, you know?”
Growing up in a northern province of South Africa, Marishane got the inspiration for DryBath from his surroundings.
“So I grew up in Limpopo, on the border of Limpopo and Mpumalanga, a little town called Motetema,” Marishane begsn. “Water and electricity supply are as unpredictable as the weather, and growing up in these tough situations, at the age of 17, I was relaxing with a couple of friends of mine in winter, and we were sunbathing.”
“The Limpopo sun gets really hot in winter,” he continued. “So as we were sunbathing, my best friend next to me says, ‘Man, why doesn’t somebody invent something that you can just put on your skin and then you don’t have to bathe?’ And I sat, and I was like, ‘Man, I would buy that, eh?’”
Addressing Global Issues
Marishane designed the product to be affordable because it is particularly useful to consumers who will be using it in lieu of perpetually available potable water. A bottle of DryBath costs only 50 cents for buyers from rural communities. For corporate sellers, the price increases to $1.50, but the product is intended to be accessible and affordable for the communities, particularly those in developing nations, where it will be most useful.
WaterAid reported that 768 million people worldwide seriously lack access to clean, safe water. They also reported that almost two-fifths of the world’s population, about 2.5 billion people, lack access to “adequate sanitation.”
“Without access to safe water for drinking, cooking and cleaning, people are more likely to suffer from water-related diseases. These can be fatal, killing around 2,000 children a day,” WaterAid UK stated.
WaterAid and like-minded organizations deliver taps and toilets, working with local partners in the communities they help, to provide safe water and sanitation services to the people living there. They also make efforts to address the roots of the problem by using “experience and research to influence decision-makers to do more to provide these vital services,” according to WaterAid’s website. “We only use practical technologies and make sure the right skills exist in the community so they can keep them working long into the future.”
Bringing DryBath to the Market
Marishane cites these shocking statistics as part of his drive in creating DryBath, particularly for the communities worst affected by a paucity of water and sanitation. “Various diseases thrive in this environment, the most drastic of which is called trachoma,” he explained. “Trachoma is an infection of the eye due to dirt getting into your eye. Multiple infections of trachoma can leave you permanently blind. The disease leaves 8 million people permanently blind each and every year. The shocking part about it is that to avoid being infected with trachoma, all you have to do is wash your face: no medicine, no pills, no injections.”
Credit: freedigitalphotos.net Michal Marcol
Marishane tailored the product by studying these statistics and the communities where the product would be most useful.
“So we learned a few lessons in commercializing and making DryBath available,” Marishane continued. “One of the things we learned was that poor communities don’t buy products in bulk. They buy products on demand. So we packaged DryBath in these innovative little sachets. You just snap them in half, and you squeeze it out. And the cool part is, one sachet substitutes one bath for [50 cents]. After creating that model, we also learned a lot in terms of implementing the product. We realized that even rich kids from the suburbs really want DryBath. At least once a week.”
DryBath may have developed from a momentary bother, but it has grown into an economic and environmental boon. To date, about 253,625 baths or showers have been provided or substituted, according to the product’s website. This translates to around 20.2 million liters, or 5.3 million gallons, of water being saved.
“We realized that we could save 80 million liters of water on average each time they skipped a bath, and also we would save two hours a day for kids who are in rural areas, two hours more for school, two hours more for homework, two hours more to just be a kid,” Marishane said. “DryBath is a rich man’s convenience and a poor man’s lifesaver.”
One sachet of DryBath is about $3.56. There is a minimum purchase of 10 sachets per order, with most proceeds going to charity. Visit the product’s website to purchase.
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