Ludwick Marishane was still in high school when he thought of DryBath, a gel that does all the work of a bath without the need for water. Within six months, the teenager had devised the formula for the gel.
Within a year, he had written up a 40-page business plan, applied for a patent and launched his startup, called Headbody Industries.
The product idea sounds simple: You slap on the germ-killing lotion and then you don’t need to take a bath.
For people with indoor plumbing this sounds like cool camping gear. But for 2.5 billion people worldwide who do not have access to clean water, DryBath is more of a life-saver than a tool of convenience.
The Global Student Entrepreneur Awards Program, an international competition that recognises high school, undergraduate, and graduate students who own a business, thought so, too. In 2011, four years after Marishane hatched the idea for his ground-breaking product, he won the organisation’s Global Student Entrepreneur of the Year award, along with $10,000 in cash to finance his startup.
Marishane, who was studying at the University of Cape Town at the time, beat out 1,600 other student nominees from around the world.
Despite its life-saving benefits, DryBath was initially inspired by Marishane’s friend who was too lazy to take a bath. The story goes that one day Marishane and some buddies were laying out in the sun when a friend turned to him and said: “Why doesn’t someone invent something that you can put on your skin and then you don’t have to bathe?” the young entrepreneur revealed in a TEDTalk.
That’s when the light bulb went off.
Marishane, who at the time lived in the rural province of Limpopo, had limited resources. So he did most of his research on Google and Wikipedia using only his Internet-connected cell phone.
In poor communities, like Marishane’s native Africa, the gel will protect people who often die from easily treatable diseases caused by bacteria that thrive in stagnant water. This water is transferred onto the skin, and get into either the gut (causing diarrhoea for example), or into an orifice like the eye (causing trachoma, an eye infection that can cause blindness). In wealthier areas, the gel can be applied in a pinch when someone doesn’t have time to rinse. The cleansing lotion conserves water in both scenarios.
Based on his knowledge from living in poor communities, Marishane made the decision to sell DryBath in individual packets, rather than in bulk. In Africa, a person “doesn’t buy a box of cigarettes, they buy one cigarette each day, even though it’s more expensive,” he explained.
Photo: Headboy Industries Inc.
DryBath packets sell for 50 cents in developing countries and can be purchased for $1.50 by corporate customers like airlines or hotels. Marishane expects economies of scale to drive down the cost for packets sold in poor communities.DryBath is not yet available to individual consumers, but will soon be sold online, according to company’s website.
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