Bath Free!

Foxes see opportunities where others only see adversity.

For thousands of teenagers, bathtime is an irritation, for millions more it’s a dream. A young man from Limpopo province in South Africa has designed a product that bridges this divide; and it’s earned him accolades deserved for a fox.

Typical for a man in his 20s, Ludwick Marishane has the bright eyes of someone with the world opening up to him, and it’s a world he has changed for the better thanks to an idea he had to get out of bathtime. In rural Limpopo where he grew up, running water is a luxury for most, and bathtime means a bucket of boiled water and a brick of soap. At the age of 17 he wondered if there wasn’t a way to wash without water.

Using his Nokia 6234 cellphone – eking out words with the basic predictive text facility of the numeric keypad – he searched Google for a solution (in more ways than one). There wasn’t one. He also discovered that over 2.5 billion people around the world don’t have proper access to water and sanitation; approximately 450 million are in Africa.

The health implications are severe. One of the most prevalent diseases is trachoma – an eye-infection often caused by washing the face with unsanitary water. It is one of the world’s leading causes of preventable blindness, which strikes approximately 8 million people each year.

So Ludwick went about designing a solution (again, in more ways than one). He learned all he could about lotions, gels and hand-sanitisers, their ingredients and chemical properties, and designed what he thought would work. The result was a product he patented as DryBath: the world’s first bath substitute in a solution. But the solution had a problem: how to take it to market.

Armed with a 40-page business plan he bashed out on his trusty Nokia 6234, Ludwick started approaching investors. It took time. He was at university before the product received investment and could be taken to a point where it was commercially available. But Ludwick’s tenacity paid off.

Not only is he now the MD of his own successful business with new markets opening up (witness the increasing number of water-stressed cities such as Sao Paulo, Cape Town, Los Angeles and Singapore) but Ludwick has to his name a product that offers real help to some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

And that gets everyone’s attention. In 2011 he received a Global Student Entrepreneurship Award, and Google listed him as one of the top 12 brightest minds in the world. And he has a message for fellow foxes: “From the gravel roads of Limpopo, with an allowance of R50 (US$4) a week, I came up with a way for the world not to bath. What’s stopping you?”

You can see Ludwick’s TEDTalk here:

 

[This article originally appeared on the mindofafox Growing Foxes app in the week of 5 February 2018. Growing Foxes is a school strategic intelligence programme designed by mindofafox. It is being piloted in a number of leading schools in the UK and South Africa. The app serves to support those students currently engaging with the programme. Click on the logo to find out more].

Image: Tshep Kekana