Ludwick Marishane won the EO GSEA Global Finals in 2011. Here is his TED Talk, “A Bath Without Water,” from 2012 in Johannesburg, along with a transcription.
So I grew up in Limpopo, on the border of Limpopo and Mpumalanga, a little town called Motetema.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. 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?”
So I went home, and I did a little research, and I found some very shocking statistics. Over 2.5 billion people in the world today do not have proper access to water and sanitation. Four hundred and fifty million of them are in Africa, and five million of them are in South Africa. Various diseases thrive in this environment, the most drastic of which is called trachoma. 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 eight 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.
So after seeing these shocking statistics, I thought to myself, “Okay, even if I’m not just doing it for myself and the fact that I don’t want to bathe, I at least need to do it to try to save the world.” 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 cafe — I did research on Wikipedia, on Google, about lotions, creams, the compositions, the melting points, the toxicities — 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?
So I was like, okay, so we’ve got the formula ready. Now we need to get this thing into practice. Fast forward four years later, after having written a 40-page business plan on the cell phone, having written my patent on the cell phone, I’m the youngest patent-holder in the country, and I can’t say any more than that. I had invented DryBath, the world’s first bath-substituting lotion. You literally put it on your skin, and you don’t have to bathe.
So after having tried to make it work in high school with the limited resources I had, I went to university,met a few people, got it into practice, and we have a fully functioning product that’s ready to go to the market. It’s actually available on the market. So we learned a few lessons in commercializing and making DryBath available. One of the things we learned was that poor communities don’t buy products in bulk.They buy products on demand. A person in Alex doesn’t buy a box of cigarettes. They buy one cigarette each day, even though it’s more expensive. 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 five rand. 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.Anyway, 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.
After seeing that global impact, we narrowed it down to our key value proposition, which was cleanliness and convenience. DryBath is a rich man’s convenience and a poor man’s lifesaver.
Having put the product into practice, we are actually now on the verge of selling the product onto a multinational to take it to the retail market, and one question I have for the audience today is, on the gravel roads of Limpopo, with an allowance of 50 rand a week, I came up with a way for the world not to bathe. What’s stopping you? I’m not done yet. I’m not done yet. And another key thing that I learned a lot throughout this whole process, last year Google named me as one of the brightest young minds in the world. I’m also currently the best student entrepreneur in the world, the first African to get that accolade, and one thing that really puzzles me is, I did all of this just because I didn’t want to bathe. Thank you.
Categories: Entrepreneurial Journey Inspirational international Media Video