CHENNAI: In the early 90s, automatic and semiautomatic washing machines manufactured and promoted by prominent brands like Videocon, IFB and TVS became the ‘to-buy’ device on several family shopping lists. A report from 1990 estimated that about 1,75,000 washing machines worth approximately `120 crore would be sold in India that year. The ‘magic’ machine became a symbol of status, convenience and an essential feature of middle-class homes.
As predicted, about three decades later, the device has become a part and parcel of most of our lives. From households, smart laundry services to laundromats — the drum rotates. But, there are several individuals and families who don’t have the access or means to buy one, and still wash dirty laundry using their hands. In an attempt to make the back-breaking task of handwashing clothes easier, S Ramani, a retired professor from Indian Institute of Technology Madras, who is a design engineer, has created a Non Electric Manually Operated Washing machine (NEMOW).
“About two years back, my wife and I came across housemaids and homemakers who couldn’t afford a washing machine. They washed clothes by hands and it often led to severe lower back pain and/or dermatological problems due to long hours of soaking their hand in detergent water. My wife said, ‘You have done so much in engineering. Why don’t you find a way to solve this?’ That’s how it began,” says Ramani, who runs Simpl Solutions. On an average, only two out of the 7.6 billion people in the world have access to washing machines.
“The rest wash their clothes by hands. I did a few surveys and found that 99 per cent times, the chore is done by the women and they spend about 14-16 hours a week doing this job. In India, a very small pocket of people — about 11 per cent — have access to the machine. There were no alternatives between electric and handwashing,” he shares. He was one of the three applicants selected in a competition organised by the Department of Industrial and Scientific research Government of India. “I was given `3,00,000 to develop the prototype,” says the social entrepreneur who recently won the CavinKare-MMA Chinnikrishnan Innovation Awards 2018, under the ‘Great Ideas’ category. NEMOW was born out of a simple belief, ‘If people can send a man to the moon, I can do this’.
“That was my faith and I worked towards building the appliance. There were a lot of trials and errors but ultimately I was successful,” he says. The steel-powder coated device uses 40 litres of water, weighs about six kilos and is portable. “Water and energy conservation are aspects that I have focused on while developing the machine,” he says. The machine mimics the hand washing technique, uses vertical and elliptical wave motions and also provides suction — the basic principle that provides the required agitation to clean clothes.
“This is probably the first successful alternative in India. Other such innovations were a failure as they all imitated the rotational drum. The height of the force rod-piston rod (pump plunger) can be adjusted according to the user’s height and one can comfortably sit on a chair while using the machine,” he explains. As part of the first phase of production, Ramani manufactured a few pieces and donated to villages around the city. “Their feedback was good, and it encouraged me to move forward. This device will benefit a large group of people — from homemakers, maids, and senior citizens, to People with Disabilities (PwDs), women in rural areas and self-help groups. I am also looking to tie up with NGOs who work closely with self-help groups,” he says.
“Since the customers are spread across the country, I am also looking for people who are willing to support, invest and even own a franchise unit of NEMOW,” he shares. Ramani is currently working on creating a low-cost backpack for NEMOW. “People can take it wherever they want and it can be a source of livelihood for many as they can offer door to door washing services,” he adds.
For details, visit: www.simplsolutions7. com or call 42106858