7weeks in India – Meeting the inventor lady

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Today it is rainy, one of the last Monsun days. We, that’s an village representative (volunteer) and me, walk through tea fields and wet woods to meet and to find out more on her: Lilama, an old woman with a bright smile in her face and some really special skills. When she was young she was awarded for being one of the best farmers of the district. Now, she is a grandma, and she lives with her family in the middle of a hill. Here they cultivate vegetables and fruits for the family, themselves. There are also spices, these are their source of income: cardamom, tamarind, tumeric, ginger…
When we arrive the family is sitting on the terrace. The view there is fantastic – across a valley and a thousand different types of green up to the next hill where some clouds seem to give the last touch of beauty to this place. A very special atmosphere. And a special family.

The inventor lady
Lilama is not just very agile, but also an inventor.
Whenever it is possible she visits her research and production team in an old building, an earlier carpenter hall. She has to climb up the path and then to walk for a while before she takes the bus and walks again. It takes her at least an hour. The old lady is always in action…although her legs hurt.
Her team, these are a few people who have started some months ago to set up a mosquito repellent fabric, very simple with a low cost machine made by a local person, a vessel and one drier. 5 basic materials are needed, they produce sticks and cloats. By mixing with charcoal it can be ensured that it burns slowly and for around 6 hours.

How did it start?
When she was young she acknowledged that always when she burnt pepper nuts (the part of it that cannot be used) the flies disappeared. She studied it more into depth, combined it with other things until she got the perfect mixture to make repellent mosquito sticks out of it.

When we arrive she smiles and offers us a tea and a cookie. Her husband gets me some fruits I have never seen before, they taste a little bit like cherries. Her young niece starts playing with me, while she, the old lady, goes into the house to get a newspaper: she shows me two articles that have been published recently on her and even copied by some more Indian journals. The article explains how she – being a ‘simple house wife’ – has become an innovator, and how this innovation has developed over the years. Today, there is the fabric in place, after 30 years. Who knows how it will look in one, two or five years, if things go well. If her team is able to get some more money, because the production is limited at the moment. One drier is too less, the low cost machine needs some further optimization. The first sales have taken place. But not enough to be able to invest. More marketing means more production, means more machines, more material, more people…
A business in India is not that different from elsewhere. Rather easy, if the product is good, money is there and the right network helps to get known. If not, it is a long way. Is there any investor around?

All the best to this lady and her team!

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