On one of the nights of March 2020, I was wide awake, having endless thoughts in my mind. Lockdown had been announced but coronavirus was still very new to the people in India.
Thinking about the dead stock we were left with of the business my wife and I own (plain T-shirt manufacturing and customized apparel manufacturing and printing business), a thought crossed my mind.
Since surgical disposable masks were in high demand for the frontline workers then, what if we started manufacturing reusable face masks?
This small thought led me to research a lot about reusable and washable masks. I discovered that out of all the household materials, the most efficient and comfortable material to be made into a face mask was cotton t-shirt fabric. My mind said to me, “well I guess we found a solution for our deadstock, and not just this, but also maybe we could introduce face mask manufacturing into our business”. I remembered, Barbara Ann Corcoran always says,
“Don’t you dare underestimate the power of your instinct”
We had reached early April 2020, and all we could see and hear on the news flashes was the severity of coronavirus and the rise in the number of cases. The lockdown kept on extending as the cases in India started increasing. Nobody had ever imagined something like a pandemic would happen which would affect and change each one of our lives in some or the other way. But deep down I knew we had to make our way through it somehow on a personal and professional level both.
Taking a Step for a Good Cause
I took the idea and started with making a mask cutout. As we started progressing, we added the four-layer filter to it. During early April 2020, mask manufacturing was a part of our existing business.
It was almost June 2020, months were just passing by with no reduction in the number of cases in India. I could see the labor class, jobless daily wage workers, hawkers, etc. tieing a scarf or a piece of cloth on their faces because they couldn’t afford to buy a mask for themselves or their families.
This triggered a thought of donation in me, to the needy. It was time for India to fight against coronavirus together, to help stop the spread and to prevent getting infected. I decided to donate 1 reusable face mask for every pair of the mask we sell. My wife and I as entrepreneurs pledged to donate 1 million masks to the needy. The expression on the faces of the needy when we donated a mask to them was priceless. In fact, there are quite a few NGOs in India who are involved in providing relief during COVID-19. This good cause helped us stay motivated in such difficult times.
Pandemic, a Challenge
One of those laborers shared his story with me of how he didn’t go back to his native place like other majority migrant laborers but decided to stay in the city and make his way through this pandemic. So from being a construction site laborer he made a shift to becoming a vegetable seller. If looked at it from his perspective, it definitely was a brave step that he took for himself and his family. As Mark Cuban has rightly said,
“Creating an opportunity means looking where others are not”
Covid-19 is undoubtedly a shock to the global economy but also a challenge for entrepreneurs. This made me realize that everyone was going through their own struggle in such times, but we just had to be mindful and work our ways through it along with being helpful to others as much as possible. Easier said than done, but not being prey to depression was of utmost importance then.
By now we were sure that manufacturing reusable face masks needed to be made as a separate venture instead of making a part of the existing one. Our new mask manufacturing venture took off, there was an evident rise in sales. This motivated us to come up with a new product range of masks with anti-viral, highly breathable, and sweat control properties which were introduced specially for the masses to ‘ace the new normal’. Our product kept improving and upgrading as we progressed.
From March 2020 to date, the journey of having sleepless nights to working a way out; Covid-19 has definitely been a positive provocation for an entrepreneur’s mind.
What was your struggle or challenge during this pandemic? I would love to read your stories – tweet me.