– We produce mobile hygienic devices, that make it possible to take a shower in a standard offered by regular bathroom, when we have a very limited access to water, for instance, we are on a trip to Himalayas, in a disaster area or in a war zone – says Zdzisław Iwanejko, CEO and Wash Innovation cofounder, who worked in LED technology and optical fibre industry before he started the company.
A couple of years ago he decided to quit his previous job and established the company together with his daughter and son Zuzanna and Alexander, to resolve the problem of insufficient hygiene caused by limited access to water. – I was really shocked that almost three billion people around the world are unable to wash their hands at home. When I visited Africa, I saw it with my own eyes – he recollects.
The result of a six-year effort to improve the hygiene in regions with limited access to water is PocketBath (previously named HandyShower), which is a 3in1 hygienic device. According to your needs, it may be the shower, the faucet or a bidet. A litre and a half of water is enough to take a shower, and only 200 millilitres is sufficient to wash your hands.
– Besides the water scarcity, another serious problem is the lack of money, so we designed the highest quality product for the lowest price possible. It’s durable, easy and comfortable to use and… cool. It has to be cool, because it’s easier to encourage kids to wash their hands. It also has to be simple in use, installation and transportation. In our case, transportation is about 30 percent of total price at stock. We also designed it to minimize our carbon footprint as much as possible – CEO explains.
The device is built upon self-constructed and innovative valve mechanism, which is very efficient, durable and cheap. It allows you to save water by 70 percent and is very simple to use. – Our product is unique on a global scale and secured by patents in all European Union countries, United States, Canada, Japan, Australia and even in China – CEO adds.
Different markets, different standards
Wash Innovation has already successfully launched two crowdfunding campaigns (reaching 108 and 367 percent of planned target) and is currently working on shaping its business model and strategy. The company’s other business focus is outdoor products market. The customers needs and product variants are being now researched. As for now, four different HandyShower versions, which is a part of its PocketBath and CampTap, are available.
– The product version sold to Emirates should be as simple as possible, because no one would mess around with matching the hoses with stub pipe. On the other hand, in Africa the price is of most importance, that’s why we sell the very basic version of our products there – while in Kenia, I saw it on my own eyes, how good the natives were at installing the entire device. It’s necessary to make the hole of 10 mm diameter in the canister, so they just put the rod of a proper size into the fire and then burn out the hole – Iwanejko points out.
Currently Wash Innovation sells its products to such countries as Emirates, Kenia and Japan. The last one is completely different market: hermetic, with peculiar product perception, where the quality is of the highest importance, not only the device itself, but the entire set, including packaging. On the other hand in the Arab countries, the hygiene requirements imposed by Wudu (a kind of a religious ritual) are taken seriously into consideration.
Zdzisław Iwanejko works at a fast pace. Few months passed between our conversation and the final version of this article. In the meantime, two products which at the time were at the stage of development, that is CampTap/PocketSink and HandyShataff, are already on the market. The first product is a foldable sink that weights less than 400 gram and can be installed in a car. It’s contactless and allows you to even wash hands while driving. As Iwanejko says, nobody has made such a device yet. HandyShattaf on the other hand is a compact mobile bidet, created chiefly for Arab markets.
All three products are both available for humanitarian – e.g. people living in harsh conditions and humanitarian organizations staff – and outdoor purposes – camping, trips, etc. In case of the latter, the main markets for Wash Innovation will include Germany, Great Britain, Canada, United States, Scandinavian countries and Australia.
Dignity – psychology behind the product
– It occurs quite often that people who receive equipment from humanitarian entities, are provided with low quality products, even provisional. It has a huge impact on their state of being and dignity. They don’t need all those fancy gadgets. What they really crave for are the most basic, although indispensable products, which may help retain the normality and compensate, even just a bit, the sense of loss – CEO explains.
Iwanejko knows people needs from his own experience. He travels a lot and visits regions with water scarcity. For instance – he spent two weeks in Kenyan slums, just to talk with the natives about their needs and to see how they live. – It was really mind blowing to see the plasma tv sets almost everywhere and very limited access to water. They use mobile devices with internet so they are very well informed, how people live in the other parts of the world. Having that point of reference, they are pretty much aware of their position – Iwanejko admits.
In Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya, access to water is very limited and people are forced to pay for it a lot of money, about 20-30 shillings per canister. Eventually it turns out, that one cubic meter costs more than 10 dollars – a number of times over what we pay in Warsaw. – If somebody is limited to use only 20 litres of water per day, they have to choose whether it’s better to take a shower, cook or do the washing – he adds.
Water scarcity is not a problem limited exclusively to Africa. Countries that used to prosper just a few years back, now are facing the lack of water. For instance Venezuela, at one time counted among the most prosperous Latin American countries, found itself in very dire circumstances. – Surgical oncologist from University of Caracas says to me: „Look, we’re cut off from water and electricity for five months already!”. Water is accessible only for half an hour a day. Depending on how much they gather, it has to suffice for the rest of the day. How can you live in such conditions? – Iwanejko asks rhetorically.
To enter the humanitarian products market
The company is planning to establish business relations with United Nations agencies and other humanitarian entities. The beginnings are rather tough, especially for young companies, with relatively short presence on the market. – To be even taken under consideration, we need recommendations from three different clients. In case of working with Red Cross, you are supposed to have definite production capacity, and the organisation itself may buy up to 30 percent of it. So we are quite well informed what are the key requirements and how to meet them. We should also be audited and have 3-year presence on the market – CEO explains.
Wash Innovation, amongst other forty Polish companies, took part in an international online seminar for United Nations suppliers, co-organized by the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development, with UN agencies representatives presenting the information about how their agencies procure and what products are being purchased. During the seminar, the company had an opportunity to familiarise with UN procurement requirements and policies.
In case of outdoor products market, you increase the chance of meeting new business partners by taking part in trade fairs, business missions and international matchmaking events. During one of such events „Cluster2Cluster 2020”, co organised by Enterprise Europe Network office at the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development, Wash Innovation got in touch with one of the German resellers, who ordered the test batch of their products.
Wash Innovation is supported by the Enterprise Europe Network since the earliest iteration of the company, when network’s experts at Łukasiewicz – IMBIGS (The Łukasiewicz Research Network – Institute of Mechanised Construction and Rock Mining) informed Zdzisław Iwanejko about the possibilities of financing the product development from EU Funds. HandyShower (now PocketBath) was also described in the company’s profile published in the Partnership Opportunities Database and promoted among foreign partners as technology offer in medical devices section.
Successfully launched crowdfunding campaign on a local platform called Makuake, helped the company to enter the Japanese market. Wash Innovation received support from Tokyo’s Enterprise Europe Network office and established partnership with local distributor. Warsaw based company also participated in the „Japan-Africa Business Forum 2021” organised by the Network’s office at UE-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation.
– Our collaboration with Tokyo’s Enterprise Europe Network Office is highly satisfactory. Every single day, for two weeks time, we attended four-hour classes. First of all, we were introduced to the Japanese culture, then familiarised with business regulations and above all – had a training with business negotiations. They also organised for us meetings with four potential clients, perfectly selected to meet our business profile. They keep advising us and are still looking for business opportunities that may result in contracts – Iwanejko admits.
Enterprise Europe Network Poland