A journey of developing 3 ply face mask making machine by modifying SWACCH 7.0 during the lockdown.

The Covid-19 Pandemic had led to a country wide lockdown in India with only essential services allowed to continue their operations. A week before the lockdown, we had already started work from home for all non-production/ non-logistics roles and came up with the idea of producing 3-ply surgical masks from our sanitary pad making machines. But due to the suddenness of the lockdown and the uniqueness of the disease, we struggled between two opposing values –

1. We have the capability to produce essential products, both 3-ply masks and sanitary pads and in a part of the country where the need is the highest, Mumbai MMR region which had the highest number of cases in India. We must do everything in our capacity to fulfill this unmet need of the masses

2. We are in a geography with the highest number of COVID-19 cases and containment zones. How do we take care of our team who is working to produce and distribute essential products?

We had never come across this situation before, so we thought to involve everyone in the process of decision making. After a 1-hour long video-call with the production and logistics team, we came up with a plan. In order to avoid spreading of infections, we decided to that employees will stay in the office itself. A set of 6-8 employees stay in office for 15 days and then replaced by another set of employees for the next 15 days. This is similar to how hospitals are managing their doctors’ shifts to minimize spread and ensure isolation and recovery if needed.

It is so exciting to see most of our staff volunteered for this option for their own and their colleagues’ safety while ensuring business continuity even during a Pandemic. It displays valor and commitment of the entire Saral team. Here is one such inspiring story of courage –

How does work life look during quarantine? 

In conversation with one of our employees, Ijaz Shaikh, After sales engineer on working on SWACHH 7.0 to make 3 ply masks. 

1. How has the nationwide lockdown affected your role in the organization?

My designation is that of an after-sales engineer in the organization. During the lockdown, nearly half of the labor traversed back to their native places, leaving us short of manpower. So, to put simply, if before lockdown my inference was limited to after-sales processes, now during the lockdown and until the situation comes back to normal, I am doing whatever comes my way, right from assembly to delivery.

2. Did this lockdown bring insecurities in your mind regarding your job?

Since we are a startup making sanitary pad manufacturing machine and now, with SWACHH 7.0, 3 ply face mask manufacturing machine, and not a multinational company with a huge profit margin, we could not stop our work because that meant no profits and no income for anyone in the organization. So in order to sustain, we had to work twice as hard and the lockdown was packed with endless work in order to keep up.

3. How the decision was made that Saral will be developing a mask-making machine?

This was not planned before the outbreak of Coronavirus but during the lockdown, we discussed how it will be a crucial accessory in the post lockdown period. SWACHH 7.0 is a modified version of our sanitary napkins manufacturing machine, hence both sanitary pads and 3 ply face masks can be made from the same machine.

4. In what processes were you involved in the development of this machine?

We all had to be involved in the whole process, production, assembly, and aftersales of SWACHH 7.0. I was thrilled by the prospect of this challenging opportunity to work out of my comfort zone.

5. Did you know you will have to stay at the office for machine assembly?

I did not know it beforehand, but it did not shock me as it was already a part of my job. My role being that of an after-sales engineer, I always have to visit the site for 10/15 days to supervise the installation process.

6. What were your thoughts when respective team leaders informed you about the new project?

I think it was a really wise decision to develop SWACHH 7.0, a machine that will develop not only sanitary pads but also face masks for corona virus protection at a minimum cost. We will be facing a global economic crisis due to this pandemic and such innovative business ideas and the setup required for these businesses will be in demand.

7. How was this transition in the work process from a regular office to staying at the office, emotionally and professionally?

When we don’t commute due to quarantine, we have more time to work and even then ample for ourselves as well. We didn’t confine ourselves to the making of SWACHH 7.0 and 3 ply surgical face masks all the time, we also enjoyed a lot, we used to play cricket after working hours.

8. How was the support from different teams?

They were totally supportive and provided the necessary resources, information, and motivation. If it wasn’t for them, we would have faced serious issues and inconvenience while working. They took good care of us.

9. What motivates you to continue to work during the lockdown and the pandemic?

I kept telling myself that I am learning something new, and it will benefit the organization. SWACHH 7.0 is a beneficial invention for everyone. It being a noble cause, kept us going!

10. Have you, in this period, gone out of the way to support any of your colleagues?

We had planned a 10-day shift so that only one team wouldn’t have to bear the workload. So at the end of my shift, when I was about to leave for home, there was an emergency due to which I could not go. It was Ramzan, but I couldn’t be there. The next day, those who were expected to report to work did not turn up so again I had to be there for the next two days to support the team.

11. Describe in 1 line, what does it mean to be a part of the Saral team?

Saral, for me, is my second family. Before Saral, I was struggling in my professional life but here I got momentum. People at Saral showed confidence in me. We didn’t abandon each other even during quarantine.

Author: Suhani MohanCEO, Saral Designs
Suhani is an Acumen India Fellow, recognized as 2018’s top 25 trailblazing Indian women by Forbes, recipient of India Africa Young Visionary award from Ministry of External Affairs, India, recipient of ‘Top woman entrepreneur’ at Empower, by Department of Science and Technology & Zone Start-ups, and winner of the National Entrepreneurship Award 2016 by Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.
With 3 years of investment banking experience at Deutsche Bank, Suhani holds a bachelor’s degree in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science with a minor in Electrical Engineering from IIT Bombay and is a CFA (Level I).
Suhani teaches finance at Startup School of KJ Somaiya and has been a guest lecturer at Vivekanand Education Society’s Institute of Management Studies And Research. She has also been a speaker at forum’s like UBS Philanthropy Forum at Switzerland, Acumen Plus at San Francisco, Start-up Saturday Mumbai, Jagriti Yatra, Abhyuday IIT Bombay on topics of social entrepreneurship, women in entrepreneurship and social impact.