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SA's inventor of a waterless bathing lotion

HANDS-ON: Ludwick Marishane is the inventor of DryBath. Picture: Tshepo Kekana
HANDS-ON: Ludwick Marishane is the inventor of DryBath. Picture: Tshepo Kekana

A YOUNGSTER from Limpopo is making international headlines as the inventor of a unique lotion with positive implications for millions of people.

Ludwick Marishane had the idea of DryBath, a waterless bathing lotion, in 2007, while he was in Grade 11 in Motetema, near Groblersdal.

"It was a helluva mission to bath at school, especially during the cold winter days. We had to wait for boiling water, and the process was time-consuming.

"So it just clicked to me that there should be an alternative," he laughed.

Marishane (23) has always wanted to be an entrepreneur, with his business based upon his innovations.

His ideas included developing an alternative biofuel, health cigarettes and a safety and security magazine, which advises South Africans about ways to protected themselves from crime - inspired by his "aunts and uncles in the police force".

But these ideas remained dreams because the products were already on the market.

"I lost a lot of money - my pocket money, that is. I saved for all my business ideas, avoiding borrowing money that I could not repay," recalls Marishane.

But he did not give up - and then came DryBath.

There were two snags with it, he says: "How to make the gel and what ingredients to use.

"In my matric year, I had to juggle between the nine school subjects, my research on the basic pH levels that affect the skin, statistics on water access, and the composition and manufacture of lotions and creams.

"All this was done at internet cafés. Financially, I relied on what my parents gave me as pocket money."

It took six months of research to develop a formula for the lotion that would help billions of people who lack access to clean water and sanitation.

Things started looking up for Marishane after passing his matric with flying colours. He got an entrepreneurship scholarship from the Allan Gray Foundation in 2008 to study business science at the University of Cape Town.

It then took him two years to make DryBath.

"At the university, I had a laptop, which made things much simpler. working on my business plan fuelled by my ambition, which had not diminished," says Marishane.

After the failure of his first partnership with a fellow student, he roped in Hennie du Plessis, a chemical engineer and the chief executive of BioEarth Laboratories, to help him. (BioEarth now manufactures DryBath.)

By then, Marishane had devised the prototype formula, the first preliminary version of the product.

He finally came up with a winning formula. Some months later and after much experimenting, he held a bottle of DryBath in his hands and went on to obtain a patent through his company, Headboy Industries.

The product, a clear germicidal and moisturising lotion applied to the skin in the manner of waterless hand cleaners, will be in South African stores in nine months. It is already available online.

Marishane says his product is selling well overseas, especially on the US west coast, and that sales are made to institutional clients such as the army and prisons.

But amid all the success, Marishane suffered a setback.

The entrepreneur failed his third year and almost did not get his degree as his studies took a knock because he was engrossed in his creation.

"My parents, second partner, shareholder and friend Lungelo Gumede persuaded me to go back and finish my studies," he says.

Marishane's message to start-up entrepreneurs is: "Don't listen to pessimists, go with the positive people. Believe in your mission, despite the teething problems and the hassles involved.

"I am not fazed by the reaction to my product because I truly believe in it."

In 2011, Google named Marishane one of the 12 brightest young minds in the world, and last year, he was among Time magazine's Top 30 Under-30s who are changing the world.

Marishane also won the 2011 Global Student Entrepreneur of the Year award for his innovation.