If you get rid of all the extra bits, a washing machine is basically a very large blender. Both devices are essentially built to churn things at high speeds. When Mumbai-based entrepreneur Piyush Agarwalla realised this, he decided this could be the trick to providing a cheaper alternative to washing machines to low-income households.

Five years and many iterations later, his company, Vimbas Navrachana is raising Rs 30 lakh on the crowd-funding platform Indiegogo.com for the washing machine called Venus. The campaign has already accumulated 6% of the required funds. Units are already listed on the e-commerce website eBay and retails for around Rs 2,500. However, the company plans to improve upon it and mass produce it so that it can be sold even cheaper ‒ at Rs 1,500.

"We don’t own the design, we are just improvising upon it,” said Aggarwala, 47. “We want to raise funds for the new prototype so that we can sell it to the rural areas where families can’t afford a washing machine.”

Solving the backache problem

It all started when Agarwalla found a very old picture of a similar machine that became the basis of the current design of the Venus. Agarwalla left his marketing consultancy career in 2011 to produce the washing machine that he thinks can solve the health problems of women who have to squat to wash clothes.

“According to a study by UN Women, health problems are common in women who have to sit on the floor and wring clothes," he explained. "Over time, they develop back ache and rashes on their skin due to constant contact with detergents and soaps.”

The machine is a bucket-mounted device that can work on any 15-25 liter bucket. It takes only four or five minutes to agitate the water and clean the clothes. However, it can only handle four or five garments at a time.

A larger hand blender

According to Agarwalla, the machine is low cost because it is a no-frills device and the company plans to keep it that way. “We have kept the features to the minimum so that it is easy to use by rural women, who are our primary market," he said. "This has allowed us to keep the costs low.”

The deadline for the fund raising is in December and the machines manufactured after that will be even cheaper, with only negligible changes to the existing design.

“We are importing a super insulation chemical from Russia that will cover the newer washing machines.,” Agarwalla clarified. “It will alleviate all the psychological fears of electric shocks. We are not making any other changes as we are quite confident of the current model.”

Vimbas Navrachana consists of only seven people and keeping the team small has also helped Agarwalla cut costs. “We are only producing 50 machines a month and hence, we don’t require a large team or space," he said. "Once we raise funds, we will expand the team and hire distributors.”