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EVNT: Innovation To Help Those In Need @ Soho Works

Navjot Sawhney

The Washing Machine Project

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EVNT: Innovation To Help Those In Need @ Soho Works

Navjot Sawhney


The Washing Machine Project

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Navjot Sawhney The Washing Machine Project
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About Navjot Sawhney

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Enjoy this podcast recording from our live event at Soho Works with Navjot Sawhney! He's the founder of The Washing Machine Project which is providing the dignity of clean clothes to those in need across the world.


The Washing Machine Project

Show Notes

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Navjot Sawhney Full Transcript

Amardeep Parmar: [00:00:00] So today we have with us Nav Sawhney, who's the founder of The Washing Machine Project. So, Nav's been on the podcast before, so I'm going to give his story in a quick overview now. Just because today we're going to focus on more of the other parts of his journey. So, Nav started off when he was a young kid, he wanted to become an astronaut, as many people do.

Amardeep Parmar: Then he then went into engineering and got his dream job at Dyson. Then he got sick of making vacuum cleaners for rich people. And As much as he loved obsessing over how thick the brushes were, he thought this is probably not the best use of my skills. He joined an organization called Engineers Without Borders, and that took him to a remote village in the middle of nowhere in India, where he met somebody called Divya, who then changed his life, because he could see how the impact of her not having a washing machine was stopping her from working.

Amardeep Parmar: It was taking up a huge amount of her time, and that was removing [00:01:00] agency and power from her. which is a very capable person who can make a big impact in other ways. So he took the idea of creating a washing machine, went back to the UK again, worked at universities, worked in his mum's kitchen to build a washing machine that was going to change the world.

Amardeep Parmar: And what it does is it uses no electricity and it uses less water than a lot of other washing machines that similar manual machines do. So this is a huge difference, means it can be deployed all over the world. So it's been deployed in refugee camps. It's been deployed in war zones. It's been deployed in remote places all across the world.

Amardeep Parmar: So, what it's been able to do for its work is give so many people who don't have the dignity of clean clothes that dignity. And that makes them, one, feel more powerful and more human. But it also gives many people the opportunity to do things they just simply wouldn't be able to do. And especially it makes a huge impact for women as well, who so often unfairly are made to do some of these manual tasks.

Amardeep Parmar: So did I get that all right for you? 

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah, amazing. Thank you very much. 

Amardeep Parmar: So when we start [00:02:00] this conversation today, there's something that me and Nav both have in common, that we've both been through. Something to do with our families. And for Nav, his mum was a huge part of his journey and where he's been able to get to how he has.

Amardeep Parmar: So, can you tell us about that? Tell us about your mum and tell us about the influence you  had on you. 

Navjot Sawhney:Yeah, I mean, well, I want to thank you for the invitation. We love what you're doing with BAE and I just want to say, uh, this is amazing. Um, and to have everyone in the room right now, um, some people that I know very, very well, some new people, thank you so much for giving up your time.

Navjot Sawhney: Um, and the introduction that you gave was, uh, really, really, like, accurate. Um, and, and I think, um, throughout my whole life I've always had, uh, women around me. So, um, my father died when I was very young, and I had two sisters, they're sitting in the front row, and, uh, my mum as well. And from a very [00:03:00] young age I knew the importance of women in the household.

Navjot Sawhney: You know, the struggles that I have to go through all the time. My mom used to pass over promotions so that she could spend more time with us. And, you know, my sisters used to look after me all the time. And, um, just that influence on my life, uh, really kind of has shaped the way I think, um, going forwards.

Navjot Sawhney: And so when I was in that village in India, I met this lady called Divya and she really had an impact on my life. She wanted to work, but just didn't have the time because she spent hours and hours a day on unpaid labour. Something that I took for granted. Um, with the electric washing machine, for example, refrigerator, you know, access to clean water.

Navjot Sawhney: Those are things that I had when I was in the UK, but Divya didn't have. And she spent hours a day On this back breaking work on hands and knees. And I [00:04:00] said to them, you know, like, maybe I can, using my engineering skills, um, help you. And that was where the washing machine project started. So I came back and again, you know, my sisters and my mom have always kind of influenced me, pushed me, challenged me.

Navjot Sawhney: And I'm just always really thankful for the women that I have in my life.

Amardeep Parmar: And like you said, it's a problem that affects disproportionately women across the world, right? That often, whatever reason for culture, whatever like that, often women are forced to do unpaid labour. And what you're doing is obviously empowering so many of them to, like you say, get jobs and do things they might not have been able to do otherwise.

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah. 

Amardeep Parmar: And Can you give us some examples? You obviously had Divya there, but what are some of those stories that really touched you that you made an impact in some people's lives? 

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah, so what happened then was, you know, I was in India for a year and a half. I came back home. I wanted to, um, start this, this, [00:05:00] this, uh, project and I wanted to have a solution ready for Divya.

Navjot Sawhney: I gathered around a few friends. I bought a salad spinner and started testing it with my socks at home in my mom's kitchen. And I, uh, invited a couple of friends over and we kind of started coining this idea of making this physical machine out of a salad spinner. Um, we then quickly, like, put prototypes together.

Navjot Sawhney: I ordered stuff off Amazon. Um, within five or six days we went to Iraq, where we, uh, tested this physical machine. So we, we put our clothes that we were taking to Iraq in this machine, we wrapped it up in plastic and didn't check it in on the plane, just carried it on, and it looked so dodgy. Uh, that that was the start of something really special.

Navjot Sawhney: We went to Iraq, um, uh, [00:06:00] for about 5 6 days. We interviewed 79 families on washing habits. And, um, we were meeting, uh, Yazidi families. And I don't know if you can cast your mind way back when. During the Syrian Iraqi war, when the Yazidis were really persecuted, especially women, um, who had incredibly sad stories.

Navjot Sawhney: Um, and some of those, uh, are too graphic to repeat, but what struck me was how normal, uh, people are, and how, uh, how they just wanted to get on with their lives. You know, these people have lost loved ones. You know, they've lost literally everything in life, but they just want an opportunity. They want to get back on their feet.

Navjot Sawhney: They just want to carry on with their lives. And that was really inspirational to see first, first and foremost. And, um, and then when we were there, people wanted something, um, for them, you know, [00:07:00] the current technologies, products that they have available to them are just not, um, useful for them. That was the kind of big second lightbulb moment after meeting Divya, it was like, I think we're onto something here.

Amardeep Parmar: And mention there about you getting together a bunch of your friends to try and build this machine. And some of your team are here today as well, right? So, can you give them a shout out as well, like who from your team is here? How has your team helped you in your journey as well? 

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah, so we have Anushka and Joshan.

Navjot Sawhney: So anything you see on social media is because of Anushka. Uh, she's amazing. You know, she just graduated as well. So I think shout out to her. And Joshan is a first year intern, uh, studying his engineering degree. And we have amazing people on our journey now. Um, and our, our team is doubling in size, uh, as well, which is really exciting.

Navjot Sawhney: Um, but yeah, to say that I could have done this alone is just untrue and, uh, it takes a village, right? So, yeah, it, it [00:08:00] really couldn't have been done, um, just on my own. 

Amardeep Parmar: And how have you found that, right? Because you worked for this huge company, Dyson, right? Then from Dyson, you went to a remote village in India.

Amardeep Parmar: Then you've gone back home to a kitchen, and then you've gone to Iraq. And obviously you've been to so many other places as well. But that changed the environment, right? So I guess most people in this room, they're probably working in an office or in something which is a fairly safe environment, right?

Amardeep Parmar: But for you to choose to go to those war zones and refugee camps and places like that, I understand you're hearing these stories. But what gave you the courage to do that? How did you overcome that initial friction that maybe some people here will have? 

Navjot Sawhney: I think, you know, as Asians, we have a well trodden path, right?

Navjot Sawhney: We're gonna Go to college, get a degree, and then you better get a job as soon as you graduate. Once you do that, uh, once you get that job, your life is set from there, right? And anything that you stray away from that career is seen as haram, as the Arab say, or a big no no, right? Um, [00:09:00] I think When I joined Dyson, uh, in the first few months and the first year, I was loving life, man.

Navjot Sawhney: I was like, I would go above and beyond to design these vacuum cleaners that would suck up dust, you know? 

Amardeep Parmar: Living the dream, yeah. 

Navjot Sawhney: I was, I was, I was like, this is what I want to do for, for my whole career. You know, I want to be doing this for my whole life. But, you know, second year, third year, and about three and a half years in, I was like, Am I going to be doing this for the rest of my life?

Navjot Sawhney: Really? And there was so many talented people in the room, 20 to 30 talented people, literally just talking about the thickness of a, of a, of a, of a brush, you know, and I was like, come on guys, you know, um, and I said, we need to do something different here. Um, and can you imagine having that conversation with your mom?

Navjot Sawhney: Or your family saying you want to quit your job and go work for free in India. That wasn't a very good conversation to have. I can, I can vouch for that. [00:10:00] And, uh, yeah. In fact, I didn't get any support. Everyone said that I was making the biggest mistake of my life, you know. 

Amardeep Parmar: He's not looking at his sisters as he says that.

Navjot Sawhney: But they, they, they said that Nav needs to just do it, you know. Um, and I think Throughout my life, I've made many mistakes, taken many risks, and I think, you know, you always have to kind of follow your passions and what you want to do going forwards. I think, as an engineer, I have the power to help and hinder the planet, you know?

Navjot Sawhney: Um, I was just so focused on getting a job. I was applying to missile defense companies. Um, um, all sorts of things that I was just not interested in. You know, I'm a humanitarian. I want people to prosper. There's a billion people today that are going to go hungry. That's what I want to work on. And that's, that’s, that’s  [00:11:00] what I want to dedicate my life towards.

Amardeep Parmar: So one of the things you mentioned to me before is about how You're from the Dyson for the underprivileged, right? 

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah. 

Amardeep Parmar: So you've got the washing machine so far. 

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah.

Amardeep Parmar: But for you, this is something that you do lots of these different kind of projects. Because there's so many other problems people face, right?

Amardeep Parmar: What are some of those other things, Alec, what are your dreams for the future or other things you want to do?

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah, I'll give you an example. So I was on the border of Syria and Lebanon a couple of years ago. And I met a lady called Kowsek. Kowsek is 36 years old. And she has 10 children. And The war made her family displaced, so she moved from Syria to Lebanon.

Navjot Sawhney: She lives in this desert that gets extremely hot in the summers and extremely cold in the winters, so minus 7 to plus 40 degrees Celsius. She lives in this tent with her and her husband and her ten children, and there is no resolution. She's been there for nine years. So what do you do for people like [00:12:00] Kausek, who really don't have very much, and as a someone that has always been problem solving in their life, you just go to these places and you spot so many issues.

Navjot Sawhney: But you also see hope as well. So I remember going into Kausek's tent and in the corner Her shower head was missing and they used a Nutella jar that they, uh, that they poked holes in and stuck it on as a shower head. So I think it's like frugal innovation is really, really inspiring as well in these places. 

Amardeep Parmar: So recently as well, you, uh, so you've been like many different places, right?

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah.

Amardeep Parmar:  But there was the Ukraine crisis recently,

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah.

Amardeep Parmar:   and you took some of your washing machines out there. Can you tell us a bit about that as well? 

Navjot Sawhney: There's wars going on all over the place, you know, something to, to, to make clear, but it was interesting how the country reacted.

Navjot Sawhney: Um, when Ukraine was being invaded. Um, and I think it's because honestly, the Ukrainians look like a lot of people in this country.

Amardeep Parmar: I think they say look like me. [00:13:00] I'm not sure about that.

Navjot Sawhney: Um, so the response was really interesting. And, uh, uh, we saw this and we said, uh, how can we help? Um, and we, we saw Ukrainian refugees coming into Poland.

Navjot Sawhney: Uh, they were in, um, There were big conference centers like the Excel in London or the NEC in Birmingham and there were just thousands and thousands of these refugees in these conference centers for weeks, months, and years on end. And they had no access to any sorts of sanitation so there was an electric washing machine for every 4, 000 refugees.

Navjot Sawhney: So you can imagine. The queue trying to clean your clothes, and they were using a car park, the car park in front to dry their clothes. And that was in the summer, but in the winter it's much more difficult. So, yeah, we distributed machines there with the support of some of our partners as well.

Amardeep Parmar: So you've obviously got huge recognition for what you're doing as well, right?

Amardeep Parmar: So, the [00:14:00] Point of Light Award, right? From the Prime Minister. And you're recognised, you've been everywhere, right? And how much has that helped your mission? Like, that media coverage and people getting the word out about what you're doing? 

Navjot Sawhney: Well, it's helped, like, bring my mum over. So she's, she's very proud.

Navjot Sawhney: I've actually got a really funny story of my mum meeting the Prime Minister. Um, so my mum's a civil servant. She’s a career government, uh, worker. She retired this year after 30 plus years. In, in the, in the, in, in HMRC, controversial. Um, 

Amardeep Parmar: Can she talk me out afterwards? 

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah. Well, um, and, uh, uh, I got this invitation to, to visit the Prime Minister, uh, during the King's coronation. 

Navjot Sawhney: to collect this award and have lunch with other people on 10 Downing Street. And, uh, I had a plus one guest, and I was like, I have to take my mom. You know, she's just retired. What a great retirement present. So she [00:15:00] starts, like, picking out her saris the night before. She's like, should I choose the blue one?

Navjot Sawhney: Should I choose the red one? I was like, definitely the blue one. So she's wearing this royal blue sari. We, um, we walk on 10 Downing Street. The Prime Minister comes out and he meets my mum. And my mum is like, absolutely starstruck. And she says, I'm so proud of you. 

Amardeep Parmar: Wait, to you or to Rishi? 

Navjot Sawhney: To Rishi. By the way, this is being streamed on BBC News.

Navjot Sawhney: So you can find it online. And Rishi Sunak says, um, Thank you, but you should be proud of your son. And my mom said, Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm proud of you. And I was like, Mom, in your blue sari you look like a Tory donor. That's a really funny story. And so this recognition really helps, you know, the, whatever your political affiliations are, um, you know, being recognized by the, the Prime Minister is an amazing, [00:16:00] um, a boost to the, the impact, the positive impact.

Navjot Sawhney: We're making and, uh, this time last year, we were retweeted or reshared on Instagram by Jennifer Garner, the Hollywood actress as well, which has got huge coverage from that as well. 

Amardeep Parmar: And like recently, of course, more funding as well, right? 

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah. 

Amardeep Parmar: So and you said to me, that's going to help you triple your impact.

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah. 

Amardeep Parmar: So what's going to happen with that money? How are you going to use it effectively to? Change people's lives.

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah. So, so far we've positive impacted around 30, 000 lives across the world. Eight countries and counting from orphanages to refugee camps to homeless people in the US and the UK. Um, but yeah, I'm really proud to, to say it's probably an exclusive, can't tell you when or who, how much, but it's, it's going to be huge as an appliance manufacturer, uh, that's partnering up with us.

Navjot Sawhney: That's, it's going to. Be tripling our impact all across the world [00:17:00] over the next five years. So stay tuned for that. 

Amardeep Parmar: So obviously, congratulations on that, first of all. But the logistic side of things now, right? You've got to try and scale the impact and obviously you've got your team, you're going to have to build that team faster.

Amardeep Parmar: What's some of the main things you're focusing on now to try and make sure you're able to deliver that? 

Navjot Sawhney: I find this really hard, right? Because this has been my vision, my baby, so to speak, from the point where there was no one. Around me. And now we have loads and loads of people wanting to support and I think it's almost always very important to stay true to the vision.

Navjot Sawhney: You know, we want to, uh, save time, water and effort for women and children around the world. And that's, that's, that's what we're really, really focused on right now. We have an incredible team. There's more people coming and we've got some great plans to scale across the world. So I'm really excited. 

Amardeep Parmar: So let's say some people in the audience now, right?

Amardeep Parmar: They're thinking, they'd love to help out, maybe they don't want to quit their job and go into it full time. What's different do you think people can [00:18:00] be doing to make an impact on people in the developing world or people in other countries? Or even in the UK, right? So people in the UK are suffering too.

Amardeep Parmar: What are some of the steps you think people maybe could take that they aren't aware of?

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah, I think COVID was a real eye opener for everyone. Everyone realized that they're mortal, you know, and, uh, you know, we're all forced to stay in our houses. Do you remember that? That was surreal. Um, we had an, uh, an influx of people that wanted to volunteer and support us.

Navjot Sawhney: And, um, I think people just wanted to help. So I think using that Motivation and applying it to something that you're passionate about. I always say that you need to fall in love with the problem because the solution will always change. I am absolutely focused on Trying to remove the time burden that someone like Divya faces around the world.

Navjot Sawhney: And I think you need to find your passion and do that sustainably. So, you know, if, if it's [00:19:00] women's rights or, um, um, political, uh, rights or, uh, financial inclusion or homelessness, whatever your thing is, um, Find someone that's doing it before I even started about thinking about washing machines. I reached out to every single Manual washing machine company in the world to say I have this idea.

Navjot Sawhney: Can you help me? Only one person replied and I invited them to my mom's house. So I think it's important to work collaboratively and work together and I think that's why Communities like this are really important to to support each other 

Amardeep Parmar: What's in the communities you've worked for organizations that really made a difference in what you've been able to achieve as well?

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah, so we've worked with the largest NGOs in the world, so the United Nations for Refugees, UNHCR, to small grassroots organizations that are run by a husband and wife, you know, and we find that each [00:20:00] organization brings their own benefits. For example, the The small organizations are very agile. They can do things tomorrow.

Navjot Sawhney: Whereas the big ones can give, you know, huge exposure, uh, more kind of wider impact. We just enjoy making impact and we rely on people locally on the ground to help us do that. 

Amardeep Parmar: How do you get people locally involved, right? Because obviously, some of the countries you go into, maybe they don't speak English, or maybe you don't have a common language.

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah

Amardeep Parmar: How are you getting into those communities to actually make that difference? How do you find the right people and the right stakeholders?

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah, so we take a really grassroots approach, so we get invited to communities. Um, people reach out to us and they identify a problem. We then do extensive research in that area.

Navjot Sawhney: So we say, okay, um, how many people hand wash clothes here? How do they wash clothes? What size of family do they have? Uh, what detergent do they [00:21:00] use? Um, the last thing that we want to do is give them a machine, our machine, that they don't use. We want to create positive impact around the world and it needs to be, um, by the community.

Navjot Sawhney: And so we work in the local language, um, and I feel that universities are such an untapped talent, you know. These people are graduating from universities in Uganda and Kenya and Iraq and Jordan, Lebanon and India and Mexico. They're so amazing, um, and Um, they, they just want opportunity. So why don't we give them opportunity?

Navjot Sawhney: Um, and so I, I feel like that's our, that's our secret out now. 

Amardeep Parmar: So you're not going to have more competition for your workers, right? 

Navjot Sawhney: The more the merrier, right? People don't get that in, in our space, but like if someone's hearing this and they want to make a positive difference, please do. Um, but I'd also caveat that, caveat that and say, you know, if there's Someone in the, the, the audience or someone listening saying that they're thinking that they're [00:22:00] really frustrated in their job right now and they want to quit.

Navjot Sawhney: Uh, don't. Um, because it takes time, you know, um, it, uh, takes a lot of effort and you need to do it sustainably. Um, and I think that's really important.

Amardeep Parmar: Is there anything that you wish you knew before you went along this journey? That when you were still at Dyson that maybe you could have prepared better?

Amardeep Parmar: What you were going to go into? 

Navjot Sawhney: That's a really good question. Is there anything that I wish I told myself? 

Amardeep Parmar: Or wish you knew, like, or you were able to prepare yourself for? 

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah,

Amardeep Parmar: Because a lot of people, for example, if they want to leave their jobs, they can do a lot before they actually leave the job.  

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah,

Amardeep Parmar: To make sure they hit the ground running.

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah, yeah. I mean, no one knows it really, but I actually worked my full time job, which is at Jaguar Land Rover, up until November last year. And I was Employing six people and still working a full time job. So, um, that was to protect our budgets. And, um, and, uh, I, I was working 80 hours a week. My [00:23:00] family were like, you need to sort this out right now.

Navjot Sawhney: So, um. I think you'll know when you know, uh, when the right time is to take that plunge and, um, you'll, that'll come within. 

Amardeep Parmar: So the guy leaving there was my, my signal. To know that it's now time for questions from the audience. So thanks so much for everything you've shared so far, but do you have any questions from the audience?

Amardeep Parmar: So the question there was about how, when Navs first started out, how did it go from him being one person to finding that tribe that people were going to help him out and help him to get to where he is now? 

Navjot Sawhney: Thank you for your question. Um, I never really thought of it, um, like I want to distribute 10, 000 washing machines around the world.

Navjot Sawhney: Um, I thought of it that I just want to make this washing machine for this person. And it's kind of organically grown like that. So, um, just having tunnel vision and being very focused on, on this particular solution for a [00:24:00] particular country or a particular location around the world. And you'll have loads of people.

Navjot Sawhney: Reach out and say they want it for something else. So, you know, just today Anushka and I were just joking about how, you know, a couple from Wales who are off gridding are going to be recording a series on a tiny home YouTube channel and they want a machine for their home for that recording. And we have to make those decisions every day and reprioritize ourselves all the time and I think that's something that I have to learn early on.

Navjot Sawhney: And, and, uh, people will come and, and you'll, you'll figure out who the, who the good ones are and they'll stay and the other ones will go. 

Amardeep Parmar: So the question there was about how a lot of things in me at the moment are quite negative about refugees or migrants or people coming into the country. And obviously Nav people.

Amardeep Parmar: What do you wish that other people knew about them that you do?

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah, thank you for that. We [00:25:00] appreciate it. I think we should. Call it as is, you know, they stopped the boats policy, uh, that's been going around and, um, something I don't agree with. It's ironic, because one of our first publications was in the Daily Mail, you know, saying, uh, Uh, uh, saying, uh, I think it was like, Engineer distributes life saving washing machines to Iraq.

Navjot Sawhney: I'm like, that's, yeah, really ironic. Um, it's tough, and I think there's an othering, you know. There's a fear that there's an influx of Refugees coming to our shores and, um, you know, taking our space and jobs and, um, wrecking the place. It's just not the case, you know. Um, if you ever, uh, stop and speak to these people, they're really talented.

Navjot Sawhney: They have so many opportunities they want to pursue and they, they just don't, you know, no one will put someone on a boat. Um, uh, [00:26:00] uh, Thinking that this is safer than the land that they left, right? Um, I think that's something to, to always keep in mind, and it's empathy. You know, these people could be us, you know?

Navjot Sawhney: And that's why Ukraine shocked so many people, because it was so close. Uh, I think that's always important to, when you read these headlines, to keep that in mind. That they, they're humans. Um, and they've lost so much. 

Amardeep Parmar: I think that's what you mentioned as well about the universities across the world, that there's so many talented people in all of these other countries as well.

Amardeep Parmar: But because we don't necessarily know about it, we might underplay them or underestimate what they're capable of. And like many of these people are capable, they just haven't had the same luck and opportunities that we've had.

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah

 Amardeep Parmar: Any other questions from the audience? The question from the audience there was about how you've had so many different experiences in your life.

Amardeep Parmar: What's one thing that you've learned from your life experiences? 

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah.

Amardeep Parmar: That Other [00:27:00] people can learn from that. Maybe they weren't taught from school or from their childhood.

Navjot Sawhney: It's a good question. I'll try to answer it. I think for me, it's reminding yourself that humans are inherently resilient. You know, uh, I've I've I've been to, uh, countries and refugee camps where, um, uh, women and Children have lost, um, five or six members of their family, you know, and they just get on.

Navjot Sawhney: You know, um, and I've seen homeless, uh, people and, and chat homeless people that have been homeless for 14 years before in the Vietnam War in the U. S. on the streets of Texas. And they, they get on, you know, it's, it's resilient. And I, and I think, you know, I forget about it all the time that, you know, it will be okay and I'll get on, you know, and life will carry on.

Navjot Sawhney: And, uh, right now it's okay. You know, uh, I think that's something that we all need to be reminded about, resilience.

Amardeep Parmar: So what is [00:28:00] spotlighting there is about how the line you said there about falling in love with the problem, not the solution. And when do you know when your solution isn't working? Because like I said, you've invented this washing machine. You say that, but there must be part of you that's really cool. I'm proud of that, right?

Amardeep Parmar: But then what about something new comes along that's better than that? And how do you then know to pivot? Like, what's that? How do you assess, like, we should be changing, we should be staying on the same path? 

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah, so, the washing machine that we've developed is called the Divya washing machine, named after the inspiration behind the organization.

Navjot Sawhney: Uh, it's the world's first flat packable washing machine, Ikea style. You can put it together with one tool, essentially. Um, we've just release that in about six months and there’s already 52 design Line item tickets to improve it. Um, so I think inherently it's always trying research and development's, always trying to prove the, the product that you've already released.

Navjot Sawhney: Um, but I think [00:29:00] earlier on into my entrepreneurial journey, I say that in inverted commerce because I don't feel like I'm an entrepreneur. I just wanna make divya washing machine. Um. And, uh, I'm an engineer, so I've had to learn on the job. Uh, and I make so many mistakes. But my job right now for my team is to get out of their way.

Navjot Sawhney: You know, because they've obviously been recruited for one reason or another. So my job is to keep the vision, uh, uh, make sure there's enough resources available, and let them get on with it. And there'll be times where, um, You don't like the direction of something particularly, but you have to learn to let go and make the mistake.

Navjot Sawhney: I think it's being, uh, being afraid of making those mistakes means that you don't let go of something. Um, um, and I think failure is so important. And the lack of failure is actually the worst thing for innovation. 

Amardeep Parmar: So [00:30:00] the question there was about self care as an entrepreneur, right? There's so many different stressors that come along.

Amardeep Parmar: Sometimes people believe in you. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes they do believe and they just want what's best for you. But it just affects in different ways. How have you managed to look after yourself in that process? Right? Because even when you're building the machine, some people are like, Oh, that's not going to work.

Amardeep Parmar: And it could be you're trying to go out to these countries and saying, like, Oh, why are you coming for? Like all these different problems you're going to face, but you've got to keep going through that. How have you managed to look after yourself? What are the top two or three things you've got there?

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah, thank you. And I would say that my family are my biggest supporters now. I still catch my mum showing the mechanic or the postpartum. I don't know. There's, my mum's in Wales today, and she's on one of these group holidays. She was asked to be put in front of the coach to announce what the washing machine project was, so so she's incredibly, they're all incredibly supportive and my family are my rock, you know, they're there in the tough times and, [00:31:00] um, when I'm not working I'm with my friends and my family because they keep me grounded.

Navjot Sawhney: They've been here Before any of the news articles or the awards and they'll be here long after those things are, are gone. So I think it's important to find your tribe and those people will be attracted to you. You'll find those people organically. 

Amardeep Parmar: So very simple question there. What does success look like?

Navjot Sawhney: I was a scout when I was young and my, my, uh, I still have affiliations, uh, uh, to the scouts. Um, and they always had this. Uh, motto ingrained into me, which is leaving the the place that you're in better than you found it. And for me, if I can do that, then I've lived a successful life. As I said, we've got 52, uh, design items left for the next product.

Navjot Sawhney: But yeah, there's so many things that we can do. You know, as I said, [00:32:00] CalSec's home, we spotted so many problems, whether it was refrigerating, refrigeration, lighting, cooking, cleaning, air conditioning, you know. There's all sorts of things and my team are very panicked. But I'm, I'm the dreamer, right? So. 

Amardeep Parmar: I was watching their reactions earlier and he was talking about, um, whether or not you can let go of stuff and let them do what they're supposed to do.

Amardeep Parmar: And they just weren't making eye contact with me. I was like, don't react, like, keep a straight face. So next question from Peter Right now what's your biggest challenge and how are you planning to solve it?

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah, I think for me personally it's Going from this startup phase to scale up Um, you know, I miss the days where we were able to just go out tomorrow to, uh, Lebanon and just take a machine and, and just rock up and 

Amardeep Parmar: That's every Sunday, right?

Navjot Sawhney: And knock on the door of the UN and say, hey, can you just [00:33:00] Give us a translator and a driver and we can go to a refugee camp and test it. We can't do that anymore. There's so many things and protocols you have to go through. So I miss this. That for me is frustrating. And, uh, It's something that I have to reconcile with.

Navjot Sawhney: Growing up and growing on this journey from start to scale up. I think for us it's The challenge is to keep nimble, don't let process kind of get in the way of the productivity that you need to, to output. Um, and just getting, getting people in and getting machines out. Those are the two or three challenges.

Navjot Sawhney: So everything really, but yeah. 

Amardeep Parmar: One of the things you mentioned, like one of the earlier question as well, is about how you're an engineer, right? You don't necessarily You're not a natural entrepreneur. What's been the entrepreneurial things that you found really tough or you've had to get people in for, because you just weren't sure what you were doing.

Navjot Sawhney: [00:34:00] Um, you know, I don't know about your family, but my, my mom always made our, our pound go a mile, you know, uh, she would. Spend another 45 minutes going to the next store just because it's 10p cheaper, you know, and that That philosophy has always stayed within me and I do that all the time with the team But I'm getting better at that and it's Yeah, it's So yeah, we are, you know, natural entrepreneurs, I think, as Asians.

Navjot Sawhney: Um, we, uh, have community. Um, we like communicating. Um, we know each other. And we know it's always someone that can help us. And I think these kinds of instincts Uh, may not be seen as entrepreneurial, but for me, that's how I used it to get by, you know. I always knew someone that knew someone that knew someone that introduced me to, uh, someone that I needed to meet, so that, that helped [00:35:00] a lot.

Amardeep Parmar: What failure do you cherish the most? 

Navjot Sawhney: So when I, this is not very well known as well, when I was quitting Dyson. Um, it was a very difficult time for me. I was in two minds whether I should do it. I, uh, begged for my job to come back to. So I remember, uh, the COO at the time. I emailed him. I emailed the HR head.

Navjot Sawhney: And I was like, I'm doing this great thing. I'm making cook stoves in India. Please can I come back after a year? Please can you save my job? They said no. And I thought that was the biggest failure. In life, I still have that email somewhere. And, uh, for me, that was the thing that I cherish the most. Because you imagine if I went back to Dyson.

Navjot Sawhney: Um, and that CEO is now the CEO of Volvo. And he's a good friend of mine now. So, um, so it's amazing how [00:36:00] Things work out. 

Amardeep Parmar: Navjot. What would you say to little Navjot? 

Navjot Sawhney: I think as a kid I was so focused on trying to fit in. Um, I was not a very cool kid. There was always someone that was very cooler than me. I looked at them with like, rose tinted glasses.

Navjot Sawhney: Um, and I was like, I want to be like this person. Um, and I wish I could go back and say to that person, That young and have that, you know, it's going to be okay, you know, just focus on your passions And your path and just follow that and do that. Well And everything will be okay Those cool people are reaching out to me now Which is such a great feeling Who didn't give me any attention, but you know jokes aside This is great, um, but we all need to be focused on the Divyas, the Karaseks in the world who really don't have very much, and they need all of our support.

Navjot Sawhney: So let's, let's, let's support them. [00:37:00] 

Amardeep Parmar: You mentioned there about the Divyas and the Karaseks, right? How do you, how do you get more of those stories out there? Because what spotlighting people from British Asian backgrounds, so obviously I can invite you in here, right? 

Navjot Sawhney:  Yeah

Amardeep Parmar: How do we learn more about these other stories? 

Amardeep Parmar: I, you said you're spotlighting various stories as well, right? 

Navjot Sawhney:  Yeah, Yeah. 

Amardeep Parmar: What are some of the other stories that maybe. People here should be hearing that they aren't getting a chance to hear. So you've got the platform now to tell somebody's story, maybe doesn't have a voice that other people can hear. 

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah, I met a lady called Lillian from Uganda, who, um, Um, we were trialing the machine with, in a group, and we were with the group for an hour and a half, and she stayed behind, and she was like, Nav, I really want this machine.

Navjot Sawhney: Please can you help? And I was like, We're coming back. We've got this structure now in place. Um, and she's like, no, Nav, I really want this machine. I'm spending so much money on hand cream [00:38:00] that the doctors prescribed me because of the pain that I'm feeling. When I hand wash clothes that, uh, I cannot afford to buy the tomatoes that I sell, uh, for a living.

Navjot Sawhney: So she has to prioritize medicine or product for her occupation And I think that is in a nutshell, some of the suffering that you see with something so simple as washing clothes, and something I take for granted every single day, but we're reminded that Lillian has to make choices whether she can work tomorrow or, uh, treat her hands because of the skin condition that she has, because she's, you know, washing her clothes.

Amardeep Parmar: You mentioned that about structure as well, and I think it's a really difficult thing, right?

Amardeep Parmar: Because of what you're doing, because you know you're making a huge impact on people's lives. 

Navjot Sawhney:  Yeah

Amardeep Parmar: But obviously, like you said, you're saying no to other people. [00:39:00] 

Navjot Sawhney:  Yeah

Amardeep Parmar: And how do you reconcile that? Because it must be, at one time, it really warms your heart to be helping those other people. But it also must be heartbreaking that you can't fix everybody's problems all at once. 

Navjot Sawhney:  Yeah 

Amardeep Parmar: So how do you get that structure in place? Because you've got to separate some of the emotion from the decision making, right? How have you been able to do that? 

Navjot Sawhney: Yeah, and this is something I've found really tough. Because the intentions of how I started was I wanted to help everyone. And so we now have people in the organisation that are focused all about the sustainability of the organisation.

Navjot Sawhney: How can we become a 100 year organisation, not just a 5 year organisation? And, um, uh, we need to prioritise countries. You know, 5. 6 billion people in this in this world. How much close? We can't touch the lives of every single person, but we can prioritize specific countries over over others with the view to then move to other countries.

Navjot Sawhney: And there's all sorts of formulas that [00:40:00] we We've, we've created. So, you know, uh, what's insecurity, political instability, et cetera, et cetera, of how we, how we select our countries. 

Amardeep Parmar: Because it must be really difficult, right? Because it's the timing of everything. I said, like, say, 100 people message a week if they want to come on the podcast, for example, right?

Amardeep Parmar: That's nowhere near the same impact. We have to say no to so many people. And I guess like that, getting used to saying no is part of you scaling up, right? Is you being able to. Create the systems and What would have to change you to say yes to more people what enable you so you said you've got funding in place 

Navjot Sawhney:  Yeah

Amardeep Parmar: what else could be done?

Amardeep Parmar: What could? Whether it's society, governments, what could people be doing,

Navjot Sawhney:  Yeah

Navjot Sawhney: so you can make a wider impact? 

Navjot Sawhney:  Yeah, so three things to scale for us is the advocacy piece. So, you know, Governments and NGOs around the world just don't know about the issue. Like, they're so focused on feeding people and giving water to people that they're just not [00:41:00] aware of the other problems. 

Navjot Sawhney: A refugee camp Is designed to last six months, but the average age of a refugee camp in the world today is 19 years. So, you know, these, these camps started with tarpaulin tents and are now seven floor buildings. So how do you reconcile that? So awareness is one thing, uh, manufacturing is the other. So there's a reason why we've built the world's first flat packable washing machine, because we want to localize manufacture.

Navjot Sawhney: Uh, we want to put these in the hands of the users so they can put it together themselves, and we believe that this appliance manufacturer will help us with that, and we're really excited by that. And then the third thing is continuing to innovate, I think, you know. There'll be a day where people don't want to use a manual washing machine.

Navjot Sawhney: They'll want to use an automatic washing machine. And so we need to be ahead of that curve. 

Amardeep Parmar: Awesome. So, is there any more questions? Or Start to wrap up. [00:42:00] So, thank you so much Nav for coming on today. I'm sure everyone's going to give you a massive round of applause now. 

Amardeep Parmar: So as I said, your journey there. It's really important to hear 

Amardeep Parmar: the journey, but also some of the stats you said there, right? So When you just said like the refugee comes meant to last six months and they last a lot longer than that. Was it 19? 

Navjot Sawhney: Average age is 19 years.

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah. So that's a huge thing. If you just remember a few of those key things from today, if you tell a bunch of your friends that right, it's just changed their mentality of people.

Amardeep Parmar: If they can understand what the world is really like, then the work from the same information base, and then you can make a bigger difference. And obviously terribly about now to tell everybody what he's doing, because that can make a huge impact. You never know who's in this room. Who's got a friend of a friend of a friend who's an engineer who then wants to help him and change the washing machine and build a dry cleaner as well or a tumble dryer.

Amardeep Parmar: Who knows, right? That's the next step, right? 

Navjot Sawhney: I wish

Amardeep Parmar: So [00:43:00] all of these kind of different things, it can help out in such more ways. And you might not realize like how big of an impact it's like, even if you don't quit your job and go traveling to Iraq and things like that, but you can actually help him out in a huge way and all these people that he's serving.

Amardeep Parmar: So thank you again for coming on.

Amardeep Parmar: Hello. Hello everyone. Thank you so much for listening. It means a huge amount to us and we don't think you realize how important you are because are if you subscribe to our YouTube channel, if you leave us a five star review, it makes a world of difference. And if you believe in what we're trying to do here.

Amardeep Parmar: To inspire, connect and guide the next generation British Asians. If you do those things, you can help us achieve that mission and you can help us make a bigger impact. And by doing that, it means we can get bigger guests. We can host more events. We can do more for the community. So you can play a huge part.

Amardeep Parmar: So thank you so much [00:44:00] for supporting us.

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