Field Visit Part 2 – Plumbers’ Training
A huge part of what we’ve being doing on this field visit is identifying how the chlorine injector will eventually be used by both the plumbers and beneficiaries. A core principal at Blue Tap is that our role is to provide both a product and technical training to local plumbers so they can grow their own profiles as sole traders. Through the help of the Development Studies Centre, we discovered that Mbarara actually has a local plumber’s association, a coordinated group of about 250 plumbers who meet up every month and discuss jobs and the challenges they face.
We meet with Jordan the local plumber who constructed the rainwater harvesting tank at the Development Studies Centre and he takes us to the meeting. We present the chlorine injector to the plumbers, show them some videos and generally discuss the idea. There’s so much enthusiasm, some really intelligent questions thrown at us right away, and a general buzz about the group. We set up a what’s app and the following week invite 15 of the plumbers to attend a Blue Tap workshop at the Development Studies Centre.
The goal of the workshop is to really get the plumbers input into how they find working with the chlorine injector. Straight away, it becomes clear that the plumbers understand the design parameters of the technology. I always noticed when working with plumbers in South Sudan that their route through engineering was far more practical than mine. They built things with their hands, tested through trial and error and used intuition to build and design. As a result, their ability to install new technology is phenomenal – far better than mine!
The plumber’s loved the chlorine injector, they were fascinated about chlorine and its role in purifying water and they had some great suggestions for us to update the design of the chlorine injector for the next round of lab-testing in 2019.
<— Check out the plumber’s association vlog to see the video of some fun trial and error testing with Tom and the plumbers:
Becky and I carried out a small session on business development with the plumbers. This was absolutely fascinating. Plumbers are, in, essence entrepreneurs. Sometimes they belong to a larger plumbing organisation, but often in developing countries, plumbers are sole traders who are selling their skills through word-of-mouth. I see potential for Blue Tap to support plumbers to increase both their personal brand and personal income.
Through speaking to the plumbers, we noticed there was a knowledge-gap on business management and business development. We even discovered that some plumbers were losing money on jobs they were carrying out because they weren’t charging clients enough money. It makes sense though – plumber training is either technical or done through apprenticeships – rarely does this training involve administrative or business education. Becky and I started designing a business, marketing, and management training course for the plumbers that we’ll test in our next 2019 field visit. This will allow the plumbers to be certain they can make a profit through the Blue Tap brand. Next stop Kigezi in the south west – to see if the space for Blue Tap is urban settings like here in Mbarara, or rural settings like in Kigezi.