In a nation struggling with record unemployment, two entrepreneurs from Kolkata come up with a panacea for everything that ails us in these dark times
Sarnath Banerjee documents how Normaline and Sanguinol, on their way to outsell toothpaste, became national sensations
This is the story of two friends. Madhabi Bhowmik from the Rajabazar Science College and Karabi Basak from Jadavpur University. One studied botany, the other synthetic chemistry.
After years of trying to find a job, they eventually gave up and were forced to take up entrepreneurship. This wasn’t a case of Google-style, actively-encouraged, innovation-based entrepreneurship, but ‘desperate to make a livelihood’ kind of entrepreneurship. Neither did they belong to the trendy startup culture, nor were venture capitalists chasing them. They were just two young ladies from modest-income families, quietly trying to make a living in dire times.
Not succumbing to the temptation of getting into IT, these uncompromising ladies rented an abandoned shed (previously used as an automobile garage) in Shibpur, Howrah and set up their own laboratory-cum-workshop. After a couple of years of trial and error, of stealthily collecting samples from the nearby botanical gardens, of smuggling out reagents from Calcutta University research labs, using their chemical assay facilities, after spending days and nights on intense research, they came up with two products, lanolin-based Normaline and alcohol-based Sanguinol.
True to the spirit of Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy, Gour Mohun Dutta and Upendranath Brahmachari, they reluctantly became what can be loosely termed swadeshi entrepreneurs.
Sarnath Banerjee is the writer and illustrator of several books, including All Quiet In Vikaspuri and Doabdil. He is currently working on a series of theatrical lectures with the economics department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Media Lab. He will be launching a fortnightly column in Lounge from January 2020.