Recently the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi launched a campaign on Jan Andalon for COVID-19 Appropriate Behavior in view of the upcoming festivals and winter season as well as the opening up of the economy. The prime minister appealed to the people to unite in fighting Corona virus by wearing a mask, to wash hands frequently with soap and water and follow social distancing by maintaining six feet distance. Modi also reminded people to always wear a mask and not to venture out without a face shield in his Mann Ki Baat program. Many renowned personalities of the country too appealed to wear mask, wash hands and practice social distancing of six feet. Different media platforms have been taking a big role in proper dissemination of these precautionary measures throughout the country.
A child wearing the mask James make
Mask has become an inseparable part of our daily life during the COVID-19 pandemic as a precautionary measure to fight against Corona Virus. Wearing a mask while going outside from home has become a second nature for everyone. During the lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic many people have started their business of making masks to make a livelihood and to meet the requirement of masks in the state. Media reports found that many women groups have sewn masks and also distributed to people in different parts of the country. Not only women, men too are involved in making masks. One among them who is successful in making masks in the state is Mayengbam James MC.
Three samples of the masks
Mayengbam James MC, a college dropout, is the son of Mayengbam Krishnakumar and Irengbam Mayengbam Ongbi Komolini of Keishamthong Elangbam Leikai, Imphal West, Manipur. During the COVID-19 lockdown James has nothing to do but remain at home. Moreover he could not run his office (WOL Media) during the lockdown as his work was paralyzed without staff in the pandemic situation. (James was in a confusion during the lockdown period thinking about switching on to a new profession which could provide monetary help to run his family. Through internet he started searching for innovative ideas that could turn into action for a livelihood.)James was in a confusion during the lockdown period thinking about switching on to a new profession which could provide monetary help to run his family. Through internet he started searching for innovative ideas that could turn into action for a livelihood.
During mid-April, 2020 there was scarcity of masks in the state and even the price was high as compared to the present price. It prompted James with an idea of manufacturing face mask locally to support the dwindling local economy and built a resilient community. He started learning the skills of making masks through you tube videos. As a trial he started making masks with non-woven polypropylene fabric as raw material gifted by one of his senior colleagues. The masks were being sewed by one of his sister from the locality. James first tried two layered mask white in color. He presented 50 masks free at his locality. He found some uncomfortable pain in the ears and unadjustable sizes and design in his first attempt. At that point of time there was also scarcity of thread and elastic in the market. James keeps on doing research of making masks through internet to make more comfortable masks.
James tried his best level to make the best protective masks out of his skill and knowledge. He put his entire endeavor to update the latest information on making masks. As his second attempt, he made masks out of 10kg raw materials with much better quality than before, being sewed by two of his sisters from the same locality. He started putting some printing designs to the masks with three layered washable one. He distributed some free of cost to his locality and sold some to local shops and collected feedbacks and suggestions from the people who used his masks. Day by day he expanded his work with more employees being employed in his work.
Through you tube James set up new design of masks with available resources and skills with no air leakage, light, and more scientific and comfortable one than the previous one. Gradually he got positive responses from his customers. In the next phase of his journey he thought of making masks for children as there were no special masks for them available at the market at that point of time. He made his attempt for his children with cartoon characters. Consistently he started making small size masks with many more cartoon and other characters which children love to wear.
Commercially ‘Food Wifi’ first ordered 40 pieces of three layered screen printing masks at the rate of Rs. 40 per piece with its logo. After that many companies such as Globiz, Taret Food, Medilane etc. started ordering masks with their own logos. James then started producing advanced four layered masks with polyster fibre. Borrowing Rs. 20,000 from his mother and with some of his savings he started his business. Now he could purchase two printers and a hear press machine for his work. Under registration of WOL Media, he produced masks by the brand name ‘Frontline’. Presently he employs 20 people directly and indirectly in his locality. Frontline focuses on manufacturing masks for kids and teenagers with animated characters. Personalized masks and corporate mask with custom designs are in high demands too.
On asking about the uniqueness of his product, he replied that his product is customized; design and material are scientific, printed, economic and washable. The durability of the mask is one month with 15-20 times gentle hands wash. James used different platforms of social media for marketing his products. By the month of September last week, he started delivering his products to local shops dozen wise at Imphal area. His products are also available online. He also expressed that if any distributor from other districts is interested in buying his products, he welcomes it and is ready for the supply.
Per day 300 to 400 pieces of masks are produced. Normally James used to work 13 hours a day. Sometimes he works till 2am in the morning. His whole family supports his venture. Even though his earnings are lesser compared to his previous job, he is enjoying his new job of making masks, he asserted. He also expressed he is happy with the new job as it directly gives benefit to his locality by giving employment to some people, more customer interaction, easy and quick cash flow etc.
He also said that mask is the only protective wear and vaccination to fight Corona virus. He has planned to continue his job after the pandemic and expanding it by producing other products such as protective suits. Many professions, including medical, require masks and other protective suit in their line of duty. If these basic requirements could be supplied locally, it will save a huge amount of money going outside the state and at the same time it will boost the local economy by providing employment to local people making a self-reliant Manipur, he added.
James appealed to people particularly the youths to turn their innovative ideas into action. Once it turns into action with hard work and dedication it will lead to the way of success. He welcomes any kind of assistance, governmental or non-governmental in setting up of some sophisticated machines, which is beyond his capacity, so that he can produce the best scientific and comfortable mask in the state. COVID warriors are not only medical professionals who work at the frontline but there are others too who are real warriors in fighting COVID 19. We really need to appreciate all these warriors who work relentlessly for a healthy and a better society.