An inspired entrepreneur - Eerik & Eva Wissenz

Mr Desai, could you present a bit of your background?
My father was a farmer in Gujarat. I have an elder sister, 10 years older than me and we had 8 brothers and sisters who died very young. From highschool I was impressed by Mahatma Gandhi’s books. I understood that in the name of the so-called development industry I was going wrong. After becoming an engineer I realized it more and more and could not bare it. For example, when they built the capital of Gujarat, Gandhinagar, I understood that the government was taxing people but building only for government employees and never for the well-being of the poor. Of course, to change things is ambitious, you have to start somewhere. Where to start? First, reduce poverty, give them strength. So I resigned my job and started Tinytech in 1982, after 14 years of struggle in my mind because I had a family to sustain, at that time I was 40 and today I am 67 years old. The first two years have been difficult, we had little space, all my savings were spend the first year with a tiny cement plan but there was no order. Then I started the little oil mill and after another year, the success was there.

What is Tinytech?
I believe in small scale industry and I am sure that entire economy can be done by tiny industry. I subcontract to produce and everything is assembled in my factories. It means that 20 small factories are working with us, completely independent from us, they are not our employees. I purchase the raw material, they produce the pieces and Tinytech assembles. For them it means they have no marketing and they don’t do selling : they do the work and they get paid. For me, I don’t have to invest in machinery, have big places, etc. So investments (and problems) are divided. Today, 10 to 15 persons are working at Tinytech, in offices, 2 factories and a third out of the city. We export our small machines in 85 countries. We are efficient but we want to stay small and I would be happy if others are inspired by all this. Actually, our machines are not patented and I encourage people to copy them. Every time I do something I ask to myself: “ does it give wealth to the poor? does it reduce wealth for the rich?” and both have to be satisfied. You know big companies can only survive by creating monopoly with the help of government.

Why are your factories called “yoga temple”?
The first one is called “Prayog Mandir” (Temple of advanced yoga) and the second “Udyog Mandir” (Temple of higher yoga). When you practice yoga, you do it for you, for your own benefice, it’s a first level of yoga but all activities should be for the benefit of the entire society, not for you only, so by our activities poor people should prosper also and it will be higher yoga!

What are your experiences with solar energy?
I started the experience about 10 years ago because I thought solar technology could be the main revolution because you see, sun has an equal blessing on entire earth. Sun energy cannot be centralized, no monopoly is possible. I did not have much knowledge so I contact W. Scheffler and I learn from him. But if Scheffler’s solar machine is great and very useful for large uses, it is very complicated, beyond the reach of common masses. Then I designed a small community cooker. There are 300 of these solar cookers already in India and we sell them in 25 countries. But I was thinking that one day somebody would find a way to produce simply and at low cost a more powerful solar energy... and it seems to be you Eerik with your Solar Fire !

You are involve in many social works and you also wrote books about various subjects like Indian constitution, economy, Traditionnal sari. What do you think about western and eastern worlds?
I think that Europe became a victim of gigantism. In Europe, and maybe also in North America, many people do understand that something is going wrong and try to find a way out of it. India is interesting for European people because here the country is still very decentralized, everything still exists at a small scale. India has a key but unfortunately our government is a slave of the same gigantic model and this is because our leaders have all been educated in western countries! So poverty and unemployment are increasing here. The Eastern world has his capability to go on, to create his development, we have to stand here, to improve everything that can be like the position of women for example. We have to learn from the West in our terms and the West has to learn the wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi and the beauty of simplicity.

Interview by EerikWissenz - Rajkot - 22 Oct. 2009