Shaz Memon discusses the simplicity of a design idea, and how it has become an unexpectedly powerful force for good in benefitting communities in India.
There are not too many people who can add ‘Amazon best-selling author’ to their CVs. But for Shaz Memon, it is very much a reality.
His title ‘Instagram for Dentists’ is becoming the go-to reference book for simple, bite-size tips on growing a dental brand.
When you add this to the demands of owning the Digimax Dental design agency, it’s clear Shaz Memon is a busy man. He recently took time out of his schedule to talk with Andy Acton and Chris Strevens, of Frank Taylor & Associates, in a Dentology podcast, outlining his journey into design and how the Wells on Wheels charity was born.
‘Though I was the youngest by about 10 years, I came from a family of designers. I always had a passion for design myself. Indeed, the Digimax logo is one I created in a maths class at school.
‘It’s nice to think it’s been with me throughout my career!
‘My earliest ventures into the world of business probably weren’t so successful. I was designing personalised posters for my classmates and charging them 5p a time.
‘I had no idea the ink in my dad’s dot-matrix printer, on which I was surreptitiously producing them cost well in excess of that!’
Following a degree in e-commerce, Shaz’s first steps after setting up Digimax weren’t much more successful.
‘I agreed to produce 10,000 leaflets for a dentist to help promote his implant offer. The dentist trusted me with the design. Naturally I was eager to make a good impression. So much so I had forgotten to ask him what an implant actually was!
‘He was away when I produced and distributed them. I wanted them to really stand out, to be eye-catching. They certainly were… I had produced them in bright red!
‘When he returned, I received a very irate phone call asking me what I had done. Had I not thought that the bright red on the leaflets could signify blood? And was I trying to frighten off any potential patient?
‘I was mortified and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a tear or two.
‘After calming down, I realised I hadn’t understood his business. So I asked him if I could spend two weeks in his practice learning more about dentistry.
‘Through rather gritted teeth, but very generously and to his great credit, he said yes and my passion for dentistry began. I learnt so much in that two-week period. And I soon realised how important really understanding the business was and resolved never to get in the same situation again.’
‘Another key learning period, actually periods, for me was time spent in India with my family,’ Shaz continues.
‘On two separate occasions I travelled there with my family and stayed for around six months.
‘I was very struck by the difference in standards of living between the UK, where we grew up, and India. It was clear that some of the basic things we took for granted in the UK, were sadly very conspicuous by their absence.
‘The poverty and homelessness left a lasting impression. And I was keen to make a difference more immediately and directly than just making monetary donations.
‘My daughter is four, and naturally as a parent I have responsibility for her. But if I can help other children who are disadvantaged and in need of help, then I should do so.
‘I am well aware from my time in India and from speaking with my family, there are children my daughter’s age carrying heavy buckets of water for miles and miles, often in searing heat, out of necessity to help their families and communities.
‘In the office I had a “eureka moment” switching the water barrels on the office dispenser. I dropped a barrel and noticed it bounced and rolled away from me.
‘It struck my designer’s mind immediately that I if I could find a producer of a water wheel design we could make an instant impact.
‘Some research connected me to a manufacturer (thank you Cynthia!). The design was beautifully simple, heavy-duty plastic to withstand rough terrain, very durable and able to carry greater volumes, naturally, than the young children could.
‘Wells on Wheels was born there and then. And it was lovely that we could make an immediate impact.’
Gaining better education
Apart from a more plentiful supply of water to the villages and communities, Wells on Wheels has also prevented young children carrying heavy loads, relieving pressure on their growing bodies.
The health benefits of this will clearly be felt in the long term as the children grow into adults, free from the injuries caused by carrying heavy loads with their young frames.
Interestingly, it is estimated as many as 2,000 girls have been able to attend school and get an education as they are therefore no longer required to carry water. ‘This is a huge benefit’ says Shaz. ‘The potential for Indian children to get better education is huge. And therefore the future for these girls already looks much brighter.
‘It is my dream that one day we will get as many as a million girls into school. Simply by freeing them up from the daily demands of fetching and carrying water.’
This article is from an episode of the Dentology podcast featuring Shaz Memon. It is one in a series in which Frank Taylor & Associates’ Chris Strevens and Andy Acton discuss with their special guests ‘all things non-clinical in the dental world’.
You can view and listen to this and more episodes here.