Working outside in hot temperatures is an inevitable hazard for many people in the Middle East. But one woman aims to help keep workers safe by selling cooling neckties. Susan Reader, the chief executive of Cool Banditz, speaks about how she got started in the business.
How long have you been here in the UAE?
Five and a half years. I came here to work in real estate and the company folded with the crisis. This was in 2009. Then I started my own business.
I was importing cooling wallets for medication from a company in the UK. It was specifically targeting diabetics, to keep insulin cool. It was really successful. I imported about 25,000 of these wallets into the market in the space of about 12 months. One of the other products was the cooling neckband. Because I was bringing [them] from the UK it was really expensive by the time it arrived, so I couldn't sell it.
So what did you do?
Basically what happened was over a period of time my friends said, 'Look, just manufacture it here. You have the technology, you know how to do it. The product isn't patented or copyrighted because it is not new technology, so just get on and do it.' I kept delaying and in May this year I was invited to speak at a construction and health and safety evening through some of my contacts and it just kind of took off from there. Everybody loved it and said if you can get the price down, we want it. That was the final push.
And you now manufacture the cooling neckties here?
Yes, we have two manufacturers. In less than three months we have introduced 26,000 of these into the market.
That's a lot. Who did you sell them to?
We supplied 6,000 to DP World in Dubai; Weatherford bought 500, [and there is a] second order coming through for 1,000. I shipped 1,000 to DP World in Jeddah [and some] to the Suez Canal terminal in Egypt. They took 1,000. We have also shipped samples to Australia, Hong Kong, products to Bahrain. After I got the DP World one it was just referrals. I had already approached these people before when I had the UK product which was too expensive, so it's just a case of going back and revisiting these people. [Back then the cost] was double. It was Dh60 [US$16]. So manufacturing them here has made a huge difference.
How do they work?
Basically what you have is a crystal which you soak in water. The evaporation process creates the cooling effect. The science behind it is if you keep your pulse points cool, you will stay cool. As the blood is circulating the body it passes through two cooling points in the neck, so as the blood is circulating it is being cooled, which makes you feel cool. The knock-on effect is that it has an impact on heat stress, heat stroke, the accident rate and the knock-on effect of that is increased productivity.