Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Superkalan inventor has 4 more patents up his sleeve

Efleda P. Campos
Business Mirror
Superkalan inventor has 4 more patents up his sleeve

NARCISO MOSUELA, 76, is probably the most awarded native of Bangar, La Union. He has received countless commendations for excellence, entrepreneurship and invention, including the Filipino Inventor Society Inc.’s national award in 1984, top seller in the Ramot ti Aminanan (Root from the North) Exposition in 2003, the Department of Trade and Industry’s Outstanding MSME (micro, small and medium enterprise) in 2008, and Globe’s top Masigasig Award in 2008.

Mosuela is known best for being the inventor of the superkalan, a stove made of concrete and flattened aluminum using wood instead of petroleum. It has been a fixture in many Filipino homes during the past 20 years.

Mosuela, a college dropout, has a total of six patents from the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines, but he keeps four of them close to his chest. Aside from the superkalan, he is the proud inventor of a compact, speedy and mobile rice thresher he started developing in 1978.

Initially costing P7,000 almost 20 years ago, his thresher now sells for P35,000. Aware of how difficult money is these days, especially for people dependent on their farm produce, he also rents his thresher for three sacks of rice per cropping.

Mosuela manufactures superkalans in his facility in barangay General Terrero and makes compact mobile threshers in his compound in barangay Ubbog. Both products are on display in his barangay San Blas property.

Mosuela’s penchant for creating new things began in childhood. He said he used to fashion toy cars, fire engines, trucks, boats and kites from discarded tin cans, popsicle sticks and pieces of wood for himself, his siblings and his cousins.

Mosuela did not begin his career as an inventor-entrepreneur. He was the supervisor of the maintenance department of Ford Philippines for eight years in the 1970s.

While working for Ford, he also supported his young family by making wiring harness for cars on the side. His model worked so well that Ford began using his version on the Ford Fiera. He asked his bosses at the plant to allow him to subcontract his invention, but they claimed the gadget as their own before Ford’s home office in Detroit, Michigan. Feeling betrayed, Mosuela quit his job and struck out on his own.

The rice thresher was the first product he marketed. He was helped by a financier from Narvacan, Ilocos Sur. During his first year as an independent entrepreneur, he was able to sell 1,000 threshers at P4,000 each in Western Pangasinan mainly in trade fairs and during town fiestas. He was also aided by the relatively cheap price of gasoline at that time and the fact that Pangasinan is a huge rice-producing area. Of course, the product is a seller in itself: It can clean 100 sacks of palay a day compared with two people manually dehulling 50 sacks of palay grains also in one day.

The superkalan came into being while Mosuela was selling his dehuller in a remote area somewhere near Quezon and Nueva Ecija. He spent the night in the house of an older couple whose hospitality touched him. The elderly wife was cooking in a hole on the ground and commented on how hard it was to cook because of the rationing of firewood in their sitio. She had to constantly blow on the sticks she was using as firewood and tears were streaming down her face because of the smoke. Mosuela promised the older lady he would make her a stove that would make it easier for her to cook.

True to his word, Mosuela fashioned a portable stove with feet and a chimney made of cement and steel and gave the prototype to her.

Being compact and easier to transport, the superkalan was an easy product to sell. But it was still a long way to being perfect. The next time he visited Pangasinan, people who bought his superkalan taunted his “super kalawang [rust]” stove. Besides, the stove was belching smoke as thick as a train’s. He inquired around and found out that aluminum, not steel, was the ideal material for his invention. He also made some adjustments and rechanneled the smoke directly out the chimney attachment.

He figured if he could sell just one stove in each of the 30 barangays in his hometown, he’d make it. He also prayed for gas prices to go up so more people would buy his stove. He got help from unexpected sources. Rafael Yabut, the radio personality-cum-politician, told him to exhibit at the Philippine International Convention Center. The 20 units he brought with him sold out by noon.

Encouraged, he borrowed P35,000 first and then P75,000 from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) to make about 80 units. Members of DBP’s employee cooperative bought all units so Mosuela was able to pay back in two days the loan he thought would take him three years to pay. The product was close to perfect, as there was no longer any wood residue and smoke was finally coming out of the chimney.

He listed his Agro Industrial Corp. with the Securities and Exchange Commission and began calling his businesses collectively as Natomo Manufacturing, to sound foreign. The acronym actually stands for Nato Mosuela, nickname of one of his sons. Renato is in charge of production and Danilo, marketing.

Mosuela thinks he has sold 20,000 superkalan to date. His superkalan which sold for P2,000 in the early days now sells for P4,600.

Mosuela’s businesses employ nine regular workers, peaking to 30 when needed.

“I guarantee the longevity of my products. There is a lifetime warranty for repairs; replacement parts are extra,” he said.

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