A Taiwanese TV show recently surprised the audience by telling them that in Mainland China, many rural Chinese washing machines are used to clean vegetables and gourds. Some might think this is ridiculous, but produce-washing machines are actually found in rural areas in China.
In 1996, a farmer in Sichuan lodged a complaint with Haier Electronics for a constantly clogged drainage pipe in his washing machine. A maintenance person made a home visit and checked on the appliance. He found that the farmer actually used the washing machine to wash sweet potatoes. Due to the large amount of dirt and soil from the sweet potatoes, the drainage easily got clogged. The repairman fixed the problem by replacing the drainage pipe with a bigger one.
When Ruimin Zhang, CEO of the Haier Group, heard the news, he was as shocked as everyone else at first. But he soon realized this could be a big business opportunity. He decided to invest in the development of a washing machine with a very big draining outlet that could be used to wash clothes, vegetables, and gourds!
The new model (XPB40-DS) came out in April 1998. It served to clean not only clothes, but also gourds and even clams at an affordable price of 848 yuan. The 10,000 units manufactured in the first lot targeted at rural areas were immediately sold out.