Lengthy earlier than whiteboards, beamers and laptops entered fashionable college lecture rooms, lecturers relied on the common-or-garden, dusty, generally screechy blackboard chalk-a materials that has created a Jordanian enterprise success story. Chemical engineer Salah Aloqbi remembers sitting on a bus in Amman in 1995 when he hit on the concept that would lead him to create his firm. Greater than 20 years later it boasts 150 employees, with exports to greater than 100 international locations.
Chalk, a white, delicate limestone, was shaped aeons in the past when the shells of tiny marine creatures have been compressed on the ocean floor-and the landlocked Center Japanese desert nation of Jordan is blessed with huge deposits. “It was a game-changing concept,” recalled Aloqbi, now 49, who based the Jordan Chalk Manufacturing Firm.
“I used to be getting back from work on the Jordan Carbonate Firm once I heard a radio interview saying that the calcium carbonate produced by the corporate is utilized in varied industries in Jordan-except the chalk business.” Aloqbi contemplated learn how to make blackboard chalk, which was till then wholly imported, to achieve additional worth from the calcium carbonate that can be used to supply white cement, make soils much less acidic, and toothpaste extra abrasive.
Seven years later, he launched a small manufacturing facility in Karak governorate south of Amman, with two rooms and simply 5 staff, and began experimenting-initially by pulverising the porous materials with a meat mincer. “However the chalk that we produced at the moment was not used all over the world, so we moved to supply dustless medical chalk,” he mentioned, referring to a carbonate-based kind with bigger particles.
The appropriate stuff
Some 2,149 makes an attempt later, the businessman mentioned proudly, he hit the best components for dustless chalk, making a “very sturdy export alternative” that now sees his firm produce 10 billion items a 12 months. Jordan has a close to countless provide of the uncooked materials, with the ministry of vitality and mineral sources estimating the nation’s “belongings of limestone exceed 1.3 billion metric tons”.
Limestone is the widespread type of calcium carbonate CaCO3, the principle ingredient for chalk. “It involves thoughts that that is an outdated product, however the fact is that we’re struggling to satisfy the nice demand,” Aloqbi mentioned as he inspected tons of of cartons heading to Britain and Germany, Mali and Morocco.
The chalk items are available in a large palette of colours and are used for artwork and play all over the world. The agency has additionally branched out into coloured crayons and modeling clay, and is the nation’s solely producer of chalk sticks. Right this moment, the corporate sits on a 7,500 sq. meter plot and provides sought-after jobs in a rustic the place the unemployment fee soared to 25 p.c final 12 months, about the identical because the poverty fee.
“Most of us are from villages in Karak governorate,” mentioned one worker, 28-year-old Sundus Majali. “Greater than half of the employees are ladies.” At first, she mentioned, “it was tough for fogeys to permit females to work … However at the moment they haven’t any downside with that, particularly as a result of the manufacturing facility is protected, not like different workplaces.” One other colleague, Alaa Aloqbi, 33, mentioned “the manufacturing facility has supplied job alternatives at a time when life grew to become tough”. – AFP