Woman Designs Sturdy Cardboard Beds For Overrun Hospitals in India – And Her Proud Family Sells Them At Cost

One unexpected upside to the coronavirus lockdown is that for many, it’s become a time of great creativity. When interdisciplinary designer Rhea Shah found herself stranded in her hometown of Vapi in India’s western state of Gujarat, and not attending her doctoral program in the Netherlands, she was frustrated.

“I was grappling with helplessness, thinking about what I could do with my talent and the resources available,” Shah told NPR.

The time Shah spent sequestered with her family led to a brilliant COVID-19-related brainstorm that was both organic to her family business and 100% recyclable to boot.

With the number of coronavirus cases in India escalating daily, hastily organized makeshift isolation wards were springing up across the country—which in turn, required an unprecedented need for hospital beds. Shah’s solution? A line of affordable, disposable cardboard versions.

Since Shah’s family owns and operates the Aryan Paper Group, an industrial paper manufacturing business, it didn’t take long for the Harvard-educated architect’s idea to make the leap from the drawing board to the production floor to the supply chain. In fact, the process took only about a week from concept to prototype.

Shah’s user-friendly corrugated cardboard design requires no tools, fasteners, or glue to assemble and takes only a few minutes of setup time. The beds measure 6.5’ long by 3’ wide by 3’ tall. Weighing less than 25 pounds apiece, they can be stacked flat for shipping and moved easily when in use.

In addition, the beds are water resistant, so they can be cleaned and disinfected as needed—and with a maximum weight-bearing load of 440 pounds, they’re pretty darn sturdy as well. If that weren’t enough, they’re also 100% recyclable, for which the environment says a big, “Thank you!”

It’s small wonder, then, that Aryan Paper Group has been included in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s list of the Top 21 Solutions/Innovations in the ongoing battle against COVID-19.

While, at around $13 each, the cardboard beds cost less than half the price of basic metal ones, the company’s concern isn’t about the bottom line: It’s about doing all they can to help out in these trying times. To that end, Aryan has donated more than 1,200 units and sold approximately another 10,000 at cost to those locations where they are most needed.

“We wanted to help in this crisis, and so we are not making any profit from the sale of beds,” Aryan Executive Director Param Gandhi told the Times of India. “The idea has also kept our company working which means we can continue to pay our staffers as well.”

For her own part, Shah is just gratified her contribution has been so well received. As she told NPR, “It’s heartwarming to know that in spaces where it was most needed, it was useful.”