Ideating Innovative India

True to their size, ‘village India’ often outsmarts their urban counterparts particularly in the creative domain. Working under serious constraints, rural folks make their own destiny often by Jugaad, Mohd Mustaquim reports
Ideating Innovative India

Jugaad, a desi variant of a sophisticated machine, is often used by the rural folks in India, but such innovative ideation goes unnoticed. However, things have changed as the National Innovation Council (NIC), National Innovation Foundation (NIF) along with National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD) have been trying to intervene by patronising and rewarding the efforts in order to accord them their due place.

Despite their living in difficult economic condition, rural folks are born with creative minds. “People are not at the bottom of innovation pyramid, they are not at the bottom of ethical pyramid. They are only at the bottom of economic pyramid. So, we should be very careful while using the term ‘at the bottom of the pyramid. Though popular, this is not a good term and generally offending,” says Prof. Anil Gupta, co-founder and executive vice chair, NIF.

On providing recognition to the grassroot innovators of the country, Prof. Gupta further adds, “when we get inspiration from their products and do any active replication

we should give credit to them and acknowledge their hard efforts, they should not be anonymous.”

“If there is any benefit generated and value added; a reasonable share should go back to them. In Honey Bee newsletter, whatever we publish, we publish with the name and identity of the people and nothing is published anonymous. Secondly, we also protect their intellectual property rights,” he elaborates.

Echoing Prof. Gupta’s lines, Pragya Mishra, co-founder of Suadaagar, an arm of Benchmark Retail which integrated rural unemployed and disabled people in the central districts of Uttar Pradesh, says, “Willingness of doing anything creative which can smoothen their lives, cannot be a problem in the rural areas and it has been truer in the context of deprived lots. We have been able to transform the lives of disabled people constituting 1.8 percent of the total population of the state into able entrepreneurs.”

Saudaagar conducted a survey in the five districts of Uttar Pradesh around Lucknow, and found that FMCG products are being sold at higher prices and there was no organised system for rural retail, and a large number of people needed employment. The organisation took a move and organised disabled people in the 20,000 villages of Uttar Pradesh. And the move took shape in the form of Saudaagar model with a tag line of food health and hope.

“Poverty is not the creation of God, it is man-made, and we just need to break the vicious circle of economic deprivation and social exclusion. We are just trying to make these kinds of social changes,” she further adds.

Mera Gao Power (MGP), a brainchild of Nikhil Jaisinghani, an alumni of University of Virginia, which builds and operates low cost solar powered micro grids in Uttar Pradesh offers consumers a lower cost lighting service. For this cause, four solar panels are efficient for hundred households in a village. He treats ‘light’ as a service rather than a product.

By the end of March 2014, MGP has connected 20,000 households with its micro grid in the villages of Uttar Pradesh, providing electricity to 100,000 people.

“The design is customised in a way that it requires very low maintenance. People do not have to spend much money because the tariffs are consistent with their cash flow. Today we have brought a most commercially viable micro-grid operation in the world,” informs Jaisinghani.

Dharambir Kamboj, a rickshaw pullar in Delhi belonging to Yamuna Nagar in Haryana, just a matriculate, innovated a multipurpose processing machine which can make 40 Kg tomato ketchup within three minutes and has a capacity of 150 Kg tomato and 200 Kg aloe vera. The machine makes all kinds of pastes. Recognising his creativity, the National Innovation Foundation funded him with Rs. 5 Lakhs. Thereafter, he developed a set up which commercially manufactures this machine. Within two years, he has sold 85 machines, which cost 1.35 lakhs each.

However, in Indian villages the issue of arranging finances for innovations comes as a stumbling block despite abundance of ideas. Also, the missing link of marketing compounds the problem. Jaipur and its surrounding areas are widely known for its hand woven carpets, but the artisans were missing the link to connect with their consumers. The Jaipur Rugs Foundation brought a linkage between artisans and the overseas consumers. The initiative gave a much-needed boost to the industry and people of the surrounding areas as they get fairly compensated for their labour.

Sameer Chaturvedi, CEO of the foundation, says, “Only agriculture and other government schemes cannot provide 365 days of livelihood in the villages. So, we create opportunities for them. We provide livelihood opportunities to the general populace, along with rural women, SCs, STs and the OBCs.”

Besides Rajasthan, the foundation is also functioning in the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra. In fact, the initiative has widened the job opportunities to the carpet weavers in general.

The Society for Energy, Environment & Development, an NGO, located at Hyderabad has innovated solar energy application for food processing technologies using solar dryers, developed by the R&D team headed by Prof. M. Ramakrishna Rao. This application of solar energy for food processing is the first of its kind in the world.

Roshanlal of Narsinghpur village in Madhya Pradesh has developed a sugarcane bud chipper that helps cut sugarcane buds, reduce wastage as buds can be directly used for plantation with low maintenance. In the conventional method of sugarcane plantation, either the whole cane is planted or it is cut into sets. However, there is need of only buds for plantation. The device cuts buds effectively.

These innovations, in fact, help services and make them cost-effective, easy and time saving. However, it is imperative for the industry to come forward and adopt these technologies by providing innovators a reasonable royalty. Last, but not the least, the intellectual property rights of the innovators must be saved.

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