Innovating India: Hope in Air

Indians have started innovating. It’s not only Nano, the ultra cheap car; Ace, the mini-truck; or Swach, the cheapest water filter from Tatas. Indica is also not the same with which Tata Motors entered the car market years ago. One can see the innovation in the evolution of Tata’s Sumo over years. Mahindra’s Scorpio and then really smart and tough looking Xylo are visible Indian Innovations.

Go to nearby market and look at the consumer products in any shop, you can notice the exponentially increasing varieties, good enough to confuse the decision. India has joined the rat race of consumerism and innovators in all sectors are working hard.

I, for one, still will like to see India excelling in manufacturing. Some of the Ashoka Lemelson Fellows from India recently showcased their innovations that got good public attention.

1. Pradip Sharmah’s latest innovation about creating solar battery operated ricksaws. It got included even in Pranab babu’s union budget speech on February 26.

2. Dr Amitabha Sadangi, CEO of International Development Enterprises (India) or IDEI, has reached over 8.5 lakh marginal farmers with a low-cost manually operated pedal pump (costing around Rs 1,200-1,500) which allows farmers to manually pump out groundwater. ···About an hour’s pedaling on the pump is sufficient to take out water sufficient for the daily need of a one-acre vegetable farm. I wish it can get solar.

National Innovation Foundation (NIF) with Prof Anil Gupta as vice-chairman is going great job to scout for, document and sustain “grassroots green innovations”. One can see some media reports about its innovations from nook and corner of different states.

1. Chintakindi Mallesham from Nalgonda district of Andhra Pradesh has created a machine that has mechanized the most tedious part of Pochampally or ikkat weaving – the tying of threads and dyeing them in selected colours, a process called asu. Weavers can now produce three times the number of saris and better design and finish.

2. Mushtaq Ahmed Dar from Anantnag. Kashmir has devised a walnut-cracking machine that can process 80 kg of the hard nut in an hour with minimum damage to the kernel against 10 kg per hour possible if manually done. The machine is being refined with help from Kashmir University. Dar has also created a pole-climbing contraption that he hopes to sell to electricity boards around the country.

3. Dharambir in Yamunanagar district, Haryana made a low-cost processing machine-cum-extractor that can crush and extract juice or oil from herbs and fruits like amla and mango.

There are others innovating some pioneering products. Ramesh Sojitra, 44, has come up with a mapping software described as “revolutionary” by none other than former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman R. Madhavan Nair. The software is not only a big help to the Indian armed forces but is also making the task of governance, by mapping India, easier and cheaper.

Many MNCs’ India divisions are innovating new products that will go into global market. GE India is also one experimenting with ‘reverse innovation’. GM Technical Centre in India employs 700 people who working on various fronts including petrol and diesel engines, manual and automatic transmission, besides hybrid and electric cars.

The Durgapur-based Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI), a unit of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), has developed and is all set to test its ”Autonomous Underwater Vehicle-150” off the Chennai coast next month.

A team of scientists at the National Institute of Plant Genome Research in New Delhi has developed a technique to create transgenic tomatoes that do not become squishy even one and a half months after being plucked. As reported, researchers at IIT, Mumbai, have developed

a handy kit that uses a drop of blood to detect heart ailments and predict a possible attack. Called ”iSense”, it is an outcome of research in nanotechnology by Institutes Center for Excellence in Nano Electronics.

An IIT-Delhi incubated startup called EnNatura developed a printing ink which emits no volatile compounds and is washable. And the overall cost of their solution will be significantly less than all present compounds when produced at scale.

The stories of many innovations originating in India inspire others and are answers to the skeptics about the local talents. However, India can compete globally in manufactured products only with innovations with message reaching to all who matter.

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