The grassroot innovators

Ideas that Rock

The grassroot innovators

They say that not everyone who notices a low-hanging fruit is a Newton. However, National Innovation Foundation’s (NIF) philosophy is that every person who is relentlessly bugged by a question can emerge as a successful innovator. You don’t need an engineering degree or exposure to state-of-the art equipment. “You only need foolishness, naivety and impatience,” says Prof Anil K Gupta from IIM Ahmedabad and executive vice-chairman of NIF.

Such naivety and innoc­e­nce was strikingly evident in more than five dozen innovators who are displaying their products and ideas at six-day long Innovation Exhibition being held at Rashtrapati Bhavan. The exhibition is slated to end on Tuesday.
A Matric pass Durlabh Singh Puri, who runs a photography shop in Solan, Himachal Pradesh, has made a highly-effective water heater that can heat 51 litres of water from one kg of wood and even leverage smoke to produce heat at three different temperature points – 30, 60 and 90 degree Celsius. “I have been using it for four years at home and it works efficiently,” says Puri.

A semi-literate Dharamvir Singh who once rode rickshaw in Delhi has made a multi purpose processing machine which can be used to extract juices of aloe vera, mango, amla, tulsi, and other herbs. Gopal Kumar Saluja from Ambala has displayed a fan-cum-cooler which consumes just 15-20 litres of water in the entire day and maintains room temperature at 27 degrees.

There are quite a few student innovators such as 19-year-old Nisha Chaube, who is a first year student at Galgotia College of Engineering in Greater Noida. She has made a tourist bag which doubles up as a lounge seat. “When I was in Std X, I saw a billboard wherein Shah Rukh Khan was showed sitting on the floor with a tourist bag kept alongside and I thought ‘why can’t a tourist bag have an in-built seat? At least a man of Shah Rukh Khan’s stature will not have to sit on floor while waiting for his flight,” chuckles Chaube.

Another utilitarian innovation – a spring fitted crutch is the brainchild of 15-year old Archana Konwar. The crutch has shock absorbers which can prevent shoulders and underarms from the ill-effects of the shocks while the user is walking.

What, however, drew a lot of people at the show was twin brothers, Ishfaq and Refaz Ahmed from Kashmir who designed and fabricated at least eight novel products.
Though none of their products appears to be out of the world they are very useful in day-to-day life such as easy injection breaker, fruit plucker and hoe-cum-shovel. “We have made a science club at our own expense in Annantnag,” said Ishfaq, who was also awarded the reputable IGNITE award by the department of science and technology from former president APJ Abdul Kalam.

These ideas being exhibited were invited from innovators of all age groups around the country who were around 20,000 in number, out of which only 68 made it to Rashtrapati Bhavan.

“In the first round, we received around 10,000 applications in 2001 while the number has grown considerably in the last few years.

“The level of complexity in innovations is however increasing but I won’t say that we have become highly popular. When I went to the IAS Academy (LBS National Academy of Administration) in Mussoorie last year, only 5 per cent of bureaucrats admitted to have heard of us. So, there is indeed a long way to go,” said Prof Gupta.   

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