Positive Chronicles - Nudging India to move ahead
by Jamuna Rangachari
“I in India stands for Innovation”, says Prof Anil K Gupta the founder of the Honey Bee Network, who seeks out innovators from remote villages across the country, to bring grassroots innovations to light
He has certainly not been disappointed. A bicycle that runs over water as well as road, a low-cost milking machine that works on the principal of vacuum suction, a bamboo tooth that's strong enough to bite into chicken, an anti dandruff oil, a garlic peeling machine and many, many more such innovations all come from the backyards of rural India. Prof Gupta, who worked as a consultant to help farmers use technology to improve their working conditions came to the realisation that, . "much of the knowledge I claimed to have or the hefty salary I earned came because of the people but they weren't getting any share of it.“ This was the birth of Honey Bee, a network of academics, scientists and farmers who scout the entire country and ensure that innovations are documented, patented and made viable.
There have been many who have benefited, For instance, Mansukhbhai Patel from Nana Ubhada village, in Gujarat's Viramgam district, who had studied up to Class X, invented a cotton-stripping machine in 1991. One of Gupta's scouts, Hirendra Rawal, discovered Patel's work in 1995 and reported it to Honey Bee, which helped develop and refine the cotton-stripper and introduce it commercially. Today, patented by a US-based company, the cotton-stripper fetches Patel Rs 2 crore, annually.
Instead of waiting around for innovators to come to him, Gupta sets out to search for them. One layer of the network is the bi-yearly Shodhyatra (a journey of exploration), which began in 1998, involving a trek of up to 200 km to remote Indian villages. Here, the team conducts street meetings with villagers, shows them documentaries, hold biodiversity and recipe competitions and science exhibitions.
Continuing to teach at the Indian Institute of Management, he has brought his passion to the institute by introducing Shodhyatra as one of the seven courses he teaches including intellectual property rights, technology management, design and dynamics of development organizations.
“The only thing rural innovators need is a gentle nudge,” believes Prof Gupta, eagerly nudging as many people as he possibly can.
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