tion of a product at a lower cost. The proof of conception is
also verified. At times, the innovation is not refined to
become a product. So, we get designers and fabricators to
help them improve the product.
If it is a herbal product, we have a tie-up with the Council
of Scientific and Industrial Research and Indian Council of
Medical Research to help research and validate the prod-
uct. Value addition is very important in scaling up the
What are the lessons from the Shodh Yatra?
The Shodh Yatra is a journey on foot to celebrate creativ-
ity at grassroots across the nation. It is amazing to see so
many ideas among the poor and tribals in India. They need
hand-holding and guidance to give a definite shape to their
ideas. In the last 10 years, we have walked about 12,000 km
as a part the Shodh Yatra. In the Naxal-affected Bastar dis-
trict, we met so many talented tribal people. They have
impeccable artistic skills.
How can we popularize rural innovation and create
Does the national media, All
India Radio and Doordarshan,
have any program to showcase
India’s innovative people? How
many media organizations come
forward to spread the message
that there is an awake India that
can take on the world with the
assistance of the government and
private players? There should be
a combined and sustained effort.
How many school text books
have a chapter on innovations by
any one of our innovators?
Instead of teaching about pre-
Independence heroes, we should
revise our textbooks to teach rel-
evant and intelligent ideas that
can fuel innovation. We should
stop imitating and mimicking
the West. Our techpedia initia-
tive has a database of over
350,000 projects from college
students, which could be devel-
oped into products and useful
services. We have made an
attempt to map the minds of our
young and brilliant technolo-
What should the government
The government has neglected
innovation. We spend millions
on the National Rural Employ-
ment Guarantee Act to offer 250
million people employment for 100 days. This is a national
shame as these poor people are forced to dig earth and
break stones. Many among these workers are very creative
— there are artists, mechanics and sculptors among them.
They should be trained and promoted to exhibit their tal-
There are so many talented singers, dancer and actors
who know the traditional art and dance forms. These can
be aggregated into a rich database of art and culture and
showcased online. This will not only preserve our rich cul-
tural heritage, but also help them financially. There are sev-
eral ways of promoting our talent.
How have these entrepreneurs made a difference to socie-
The pollution levels in Indian metros are rising. Virendra
Kumar Sinha, a mechanic from Bihar, developed a device
that absorbs carbon content from generators or engines of
10-12 HP. There are no generators in India that have a pol-
lution control device.
He made this device as there was a school near his unit.
He did not want the school children to be affected. If we
had been a proactive society, the pollution control board
Over 100,000 innovations from
rural Indian school dropouts
should have approached us to make use of the device. Why
don’t we use this in automobiles and small-scale indus-
tries? These are cleaner and cheaper alternatives.
President Pratibha Patil invited NIF innovators to hold an exhibition of their products at Rashtrapati
Bhavan, India’s presidential palace
easy to implement, and have no ill effects. But has our
healthcare policy ever looked at these aspects?
How do the HoneyBee Network and Society for Research
and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and institu-
tions help NIF?
Honey Bee Network is a network of innovators, farmers,
academicians, policy makers, entrepreneurs and non-gov-
ernmental organizations spread across 75 countries who
work with NIF in discovering and promoting poor people
who are rich in knowledge and innovation.
SRISTI is a global initiative and an NGO established to
network local innovators. It provides organizational sup-
port to the Honey Bee Network.
What about the Global Innovation Foundation?
This initiative is towards building a global platform for
our innovators. We are working closely with the China
Innovation Network, which has about 300 innovations.
China and India are the two major powers of the world
today. The trend of aping the West should stop. Together,
India and China can make a profound impact with our tra-
ditional knowledge and innovative spirit.
What are the challenges you face?
We face staff and fund shortage. We have a staff of only
40 people who work on a contract basis. They work hard
despite constraints. We have many volunteers under the
Honey Bee Network, but this is not enough. There is no
mass acceptance yet. This has to change.
3 Idiots showcased some of our innovations. But that has-
n’t had the impact it should have had. Our agriculture
farms should showcase the innovation of many of our farm-
ers. The devices they have built can be used across the
country for better productivity.
Many graduates from Indian Institutes of Technology take
up jobs in different fields? How can we bring about a system
where more of them stay focused on their fields?
Many IITians have great ideas.
Not just IITians, even local tech-
nical institutes have a wealth of
ideas. But they don’t get the
required support in India. We
cannot blame them for digress-
ing. In a government polytech-
nic college in Latur,
Maharashtra, three girls built a
black box for automobiles. How
many people in India know
about this? There is no acknowl-
edgment. Indian Technical
Institutes and polytechnics have
mass talent at grassroots level.
So, I think, the government
needs to look into the develop-
ment of these institutes.
Are IIM students taking inter-
est in promoting entrepreneur-
ship and rural innovators?
Students from IIMs take part
in conducting various activities
for rural innovators as part of
the curriculum. However, there
has not been much progress in
terms of adopting their ideas
and promoting innovators. An
Indian School of Business grad-
uate has shown interest in some
of our innovations.
How will the NIF benefit with
the change in its structure?
The NIF was set up in March
2000 after we had several rounds of discussions with poli-
cy makers over a period of six months, convincing them of
the need for such an establishment. Dr R A Mashelkar is
the chairperson. Funds crunch is one of our biggest deter-
rents. It was set with a corpus fund of Rs 200 million
($4.28 million) when we needed Rs 2 billion ($42.89 mil-
lion). However, the NIF will now be converted into a grant-
in-aid institution under the department of science and
technology. Hopefully, we will get more resources and
What is your advice to young innovators/entrepreneurs?
We need to bring about an entrepreneurial revolution in
India. The environment in India now is ideal to focus on
new ideas and build enterprises for social development.
Youngsters should not be afraid of taking risks. There is no
harm in attempting to develop your own idea or supporting
a unique initiative. Even if you do not succeed, you can go
back and take up any job.
Technology and business have developed at a fast pace.
So, there is a huge scope for nation building if youngsters
come forward to promote unique initiatives that are rooted
to our culture and people. These can have a transforma-
tional effect in developing India as a leader in sustainable
COURTES Y: NIF, SRIS TI, GIAN