Jivika Foundation: From disability to enability

Ms. Aryata Agarwal Jhawar is one of the women innovators who have dedicated their lives for the betterment of society. Aryata is a Wharton School graduate and Kolkata based innovator in the field of enabling prosthesis. She is the Managing Trustee of Jivika Foundation, a registered Charitable Public Trust, with the mission to develop and distribute hyper affordable prosthetics for disabled people at the bottom of the pyramid, enabling them to lead active and productive lives with dignity.

Aryata came across the use of 3D printing for prosthetic devices while she was studying in the US, where she keenly followed a US-based organization called e-NABLE that provides 3D-printed prosthetic hands. According to recent studies relating to the prosthetics market in developed countries, non-functional prosthetic hands cost between $3000 – $5000, while sophisticated neuroprosthetic hands tend to be upwards of $100,000. Thus, significant number of hand amputees cannot afford it or find existing solutions very uncomfortable. With a view to enabling this particularly to disadvantaged section of the society, Aryata founded Jivika Foundation to develop a cost effective, functional, lightweight, fully customizable, 3D-printed prosthetic hand that can be easily reproduced using off-the-shelf, low cost materials.

Aryata

Though the idea held great merit, the journey for the execution of this idea was fraught with challenges. One of Jivika’s foremost challenges was access to funds. Jivika Foundation has been established as a not-for-profit organization and their aim is to provide innovative prosthetics to disadvantaged people for free or at highly subsidized rates. Having access to extremely limited funds forced the team to improvise and use ‘jugaad’ principles of innovation for the development of their first fully functional prototype. Stratasys India very generously offered to assist the team in their endeavor by providing free 3D printing services and they also won some grants from different communities.

Another major challenge was creating the right team structure and sustaining it. Aryata tried to build crowdsourcing technology model like e-NABLE. But this model failed miserably for various reasons like lack of open source project culture and finding & motivating relevant contributors. Then she hired a multi-disciplinary team, which she paid for from her own savings. Through frugal innovation techniques and utilizing parts from commonly available sources, such as the spokes of a bicycle wheel, snap buttons, copper tubes from refrigerators, transistor parts, etc., the development and prototype cost was kept to a minimum.

Deploying the prototype on the field was another challenge, as they felt distributing the prosthesis free would flock the people to them. In reality they faced a lot of skepticism due to working out of a laboratory without any ‘white coat’ doctors. Also misinformation was circulated in the villages about product’s ability to electrocute one’s arm and further harm patients! The team had to take strategic steps to overcome such baseless fears and took help from Rehabilitation institutes. These efforts paid off with astounding results as seen in a 22-year boy who was fitted with the LimBot arm and could perform all day-to-day functions.

Next steps for the team include detailed clinical trials and obtaining necessary regulatory clearances and approvals for finally fitting patients. Towards this end, the team is in talks with Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) in Singapore for running extensive clinical trials for the product. This would allow the team to serve disadvantaged people in other markets, apart from India, as well. The vision is grand and the journey challenging. Here’s hoping many more innovators such as Aryata, dream big to make the world a better, more equal place.

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Lead Angels – An Angel for the entrepreneurs

Sushanto Mitra.JPGIt is really strange to think when an individual who promotes entrepreneurship has to go through the same process himself. It is like when an interviewer has to be on the other side of the desk. Mr. Sushanto Mitra, Founder & CEO, of Lead Angels had to face similar situation.

He was associated with SINE (IIT, Bombay) for five years; a platform to support technology startups founded by IIT Bombay community or is based on IIT Bombay technologies. He was involved in mentoring startups in their early stages to help them grow further. When he left SINE, he was saddened to be detached from the IIT family. That’s when the idea about creating an angel investing network for the IITians was conceived. He realized that along with funding, what startups really seek is mentorship and industry connections. To support this initiative he thought of starting Lead Angels, one of the first alumni angel network in India that has been founded by a team from IITB.

While this idea was shaping up in his mind, like other entrepreneurs he too was apprehensive about leaving a fixed income job. Inspite of being a mentor to multiple start-ups while at SINE, he was facing the dilemma of starting this new venture. Finally, during his visit to East Europe he met many angel investors and realized the potential of his idea. He figured, that for a population of 5.5 million in Finland there were over 500 angels providing investment support. So for a country like India with a population of more than a billion should have atleast a hundred thousand business angels. However, currently this market is under tapped.  That’s when he finally decided to start Lead Angel network along with his other ex-colleagues from IIT Bombay.

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The main aim of this network is to provide initial funding to new age start-ups and to provide them the network of investors who can guide them. Lead Angels have a partnership with Techstars, 10,000 start-ups, e-cell at IITB, TIE, NASSCOM  and many other such leading organizations in this domain. This platform helps students and early stage innovators solve problem of capital requirements, so that they can focus better on improving their ideas. Post investment, Lead Angels also helps portfolio companies connect with potential clients and partners.

Due to his past experience with SINE, Sushanto had the right knowledge, connections and experience of over 15 years in the startup ecosystem which helped him with Lead Angels. He had to put in efforts to gather investors and build up trust among them about the feasibility of his idea. However, this challenge was also tackled by gathering a pool of IIT alumni who were willing to invest in new ideas. This strategic thinking by Sushanto gave him confidence to launch his company and made it a success in short span of time with operations in New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Mumbai. Lead Angels has invested in 10 startups from 2014 onwards and has over 100 plus members majority of whom are successful entrepreneurs and senior executives.

Lead Angels has grown from being a just an angel network of IITians and is now expanding into the area of entrepreneurship education having jointly done some programs with Techstars. Sushanto already had faith in innovative ideas and new ventures thought by various students. However, after the success of his venture, Sushanto advices young entrepreneurs that: no dream is silly enough to throw away, of course, if your eyes are wide open.

Virtual Toll system an innovative idea for safer drive

A severe accident caused due to sudden obstruction on the road while driving back from Ooty triggered Tapan Kane to think about the road safety in India. He pondered upon the cause of the accident and realised that there are no accident prevention ways implemented in India. When he researched he found that there is a concept called Audi pre sense and Google cars which have radar system implemented in them to stop the car whenever an obstruction is detected. This helps prevents collision of the car thereby saving human life too. But these systems come at a very heavy price of around Rs. 7-8 lakhs and currently only the high-end cars have this system implemented in them. So Tapan thought why safety aspect is neglected in small cars and only people who can afford high-end cars are entitled for safety?

This thought process lead him to come up with an idea where the masses can avail the facility of driving safely. While working on this idea he thought that the hardware to build this system in India for small cars still costs around 10% of the total price of the car. So he had to come up with an innovative way to implement this idea. While navigating through GPS on his cellphone it strikes him that why not use mobile phones to implement this idea. So he designed a system like Drive Assist where the driver can get instruction on his mobile phone through the application installed. It is very handy as well as very cost effective.

He decided to implement this idea in a different way to pilot with. He realised that in India we have many toll system where the vehicles have to stop while speeding on a highway and this causes the driver to stop abruptly while on a drive. So he designed a virtual toll payment system which can directly deduct the payment from the user’s account. The driver does not have to stop at the toll gateway to make the payment. This system he claims works both online as well as offline through SMS. Virtual toll is a mobile application for payment of toll without stopping vehicle at toll plaza which will avoid traffic jams thus saving fuel as also leading to less emission thus saving the environment apart from ensuring that the toll collection operates on bare minimum infrastructure. He essentially wants to make our drive much safer with Drive Assist as also make the process of paying tolls smooth and hassle free.

In order to make this system live he is facing challenge to get government approvals. He has to go through all the approval process in the bureaucratic environment and facing challenges to get it approved. However, he has his idea patented and is not worried about getting it copied. We wish Tapan good luck to get his idea into the public soon so that we all can experience safer drive.

Innovation in farming process to increase the crop yield

Farmers are often faced with issue of low quality yield and loss of soil fertility. To address this issue Chintala Venkat Reddy, a farmer in Awal village in Hyderabad developed an innovative technique of farming to improve the yield of the crops. He used a simple technique to improve the fertility of the soil. Usually the upper layer of soil gets used up so much that it gets depleted of nutrients due to continuous production. However, no crops are able to reach the depth of 5-6 inches below the soil layer. Chintala Venkat thought of using this layer of soil to increase the fertility of the soil. He replaced the top soil of 4-6 inches with the subsoil which is rich in nutrients. This technique led to the highest yield of paddy 10.31 tonnes per hectare and 5.6 tonnes per hectare with wheat as against the normal yields of 5.0 to 6.5 tonnes per hectare for rice and 2.5 to 3.0 tonnes per hectare for wheat.

Chintala_1

Initially he experimented with wheat and rice crops but he claims that this technique is useful for all kinds of crop. All types of vegetables, medicinal plants or flowers can be cultivated with such technique which yields 100% better yield than the normal technique of aerating or plowing the fields. Chintala tells that this innovative technique has doubled and tripled the produce based on experience of various farmers. This process is very cost effective and any farmer can use it who knows the technique well. Hence the input costs are minimal and the revenue generation is higher due to increase in the yield.

This novel technique developed by Chintala Venkat has been cleared by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Geneva. He is the first farmer in India to obtain the patent for his novel innovation through WIPO and US PTO. He also applied for patent in another 30 countries. Now he is planning to register a trademark in his name so that the process can be recognized in his name. The main challenge faced by him is to market the process. Once the trademark is registered any farmer who uses this process can market their produce with this trademark and get good value for their crops.

This innovative technique can be used in any country mainly in tropical region like Africa, Philippines, Malaysia, South America and Burma who can benefit by exporting their crops produced by this process to other cold regions. These countries have benefit of healthy and plenty sunlight which is good for the crops produce. Also the subsoil holds natural water and has good holding capacity of water. So this also solves the problem of water scarcity. Thus this simple and yet novel process can help to solve the food problems in most of the countries.

Bhungroo to eliminate poverty and solve water problems of farmers

bhungroo_1

Bhungroo meaning hollow pipe, is a critical tool for rural poor women. Without it they cannot blow the open stove to make their daily cooking to feed their family members. Considering the significance of this tool, Mr. Biplab Ketan Paul came with an innovative idea of Bhungroo Technology whereas Trupti Jain created a gender centric model of execution of Bhungroo. Bhungroo is a technical process (awarded in World Bank Development Marketplace in 2007; in 2014 by UNFCCC), which enables poor small holders to access water in winter and saves farmers from disaster and ensures food security in monsoon and lean period.

The idea of Bhungroo has its roots in Ahmedabad, where people face water crisis. Working across Gujarat and Rajasthan with underprivileged rural women she was pained to find how they needed to fight every day to secure water in all eight months of the year except the monsoon period. Not only that the farms in this area have to face drought situation in summer and winter and flood like situation in monsoon. Both the cases are highly detrimental for poor smallholding women headed households. They have to pick up compelled migration within most disadvantageous position and pushed into vicious cycle of debt trap whereas their family food security is wiped off.

Bhungroo technology aims at addressing these problems by providing water to the farms all-round the year. It has capability to provide nearly 1 million liters of water to the poor small holders in off season towards irrigation of crop. This also helps to reduce the salinity of the land by mixing the underground water storage with the saline soil. In monsoon Bhungroo saves farmers from excess water; in that case the excess rainwater gets filtered by Bhungroo and then that filtered water is stored at subsoil layer. In winter small holders can easily lift that stored water from subsoil storage and use for winter irrigation within a cost of INR 200/acres.

Bhungroo is getting executed in through commune cultivation (five ultra-poor women small holders) with a pre agreement that they will jointly manage their Bhungroo – share irrigation water among each other, contribute their labor in each other lands and work in tandem to achieve economies of scale. Bhungroo is unique solution which can be tailor made upto 12 designs as per the needs of the installation segments.

They had to overcome social, political and economic challenges to make this innovation a success. The main social challenge was acceptance in the community, gaining trust from small land holders and overcoming the traditional belief that male members can only earn and cultivate the land. Economic challenge was taken as an advantage as the penniless farmers could be easily convinced to accept this technology for the cultivation of their farms all-round the year. Otherwise they have threat of losing it to water sellers. Political systems had to be convinced to implement Bhungroo in various villages and to create Self Help Groups to educate women and men about the advantages of this technology.

One Bhungroo creates a minimum income of INR 4 Lakh from year one with added advantage of food security from those land which was unproductive till yesterday. It saves small holders from debt trap and also saves from land ownership loss. This innovation has really helped to empower the women in rural India and make them self-sufficient to maintain their own farm lands. It has solved two issues of women empowerment and water crisis with one invention. Government of Gujarat is promoting this technology to every farmer community and with this approach Trupti feels that it will take another 10 years to utilize the full potential of Bhungroo at Indian level.

Taparch giving eyes to the visually impaired

Whenever we think or see a visually impaired (Blind) person, only one thing comes to our mind – the white guiding stick. It is the identifying characteristics of a blind person. But soon identifying a blind person from a normal person will not be evident. With Krishna Sai Inkoolu’s innovation a blind person can lead an easier life without being dependent on the stick. He can walk easily now and avoid obstructions in its way with the help of a sensor shoe.

Krishna started working on this innovation right from first year of engineering college. Through his innovation he wanted to bring a change in the life of visually impaired people by using technology. This pair of shoes called as Taparch – meaning free walk, can help identify obstacles within a range of 400 cm. They have sensors fitted into them which can detect the hurdles and give a tap to the foot of the wearer. Krishna observed that the visually impaired people have good sensory realization in terms of voice and feel. So considering this, he invented TAPARCH that works on principle of “Sense of Touch”, and lets the user identify the distance and dimension of the obstacle ahead. The sensor in the shoes works on chargeable batteries which are charged up by mechanical energy generated while walking. This eliminates the efforts of a blind person to change the batteries.

Taparch

Using technical innovation and application of simple things like generation of mechanical energy, Krishna invented a design which can help the needy people. This has helped to make the shoe very user-friendly and easy to adapt. Krishna describes that ‘the life of visually impaired is made easier through this product at an affordable price. It will also lend them more confidence’. Usually many innovators face challenges in terms of raising funds and bringing the product into the market. After getting innovator award from FICCI in 2014, many investors have approached Krishna. But in case of Taparch, the main hurdle lies in making it available to the right people. Since the target segment is challenging who cannot see the product; the appeal or the awareness will be very limited. So the main challenge lies in making the visually impaired aware about such product which can help them. People related to them should help to get this product reach upto the needy.

Krishna Sai says that his only motive is to diffuse novel technology to the under-privileged section of the society. So what does the future hold for Taparch and Krishna Sai? He writes – So far we’ve tested the productivity of Taparch at National Blind People Association. Our next step is to scale the pilot at a national level.

Good marketing strategies by using various means of traditional media like Radio, audio promotions; government intervention to support the visually impaired can help Taparch and Krishna to achieve their mission. What started as a small project in a lab in Gitam University (Vishakhapatnam) has become a start-up to give sight to the visually impaired people.

Abdul Razzak’s Grass-root innovation to save fuel

Razzak_1Abdul Razzak from Bibikulam (Madurai) is an electrician by profession and a serial innovator. Inspite of lacking strong educational background, Razzak’s good observation skills lead him to experiment in electrical gadgets repairing and designing. He has created number of innovations like Revolving ceiling fan, Dual Face table fan, Burglar alarm system etc. One such grass-root innovation of Razzak’s caught the attention of National innovation Foundation. He designed a multi-purpose cooking vessel which can cook rice and sambhar/dal simultaneously.

Razzak observed that his wife had to face hardship while draining water from cooked rice in hot vessel. It also caused accidental injury sometimes. He realized that this problem is faced by every housewives and caterers who cook rice in open vessels. To solve this problem he designed a multi-purpose vessel. With his design thinking skills he created an innovative model which will have a drainage tap like system to drain the water from the cooked rice. Another problem he saw was if rice and lentil (dal) had to be cooked it had to be done sequentially and it took lot of time. So he enhanced the design of the vessel to include two compartments. This allows the cooking to be done simultaneously, saving time and fuel.

Multi-purpose Vessel showing two compartments and a tap to drain excess  water

Multi-purpose Vessel showing two compartments and a tap to drain excess water

This innovative vessel has a two chamber stainless steel body with a lid having two pressure valves. The tap provided on one side allows draining excess water. This prevents injuries due to handling hot vessel and the design of the vessel also helps maintain the nutritional value of the food. People in urban areas use pressure cooker to cook rice but many people in rural areas still prefer cooking rice in open vessels. This gives a peculiar taste and makes it a part of culinary Indian tradition. This unit offers safer handling and complete drainage of remaining water.

Razzak is granted patent for this innovation and has been able to sell more than 150 units till today. Though this number seems very small but creating awareness among people and marketing are the major challenges faced by Razzak. Word-of-mouth publicity is the only way to reach people. Usually, such small scale innovators have a constraint in reaching out to people and making their innovation beneficial to the people. Lack of proper means of communication, unawareness about marketing strategies and absence of good networking skills restricts such innovation from reaching the target segment. This innovation does not require funding as the set-up is made from basic low cost materials. Hence the vessel is available for very reasonable price and has good dispersion potential in low-income households. What it requires is creating awareness among the public.

Government bodies and small scale industries can help such innovators to bring value to their product in the market by creating mass awareness. Government can consider savings in fuel and time as the main aim to provide this vessel to the low-income group at subsidized rates. This will not only benefit the people but also provide incentive to the grass-root innovators to come up with more innovative models.

CropIn: Innovation on the fields with the help of technology

Krishna Kumar, a software engineer, working in a big corporate organization General Electric (GE) decided to use technology to solve the problems of bottom half of the Indian population. He realized that agriculture is the main sector in India on which the survival of the human beings depends. It is the neglected sector and no big corporate has used technology to address the problems faced by farmers. Krishna in 2010, inspired by Jack Welch’s innovative technology experience, started his own farming technology solutions, CropIn Technology Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

He started this with the aim of developing and delivering innovative solutions to the clients and to help rapidly evolve the Agri-sector. The idea behind CropIn was to develop something for a sector which desperately required technology support. The idea of being able to track the farm conditions right from the time a farmer decides to plant or sow his seeds till the product reaches the consumer, made Krishna to build a platform using advanced ERP technology.

Cropin

They have various Cloud based products developed which can be installed and accessed on a mobile device. Farmers can monitor the condition of their crops, control the watering system based on the crop requirement, get real time forecast of weather conditions, can record crop issue from phone application and can get consulting on it. All these and many such features provided by CropIn help farmers to control their farm from remote locations. Krishna mentions an example of tomato farm, how they consulted the farmer to plant the crops in drier tract after analyzing the issue of rotting tomatoes due to humid conditions.

CropIn has been able to help farmers by educating and informing them about ways to salvage and improve crops’ productivity. It helps them to penetrate exports market easily as the software helps them to maintain the farm standards and to match the stringent norms in Europe and US. It also allows geo-tagging of farm acres and monitoring of the farms productivity. In addition to this the farmers can create their web profile to brand themselves showcasing their crops produce, past records, knowledge sharing and farming practices.

CropIn which started with a boot strap fund of Rs. 7-8 lakhs has been successful in raising funds of more than $250,000 through sources like Seed funding, Ankur Capital and Invested Development. The journey of CropIn to raise funds and to acquire clients was not easy. What started as a bootstrapped startup in a small room in Bangalore is now generating revenue over Rs. 1 crore. It started with Field Fresh who made a contract of Rs. 60,000 with them. Mr. Sanjay Nandrajog of Field Fresh says that CropIn has helped to improve crops quality and traceability to track which batch came from which field. This experience helped CropIn to bag a deal of Rs. 12 lakhs per annum from Field Fresh.

CropIn has a very good and well established client base. Pepsico, McCann, Mapro etc. are few of them who have been using CropIn products and services to empower their field staff. They have been able to provide accurate and on time forecasting data as well as inputs to the farmers on their produce. This is helping the clients to get good produce from the farmers which in turn are improving their products quality. Investors’ interaction with clients and their willingness to continue business with CropIn gave an additional point for the investors to believe in CropIn. They have also been awarded and featured in Young Turks-CNBC TV18, Manthan Awards, Microsoft Bizspark – India Startup Challenge 2012.

Using analytics, Big Data and Cloud platform it has been able to bring innovation in the technology application. By innovation in business model to tap niche area of agriculture CropIn has been able to make an impact in the Agricultural sector.

Contributed by my colleague, Snehal Mahajan

From a toilet cleaning machine to deep cleaning services, the journey of Aalok Pandey

Aalok_PandeyAalok Pandey is a passionate Innovator who has toiled for many years to prove his point that access to clean toilets and hygiene is a fundamental right of every Indian by developing an automatic toilet cleaner which is the first of it’s kind in the world. After exploring his talent and skills in IT and Automotive sectors for over a decade, Aalok Pandey decided to pursue his passion for innovation. While working in automotive space, Aalok felt that he is not contributing towards improving the ground reality of the nation. He always believed in innovation and wanted to address the issue of sanitation and hygiene faced by many across the nation.

In 2006 after taking sabbatical from his job, Aalok along with his associates started APD Innovations. He started ReMint India as an offshoot of APD Innovations with an aim to restore the facility to its Mint state. It was funded and incubated by IIT-Delhi. He invented and introduced disruptive sanitation technology in the luxury market at a fractional cost of `17 M (million) (as against `480 M) in 7 months (vis-à-vis, 21 months). He created an Innovation enterprise, from seed to over `600 M, from scratch, with over 240% productivity per employee, in an entirely different industry vertical.

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In its initial stage ReMint had to struggle to take their idea into the market. The ecosystem was not mature during 2009-2011 and it was a trying time for ReMint to bring their concept into the market. The idea of premium cleaning services was not acknowledged by the people. However, by 2013 they improved their business model and strategy by taking the world-class cleaning equipment from specialized third party and providing cleaning services to the premium clients. Now after improved offerings, APD Innovations is successful in getting funds from Nirmal Bharat Abhiyaan since 2008. After the change of government in 2014, it continues to be funded by Swach Bharat Abhiyan and already have contract for cleaning of local trains.

ReMint has revived the cleaning technology by providing customized services and by overcoming the manual way of cleaning. With the help of Ultra Advanced Deep Cleaning (UADC) technology they are able to reduce time, improve quality by atleast 10 times and lower prices by about 20%. The process of UADC ensures that the facility is washed, shampooed, vacuumed, disinfected, deodourised, sterilized, polished dry and brought back to its ‘Mint’ state. The UADC technology has capability to Re-Mint facilities like toilets, floors, carpets, furniture etc.

ReMint is different from regular house-keeping as it involves advanced deep cleansing with the help of high-tech equipments meant for cleaning. Many High Net Income (HNI) and Premium household premises are also availing these services. Mostly the target segment includes Retail outlets, Commercial spaces, Corporate offices, Public places etc. Starbucks, Indian Railways and few Residential complexes are some of the clients of ReMint who are ensuring hygiene and cleanliness in their premises.

ReMint being the first venture to enter this segment; they have a competitive advantage to tap the right market place. Due to backing of advanced technology and government bodies they are able to create a distinctive mark in cleanliness sector. Inpsite of these advantages, they have to overcome some challenges which restrict them to scale up in the market. The main challenge they face is quality of manpower. People need to be skilled in this field and they should ensure proper cleanliness to the customer. It is highly unorganized sector right now and needs huge amount of focus to capture right market and talent to inculcate this concept in the minds of people. Also quality funding is required to develop this idea further and provide excellence and high-tech services to the people. In this era of digital world, ReMint aims at making their services easily accessible by creating mobile applications, online marketing, presence on social media website and aggressive offline marketing.

It is really an innovative idea to bring a change at the ground level in the society by providing basic hygiene and sanitation services to the people. By extending their services to public places and to each and every household, they will really ReMint India. So, if you are looking for a world-class cleaning service delivered at your door-step or your company considers hygiene and sanitation as its priority or you want to restore your facility in a Mint state; then your needs will be addressed by ReMint India.

Contributed by my colleague, Snehal Mahajan

Agricultural Sector: A significant sector neglected from the investors

Agriculture forms the major occupation of around 70% of the Indian population. It provides principal means of livelihood and forms the major backbone of the Indian economy. Still agriculture sector has not seen the kind of growth expected by a developing country like India. To overcome the difficulties faced by the farmers, there are few farmers who themselves come up with an innovative solution to address their problems.

One such farmer Mr. Gopal Dave; from a small and remote village Salawas, from Jodhpur (Rajasthan) has developed an innovative equipment for the farm. He is a farmer from birth and his income and livelihood depends completely on farming. For such farmers even a penny savings matters a lot and has a huge impact on their revenue stream. He faced difficulty in distributing the seeds while sowing. Most of the farmers face this issue of uneven distribution. As this job is done manually by the farmers, there is high wastage of seeds due to distribution at unwanted places. So with his experience in farming over the years, he designed a methodology which can help in even distribution of the seeds and reduce its wastage too.

Gopal started his research and practice back in 1997 to develop Multi Crop Seed Drill equipment. His path to success was not easy and it took him almost a decade to fine tune his equipment as desirable. Till 2007 he continued practicing and remodeling his equipment to achieve perfection.

Gopal with his Multi Crop Drill Innovation

Gopal with his Multi Crop Drill Innovation

There are similar equipment in the market but they do not do multispeed sowing for mixed cropping. The innovation by Gopal has addressed this problem and he has been able to sell this equipment to more than thousands of farmers across various regions. This unique multi crop drill is able to sow all kinds of seeds right from bajra, jowar till pulses, except for cotton seeds. This drill can be used for fertilizers spreading as well. So the farmers have dual advantage of fertilizer cum seeds distribution. Since both these commodities are expensive and account for major costs in farming, this drill helps the farmers to save a considerable amount of money and increase their margins thereby.

Competitive Advantage:
• It has a unique metering system which allows the farmers to sow seeds based on the weight of the seeds. Right from 200gm upto 60Kg of seeds or fertilizers can be sowed using this drill.
• It has a power wheel setup which can be linked to the cultivator / tractor, which distributes seeds only when the cultivator runs.
• The drill can maintain uniform speed to seed distance and the seed level inside the seed hopper can be seen from driver’s seat.
• The device saves labor and time consumed in clearing seed containers for next seed sowing and the time and cost of second sowing. It is best suited for mixed cropping. The seed rate can be adjusted from 3 kg/acre for a small size seed to 60 kg/acre for grain or similar crops.
• No wastage of seeds at turns and higher speed

Achievements: Gopal’s innovation is recognized by the government of India, under the MVIF scheme of National Innovation Foundation – India. He was felicitated by prior Union Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Sharad Pawar; for addressing a problem faced by many farmers which no one had thought about. He has also applied for patent at Delhi office (No. 365/DEL/2008) and is still pending grant.

Marketing Strategy: Gopal has been able to sell up to 500-600 units per month recently. However, the awareness about this innovation is still very limited. The only way he has been able to create awareness is through Word-of-Mouth publicity and through strong networking among the farmers community. In 2010, one farmer named Mr. Venugopal Reddy from Andhra Pradesh met Gopal and he came to know about his innovation. Venugopal was impressed about it and took one equipment along with him. After he experienced its benefits he has been placing orders from Gopal for other famers in his region. Apart from Andhra Pradesh this equipment is distributed in different parts of Rajasthan like Jaisalmer, Nagaur, Jodhpur, Jalore, Barmer, Pali and Sirohi.

Path Ahead: Gopal being a small scale farmer and he hails from a small village where internet connectivity is out of question. Also, these farmers are not much aware about marketing tactics and lack appropriate means to publicize. They do not have enough funds to take their idea to next step and lack skills to scale up their operations. In order to help him make his idea big, investors should come ahead to provide a helping hand. Gopal do not want to commercialize his innovation but only to create awareness about the Multi Crop Seed Drill to as many farmers as possible to pass on the benefits.

There are many such grass root innovators who do not have a degree or educational qualification at hand and still based on their aptitude try to bring out a change in the society. And agriculture is one of the sector which has been neglected by the investors and people are not keen on taking risk in this sector. However, it remains to be pondered about why investors are not eager to invest in the sector which forms the backbone of the economy? Why investors / promoters are looking only for an IIT/IIM passout graduates to invest their money? Why even government is not recognizing the talent hidden in various regions in India?

Contributed by my colleague, Snehal Mahajan