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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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.

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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.

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.

Innovation in Food Technology to avoid food wastage

Food technology aims at bringing new variety or improving the existing food variants. Improving and maintaining quality is at the foremost priority in food sector. Food technologists continuously try their hands on for creating new variants or bringing new products to the market.

One such food technologists, Mr. Kalyan, has come up with an improved quality of fruit bread which has a longer shelf life. Mr. Kalyan, is a working professional and has achieved degree in Hotel management and Catering technology. Backed by strong professional experience and donning a various roles in food technology organizations, he observed that bakery products are highly perishable and wastage is very high. Mostly for bread which forms the staple diet for most of the people the wastage percentage in terms of spoilage and leftovers is very high. Bread has a shelf life of 4-5 days and it grow fungus in humid conditions. Kalyan thought of addressing this issue by bringing a change in the process of bread making.

The initial mixing, kneading and shaping of bread is done at a central place. After this the semi-finished product
is frozen and ready for transportation to be baked at the sight. Labor comes down drastically due to this process as the staff required for baking at the main site are reduced. This increases the logistics costs but the reduction in wastage of food and labor costs leads to increase in profit.

The normal supply chain for bakery products involves distribution of finished product to the retailers. During this distribution, the shelf life will reduce in transportation and there is possibility of catching fungus. This issue can be overcome as frozen foods have higher durability and low perishability. Sellers place orders for 100-150 units of bread per day based on the demand. If this demand falls below normal for few days then the bread goes waste, as people will not buy them if they are near expiry date. This leads to wastage. In terms of frozen bread, the bread can be baked as per the demand and the wastage can be reduced. It is estimated that with such process, wastage can be reduced to almost 1-2% as compared to 30% for normal bread.

Benefits of frozen bread process:
1. Longer shelf life
2. Lower wastage and fresh product to the customer
3. As the breads are baked fresh and storage time is lesser, it has extra nutritional value
4. Softer and good quality bread
5. All natural Ingredients used and no chemical preservatives added

Usage:
1. Military areas as they need huge stock of foods to be stored.
2. Disaster management sites where perishability of food items is priority. Items like cooked rice, vegetables etc. gets spoilt in 1-2 days, but this bread can be used for 10-15 days.
3. Government of India can opt to provide this diet to Hostels, schools, hospitals etc.

Kalyan has been granted Process patent which ensures that the fresh fruit process used by them cannot be copied by other companies. Further aim of Kalyan is to pass all the food regulations by the authorities so as to make it available commercially in the market as an exotic bread. They have distributed this bread in Vizag cyclone area and has received positive feedback from the people. As the customer confidence builds up and they start liking this product, Kalyan has plan to extend this frozen technology application to other bakery products like cakes, cookies etc.

It is really commendable to come up with innovative developments in food technology as this forms the main purpose of livelihood. Government of India should support such food technologists by giving fast clearances to the products. This will help to reduce wastage of food and to provide food to the below poverty line people as well.

Contributed by my colleague, Snehal Mahajan

Oston Skates – Roller coaster life of an entrepreneur

A young entrepreneur who started his journey from a small town in Jaipur, has been termed as a young innovator of the city. Sayar Singh, who came from a mediocre family had curiosity and fervor to create new products which can bring change in the society. He started innovating new ideas and products at the age of twelve and founded the company Oston Tech Pvt. Ltd along with other co-founders. By the age of 18 he already had 32 innovations and 5 pending patents in his name. His innovations to name a few range from various technical gadgets like Drone, Measurement Apparatus to security systems like Locks to alert the police department and the owner in insecure conditions, Fuel Management system which prevents fuel filing station from fire etc.

Sayar is a serial innovator and has zeal to keep bringing new idea and products to the market. However, currently he has taken sabbatical from his Oston Tech Pvt. Ltd. due to lack of funds to support his research and production of the products.

One of the most significant and revolutionizing innovation by Sayar Singh is ‘Oston Skates’. These skates are designed so as to take the skates to a next level which enhances the jerk absorbing capacity of the skates. The USP of these skates is the suspension system which is supported by a spring mechanism. It has ability to absorb more than 75% of shock. This enhances speed and mobility of the skates along with controlling balance based on the body position. These can be used for long as well as short distance. What made Sayar think about this innovation is to address the problems faced by many skaters while skating on road or on a rough area.

Oston Skates Features

Oston Skates Features

There are around 12 features of Oston Skates which make them unique and innovative. Few of them can be listed as below:
• It can run anywhere on rough and uneven surface.
• It has got shock absorption capacity of around 75%.
• It has well designed balancing system and brake system which helps in maintaining the balance.
• In ordinary skates person has to bend his knees and legs for higher speed. This causes joint pains, however in Oston skates it has oscillation point in the wheels which helps to maintain comfortable position.
• Spring mechanism and the brake system allows to do skating in decline position.
• The overall mechanism helps to enhance speed and it can also cross hurdles in 90 degree position.

These skates mechanism has many applications to improve the performance and efficiency of emergency vehicles. The concept is applicable in automobiles and the first implementation for the same is skates. The jerk free or shock absorption mechanism can be used in motor vehicles to reduce accidents in case of sudden brake application. For ambulances, with jerk free technology, treatment inside the vans could be more effective saving time at those crucial moments in the patient’s life.

Currently, Sayar and team has filed for patent application in European Patent Office for their unique innovation. The patent grant is still awaited and the team is working on developing or improving the design further. Marketing team is working to chalk out marketing strategy which can help to position these skates in right market segment and can beat the competition.

What Sayar and team plans next is to produce these skates on a large scale so as to achieve economies of scale to bring down the costs and make it available to as many market segments as possible. For this he requires funding of around $225,000. A good idea with a perfect marketing strategy in place is useless if it is not fueled with appropriate funds.
Many entrepreneurs and innovators like Sayar has to face hardships in order to make their idea worth. Backing by proper fund managers and investors can make their idea worthwhile and help contribute to the GDP of the country. Otherwise their life will be a roller coaster ride as on the skating wheels!

Contributed by my colleague, Snehal Mahajan

Sharing our journey so far and move to the new office!!

While all of you would have expected me to write my usual blog on innovation, this week I would like to share our joy of moving to a new office today.

Its been an interesting ride for us at Scinnovation, the company which I cofounded on 25th April 2005 in Mumbai along with my spouse, Trishla.

Starting with a focus on Executive Search whereby we recruited top end R&D talent whereby Indians in USA & Europe were looking at opportunities to come back to India which also led to an interesting opportunity to work with National Knowledge Commission (NKC) under Prime Minister Office to create a knowledge base of Scientists & Technologists of Indian origin.

But deep inside, I have always wanted to work directly with Innovators and help them take their ideas to the market!!

So I took a sabbatical and joined Villgro Innovation Foundation, a social incubator based in Chennai and worked directly with Grass root Innovators, Students as also Entrepreneurs to help shape their ideas and forge partnerships between Innovators & Entrepreneurs.

In the meanwhile, the undersigned qualified as a Patent Agent with Indian Patent Office and then Scinnovation was reborn on 01st April 2010.

Scinnovation is now a full fledged Intellectual Property (IP) protection, consulting and monetisation firm headquartered in Mumbai with associates across India & USA.

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We help our clients protect their ideas, advice on the best business strategy for their IP / intangible assets, create awareness by speaking and writing about interesting topics and looking at ways in which we can partner with Individual Innovators and create a robust business model to take their idea to the market.

We have also been lucky to have received great testimonials from leading luminaries for our book, Protect Your Ideas a handbook on Intellectual Property now available as a free e-book for download on our site.
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And today marks another beginning in this journey with our move to shift to a new fully serviced office in the heart of South Mumbai at Churchgate.

With an expanding business and expanding team, we have to climb many more mountains but most importantly to help the Innovator, Creative & Design community in their dreams of making the world a better place!!!