Bengaluru has been experiencing a steady downpour of monsoon rains throughout this week. For those who braved the rains to assemble at the 12th India Innovation Summit 2016, organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the heavy downpour of innovations was really gratifying. There were innovations galore right from large conglomerates such as drones spraying fertilizers on crops, fuel cell concept car Iris Ziva to young innovators such as Saathi sanitary pads and Microbutor water contamination tester.
Handicrafts – GoCoop
Shradha Sharma, Chief Editor, YourStory, brought together a panel of startup founders who have created a business in ultra-niche categories. GoCoop is one such enterprise that creates market linkages for poor artisans and handloom weavers who are struggling to find a market for their produce. Handloom and craft making is the still second largest employment-providing sector in India. So if traditional textiles are produced at rural homes, they will prevent migration of poor laborers and congestion in cities.
With this long-term vision, Siva Devireddy, CEO, GoCoop ventured into building a sturdy backend supply chain first and then moved in to cater to buyer’s demand. Since everyone doubts execution in craft products, the key issue that GoCoop had to address was assurance of quality and quantity,. To ensure this, Siva stuck to the organic route of scaling up of operations and interacted with government authorities working on the handloom weaving segment.
With the support of 15,000 artisans, GoCoop has now become a major B2B supplier for large retailers and textile exporters.
Education – Linkstreet & Upgrad
Prof. S.Sadagopan, Director IIIT-B, moderated a session that focused on education and digital media. He discussed about two interesting startups dedicated to making education a much more entertaining and exciting process.
Arun Muthukumar from Linkstreet went a rural school to teach as part of a CSR initiative and he realized that rural students literally have no access to good teachers, study material or practical learning. Similarly when a renowned cardiac surgeon wanted to offer his knowledge in pediatric cardiology to needy medical students, there was no ready platform available. So Arun and his team created Linkstreet, a web based and mobile enabled, collaborative learning platform.
Similarly, Mayank Kumar presented his UpGrad, a platform for educating and upgrading working professionals into ready entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is mainly about learning on the job, and there are a whole lot of learning to do such as idea validation, setting up a company, marketing and fund raising. UpGrad is not another edutech organisation with curated content and videos; it has built a platform that collects the experience and expertise of entrepreneurs and experts.
Transport – Ather Energy
India is a booming automotive market but there are very few electric vehicles competing with internal combustion ones. Mahindra Reva and Hero Motors do have a presence in electric vehicles, but their automobiles are not shaking up the market.
Tarun Mehta, Co-founder, Ather Energy has taken up a mission to bring electric vehicles to mainstream by adopting an innovative approach using an internet connected GPS map and touchscreen dashboard. These tech tools will not only help the rider to predict the time taken to reach a destination but will also analyze the road conditions.
Ather S340 will be India’s first smart electric scooter that is powered by a lithium ion battery that charges 80% in one hour, has a larger storage space and an onboard GPS navigation. Knowing that SMEs like Ather Energy cannot compete with large automotive companies like Bajaj, Hero Motors, etc., Tarun adopted a different business model where the usual market metrics like mileage, power, and torque do not apply.
3M-CII Young Innovators
3M India and CII showcased the winners of the third Young Innovators Challenge Award 2016, who worked on the theme, ‘Clean, Safe and Sustainable India’. It was heartwarming to see each of the winners had chosen an innovation that solved a problem at the bottom of the pyramid.
Kristin Kagetsu and Amrita Saigal were studying engineering at MIT when they went for volunteering work at an NGO in Uttarakhand. There the team realized the need to create low cost sanitary pads for rural women who had no access to proper sanitary hygiene. While producing sanitary pads at a cheap price was not a tough task, the team wondered about how to make it biodegradable and disposable.
The team struck on an idea of using banana fiber inside cotton fabric since it is highly water absorbent. They sourced the banana fiber, which is usually a waste product for banana farmers, from a banana plantation belt near Ahmedabad. Now Saathi Sanitarypads is setting up manufacturing units in rural areas that will help in creating employment for women as well.
Microbutor is an interesting innovation that uses an energy efficient solution to create a low cost water contamination tester. Three Mumbai-based engineering students went to a village named Nandurbar in rural Maharashtra for social work. There they realized the drastic need to test drinking water for microbial contamination. The team created Microbutor, or ‘micro-incubator’, an innovative water testing equipment that nurtures bacteria culture by using a thermal battery. Once the bacteria culture is ready, it is tested for harmful pathogens. This low cost thermal battery is useful for both testing labs as well as healthcare field workers in rural areas.