Rural innovations take center stage at 3M-CII Young Innovators Challenge


The 14th edition of the India Innovation Summit 2018 was back in Bengaluru in its full glory, displaying the best of innovations made in India. The Confederation of Indian Industry has made earnest efforts to connect with innovators in corporate circles, small and medium sized enterprises, micro startups and college business incubators. Among the diverse range of innovative ideas, the finalists of the 3M-CII Young Innovators Challenge were the most noteworthy for both their innovativeness and also social inclusion.

3M India, in partnership with Confederation of Indian Industry, organizes the 3M-CII Young Innovators Challenge Awards every year during the India Innovation Summit. 3M India takes pride in hosting the 5th year of this challenge, which searches for disruptive future-ready innovations and sustainable solutions that can strengthen India’s innovation leadership globally. These ideas could be in the areas of health, education, livelihood, environment, art & culture, governance and inclusive development. Prizes worth INR1,500,000 were awarded under three categories – Tech Innovations, Social Innovations and Rural Innovations.

As expected, the best brains and the most socially concerned innovators were hunted from across India with the help of outreach partners – The Barefoot College, SBI Foundation’s Youth For India Fellowship and the Optimist Citizen. Here we present profiles of some of the winners who were showcased at this year’s 3M-CII Young Innovators Challenge:

Social Innovation – Shalmali’s Soya Milk Initiative

While studying her Masters in Economics of Sustainable Development at Pantheon-Sorbonne University, Paris, Shalmali Ghaisas took a gap year to take part in the SBI Youth for India Fellowship. Shalmali worked in villages around Balwadi in Madhya Pradesh where she realized the pertinent problem of malnutrition among farmers. While the tribal community produced a bountiful harvest of soya beans, most of their produce was sold in the market to cover the heavy debt.

Shalmali educated the farmers to save a few kilos of soya and enabled them to build a business of extracting milk and nuggets from soya and its by-product, Okara. These protein rich food items provided nutritious food and a source of additional revenue for the farmers. Inspired by her, a farmer has set up a grinding mill for soya seeds, while another one has set up a tea-stall selling soya milk tea. She seeks help from urban buyers who can provide the much needed market linkage that can enable the villagers in Balwadi to carry on with her proven social enterprise model.

Rural Innovation – Barefoot Science Labs

Prayag Ichangimath studied to be Mechatronic engineer in Bengaluru, but instead of a regular corporate career, he found his calling elsewhere. He was selected to take part in the SBI Youth for India Fellowship and got an opportunity to work with rural communities through Barefoot College in Rajasthan. While teaching science, Prayag realized that rural children found it difficult to retain the points learned at school.

Prayag created a simple easy-to-carry science education kit or a portable science lab that utilizes local materials to create experiments in rural schools. His portable science laboratory enables rural children to gain scientific knowledge through hands-on activities in the form of guided tutorials and strong practical assessments, which also help teachers communicate with their students better. This initiative increased that ambit of education among rural communities that have limited access to education. After completing 35 activities in 9 schools, Prayag was wants to expand his Barefoot Science Labs to 43 schools across Rajasthan.

Social Innovation – SteamIT by Sabari Prabaaker

Street food vendors often use cheap plastic utensils for serving food. This one-time use of plastic material is now massively polluting the environment, which inspired Sabari Prabaaker from Nitte Menakshi Institute of Technology to think of a better solution. He felt if there was an easy way to clean hygienically, vendors would be using reusable plates and bowls to serve food. So Sabari created a steam cleaner appliance by using steam and bio-enzymes for cleaning vessels.

Sabari’s steam-based sanitization appliance is not only eco-friendly but also highly cost effective for street vendors. The cost of washing each batch of dishes is just 10 paise per dish. Vendors who don’t have an electrical connection, can connect the SteamIT device to a pressure cooker and generate the steam. Sabari is currently reaching out to street vendors to generate awareness about the environment as well as promote the appliance.

Rural Innovation – Baansuli by Saloni Sancheti

Saloni Sancheti worked among tribal communities Dangs district in Gujarat during her stint in the SBI Youth for India Fellowship. She realized that the villages in Dangs suffered from acute scarcity of water due to lack of monsoon rains, which forced the tribals to migrate to cities. Saloni identified that the region produces large quanities of bamboo which can be utilized to create a high valued good. She felt bamboo pieces can be utilized to create an interesting type of bamboo jewelry.

Saloni founded Baansuli, an acronym for – Bamboo Artisans Social and Economic Upliftment Initiative, for engaging tribals in the production of hand-crafted bamboo jewelry. These bamboo jewelry items had the finish and contemporary designs that made them popular among urban consumers. Saloni’s Baansuli initiative has already garnered revenue of INR195,000 since its inception in 2017.

Check the previous winners 3M-CII Young Innovators Challenge here

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