TEDIndia

The Buzz: Anil Gupta finds innovation by the poor, for the poor

Posted by: Shanna Carpenter

AnilGupta_10790_D71_7855_fl

As the founder of the Honeybee Network, Anil Gupta and his team search the world for low-cost innovations created out of the necessities of poverty. Today, at TEDIndia, he energizes the audience by animatedly explaining his creative model and showing the amazing inventions they’ve come across. His enthusiasm was infectious and it shows in these reactions:

Very excited for Anil Gupta’s talk. He’s done amazing things with the Honey Bee Network (www.honeybee.org) — vercheesey

“The minds on the margin are not marginal minds.” – Anil Gupta of the Honeybee Network — annekejong

Anil Gupta destroys Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, were sufi saints of India rich? The poorest cld crave self-realization. — seeb

Anil Gupta – more optimism – cooker for coffee – wow! Mistry take notice — Udindex

Anil Gupta at TEDIndia: Scalability shouldn’t be the enemy of sustainabilityinfosys

“Give me a place to stand and I will move the world” -Innovation Advocate Anil Gupta. His work is amazing! #TEDIndia — leighleighsf

This man deserves more than just a standing innovation – truly awesome, immensely inspiring !! Anil Gupta at TEDIndia –pkgulati

Photo: TED / James Duncan Davidson

Comments (8)

  • Anil K Gupta commented on Dec 24 2011

    http://www.dailymirror.lk/video/15576-in-conversation-with-indias-ray-wijewardena.html
    an interview in sri lanka for thsoe interested about promoting innovations at grassroots

  • Anil K Gupta commented on Nov 26 2011

    Seven Lessons we can learn from creative children

    When Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, our former President of India honours the creative children from around the country on Nov 11, 2011 at Ignite function at IIMA organized by NIF and Honey Bee Network, he would underline the need once again for rethinking the pedagogy for future India. There is no doubt that children are generally born creative. Why should then schools and colleges work hard to stifle their creativity? May be, because otherwise, the offices and companies will not have compliant, congruent and conformist workers. Should we not worry if in the process we lose diversity, and sap the seeds of innovations that can make society more creative, collaborative and compassionate?

    What are the lessons we learn from children innovations over the last decade or more. First lesson is that they are far less patient with the unsolved problems than our generation has been. We knew about various problems, but instead of trying to solve many of them, we learned to live with them. It did not bother us. Inventing reasons for not solving was easy. Once we learn with say ten problems unsolved, living with the next ten similar problems becomes easier and after that, we don’t even notice many of these. Shalini from Patna, Bihar saw that older people having problem in walking use walker but these are not flexible enough to support climbing on stairs. She conceived spring-loaded self-locking front legs so that when user pushes front legs on upper stairs and rear legs rest on lower stairs, the walker will be very stable. It can be taken to next step easily and facilitate the climbing by the person. A very empathetic innovation indeed. Sajid Ansari from slums of Ranchi saw his mother cleaning rice. We had all seen our mothers doing the same. But he did what we did not. He invented a desk top rice cleaning machine. Second lesson is that children can easily connect the separate solutions unconnected so far. Intelligence is defined often as the ability to connect seemingly unconnectable. Mayank Walia from Jalandhar saw that we already had scanner which connected printed text into digital text. He also saw that an open source solutions existed for converting digital text into speech. The breakthrough followed soon after. Once these were connected, we could easily help blind people read any book, not just braille ones. I knew these two solutions as well but this thought did not occur to me. I had, may be, learned to live with this problems but Mayank was impatient, thank God. Third lesson is that we should not make feasibility an enemy of desirability while promoting creativity and innovations by children. If Mayank or many other children like Mohit from Sidhhi, MP such as were expected to make a working model of every idea that they proposed, then they would imagine only what their existing repertoire of operational skills made possible. Mohit found what many readers must have noticed that people who are advised medicines some times forget to take them on time. He imagined a medicine box with reminder alarm about various medicines so that people will not forget to take advised medicines. Shweta and jaskiran from Jalandhar, Punjab thought of another related idea which is to get an indication on the medicine foil itself about the expiry date so that one does not consumes time expired medicines. Would we have got these ideas if we insisted that we will accept only those ideas about which proof of concept had been developed? Fourth lesson is that many of the ideas that children think are about making life of elderly or women better, and reduce their drudgery. For example Dhawala from Udupi suggested a solution for squeezing a bed sheet after washing. Everyone in middle class or lower class families has faced this problem but did we ever try to find a solution. In general, we know that the problems faced by women tend to be solved by formal institutions and even grassroots innovators less often then the ones faced by men. In that context, this kind of sensitivity is highly appreciable. Fifth lesson is that gender balance among children innovators is much better than among adult innovators even at grassroots, certainly at institutional level. Why should not we use this evidence of last so many years at NIF and Honey Bee Network to make a difference to the opportunities we provide to creative children, particularly girls. Sixth lesson is about increasing concern among children about conserving natural resources and environment. Mohit saw the enormous wastage of water when we keep bucket for filling water under the tap and get busy with other work. He could not stand it and thus suggested a meter in the tap with an alarm so that when preset volume of water ( say 14.5 liters has flown), it will give an alarm and close the tap to prevent the water loss. How much water saving can thus be made worldwide when such a solution becomes available. Seventh lesson is that most of the creative ideas are coming out of small town, cities and locations and not metros. And yet if you look at the public policy, there is much higher thrust in providing facilities and support to people in bigger institutions, town and places. May be children in bigger places are being groomed to administer and run this country while the ones in smaller town with bigger minds and heart will generate enterprises, trigger new ideas and thus unfold creative resistance. Through this tension, hopefully, identity of new democratic India will emerge which will be irreverent, imaginative, inclusive and innovative.
    Government is thinking about providing innovation scholarship to children and I hope that scheme will draw upon these lessons and not straightjacket the conditions for recognition, reward and resurgence of the creativity among Young Indians. May the Fireflies of creativity illuminate our path ahead. Write back about your experiences in nurturing children creativity.

  • Anil K Gupta commented on Nov 26 2011

    The achievements of Indian youth in various fields are impressive and can vindicate perhaps the system of education. However, these achievers are so few in number that to use their example for justifying large scale inertia in educational reforms will not be appropriate. Few days back, there was pleasant news that Mahima Khanna, a young student from Kolkata topped the M.Phil class of economics at Cambridge and won the Stevenson Prize. Earlier, Amartya Sen, 1956 and Parthadas Gupta, 1967 had won this award. How should we interpret this news. Obviously, we should be happy. But, should we really be happy if in a country which has produced so many outstanding economists, a distinction like this is so scarce. Perhaps, our problem is, we get satisfied with too little too early. I remember when Kolkatans used to take pride in the neat and clean metro railway of only about 23 kms. There is no doubt that Bengal has produced some of the most outstanding intellectuals and literary stalwarts. In the 150th year Rabindranath Tagore, we should ask a question whether our achievements in the field of education justify the inertia in educational reforms.

    Ever since the middle class exited the government schools, there has been a complete indifference towards the quality of education as well as infrastructure. The same public system is able to provide some of the finest central and navodaya schools which could easily outperform majority of private schools. When neither the politicians nor public servants patronize these schools, it becomes quite evident that state wants to produce second class citizens through third class facilities. The fact that many achievers still come out of these schools is a tribute to the spirit of hard work and dedication among committed teachers and students. How do we turn around these schools so that our children can get far better opportunities of learning and also contributing to the national development. It may be useful to note that the top institutions in the field of higher education, almost without exception, are public institutions [so much for clamour for privatization of some of these institutions]. If country can produce excellence in higher education, then why not in school education as well.

    We need to make it obligatory for politicians and public servants to send their children to government schools. Immediately, a quality improvement will be discernible. The allocation of resources, improvement in infrastructure, design of new content, training of teachers and a lot more will follow. Till that happens, we should consider investing in creating open source high quality content for different subjects. Every student of IIT, IIM, AIIMS, IISER, NIT,etc., is encouraged to develop just one lesson in animation or other multimedia formats with possible multilingual translation of the subject which he/she enjoyed most during the student days, we would have achieved enormous breakthrough in creating high quality content. This content can then be podcast or made downloadable through blue tooth or other wifi technologies through every post office. In one day, all the content can be made accessible to all the 6.5 lacs villages through 1.45 lacs post offices.

    Democratization of high quality content with free helpline of tutors can revolutionize the learning outcomes for our children within a couple of years. What are the possible barriers to such an idea? One – this idea did not come out of the government policy documents or Planning Commission and therefore cannot be worthy of attention. Second – the resources for creating platform where students can post the lessons and other students and faculty can edit the same, are not available. There is always a scarcity of resources for causes that concern the disadvantaged. Third – government may like to use the resources to give free food to the people who don’t deserve it, who may not even desire it and who are economically far above the poverty line. If populism could win the votes every time, then parties which distribute televisions, sarees and other freebies should never have lost elections. Indian electorate is becoming wiser. It appreciates quality and is willing to give a chance to authentic efforts to democratize access to knowledge and other learning opportunities. I hope wisdom will prevail and we will be able to make breakthrough so that we don’t rejoice only when some Indian students achieve extraordinary results globally once in a decade or two. Indian students have tremendous talent as evident from the recent IGNITE awards given by NIF and Honey Bee Network at the hands of Dr.Kalam. What we need is a more fair access to opportunities.

  • Anil K Gupta commented on Nov 26 2011

    Educating children for new India

    The achievements of Indian youth in various fields are impressive and can vindicate perhaps the system of education. However, these achievers are so few in number that to use their example for justifying large scale inertia in educational reforms will not be appropriate. Few days back, there was pleasant news that Mahima Khanna, a young student from Kolkata topped the M.Phil class of economics at Cambridge and won the Stevenson Prize. Earlier, Amartya Sen, 1956 and Parthadas Gupta, 1967 had won this award. How should we interpret this news. Obviously, we should be happy. But, should we really be happy if in a country which has produced so many outstanding economists, a distinction like this is so scarce. Perhaps, our problem is, we get satisfied with too little too early. I remember when Kolkatans used to take pride in the neat and clean metro railway of only about 23 kms. There is no doubt that Bengal has produced some of the most outstanding intellectuals and literary stalwarts. In the 150th year Rabindranath Tagore, we should ask a question whether our achievements in the field of education justify the inertia in educational reforms.

    Ever since the middle class exited the government schools, there has been a complete indifference towards the quality of education as well as infrastructure. The same public system is able to provide some of the finest central and navodaya schools which could easily outperform majority of private schools. When neither the politicians nor public servants patronize these schools, it becomes quite evident that state wants to produce second class citizens through third class facilities. The fact that many achievers still come out of these schools is a tribute to the spirit of hard work and dedication among committed teachers and students. How do we turn around these schools so that our children can get far better opportunities of learning and also contributing to the national development. It may be useful to note that the top institutions in the field of higher education, almost without exception, are public institutions [so much for clamour for privatization of some of these institutions]. If country can produce excellence in higher education, then why not in school education as well.

    We need to make it obligatory for politicians and public servants to send their children to government schools. Immediately, a quality improvement will be discernible. The allocation of resources, improvement in infrastructure, design of new content, training of teachers and a lot more will follow. Till that happens, we should consider investing in creating open source high quality content for different subjects. Every student of IIT, IIM, AIIMS, IISER, NIT,etc., is encouraged to develop just one lesson in animation or other multimedia formats with possible multilingual translation of the subject which he/she enjoyed most during the student days, we would have achieved enormous breakthrough in creating high quality content. This content can then be podcast or made downloadable through blue tooth or other wifi technologies through every post office. In one day, all the content can be made accessible to all the 6.5 lacs villages through 1.45 lacs post offices.

    Democratization of high quality content with free helpline of tutors can revolutionize the learning outcomes for our children within a couple of years. What are the possible barriers to such an idea? One – this idea did not come out of the government policy documents or Planning Commission and therefore cannot be worthy of attention. Second – the resources for creating platform where students can post the lessons and other students and faculty can edit the same, are not available. There is always a scarcity of resources for causes that concern the disadvantaged. Third – government may like to use the resources to give free food to the people who don’t deserve it, who may not even desire it and who are economically far above the poverty line. If populism could win the votes every time, then parties which distribute televisions, sarees and other freebies should never have lost elections. Indian electorate is becoming wiser. It appreciates quality and is willing to give a chance to authentic efforts to democratize access to knowledge and other learning opportunities. I hope wisdom will prevail and we will be able to make breakthrough so that we don’t rejoice only when some Indian students achieve extraordinary results globally once in a decade or two. Indian students have tremendous talent as evident from the recent IGNITE awards given by NIF and Honey Bee Network at the hands of Dr.Kalam. What we need is a more fair access to opportunities.

  • Anil K Gupta commented on Nov 26 2011

    ‘Getting More from Less for Many(MLM): Gandhian engineering in action

    Last week, hundreds of students and faculty from diploma engineering students from Parul Polytechnic Institute, LCIT Bhandu, Hashmukh Goswami college of Engineering, Govt polytechnic Surat etc., part of GTU were provided a national platform to showcase their talent through SRITI’s techpedia.in. DG CSIR, Dr Samir Brhamchari, VC GTU and many other senior colleagues interacted with the students and appreciated their ideas. Dr Mashelkar’s stress on getting More form Less for Many ( MLM) could not have been better illustrated. SRISTI also announced the Gandhian Technological awards for socially useful innovation to be given on Macrh1, 2012 by Dr Mashelkar for which entries are invited from all over india. Shaikh Shehbaj demonstrated a low cost “Portable Solar cooker”. This Project shows the analysis of portable solar cooker. Chavda Bhupendrakumar P., Gambhva Govindbhai B, Suthar Sureshkumar R, Bihari Mahebilkhan M, Panchal Chiragbhai V, and guided by Prof. M. K. Modh and Prof. Y. L. Raol designed a low cost CNC machine having three axis movement for cutting design, milling, drilling and reaming. A Turbocharger for Two Wheelers which used exhaust gas to rotate the blower and improve the engine efficiency by 25% compared to the conventional two stroke petrol engines was much appreciated. LPG Refrigerator guided by Prof. A. B. Patel and made by student group led by Patel Birenkumar K and Patel Chintan D. Future Group has shown interest in this innovation for trying out in their food courts. Honey Bee Network feels very optimistic about creating market for frugal innovations. Just a sfood will get cooked, the cold chambers storing cakes and sweets will automatically get cooled without extra energy. A diploma drop out student, Mithilesh has made Water-petrol fuel kit for two wheeler waiting to be properly tested to prove it claimed fuel efficiency advantage. Can one of the most prosperous states not find money for such testing, prototyping and incubation in each district for young Gujarati boys and girls?
    Use of recycled aggregate for old concrete , Solid waste management for rural areas, Use of industrial waste for manufacturing paver block, recharging of groundwater utilizing storm water in residential townships, Manufacturing FAL-G bricks using local material, Social networking platform for problem solving, , cathod ray protection device, Developing electricity from public areas and dancing floors, smart train system with auto loading of goods and passengers and heart beat monitoring Device were other models presented in the exhibition. Dr. D. J.Shah, Prof Sheetal Shah and other principals of various Engineering colleges motivated the students to design proof of concept of their ideas, many of which were identified during industrial shodhyatras in summer this year. What is remarkable is that many students finished their final year project much ahead of the schedule and asked for second project with additional credit which GTU has agreed. From a state where many students did not take even one project too seriously, the situation where many are demanding a second project is a complete turnaround in their motivation levels. Tribute is due to their teachers who have worked hard to bring about this fundamental change in attitudes.

    We need now to test the intentions of policy makers whether they want Gujarat to be on the top in a) filing patents before March 12 ( at highly concessional terms through a pro bono network of IPr attorneys already built by Honey bee Network), b) decentralized incubation of worthy ideas for product development, entrepreneurship and/or licensing and c) social diffusion of open source technologies for larger community benefit. Even the large and medium private sector which has benefitted so much from so many state policies should take it as its moral duty to invest in the dreams of young techno-innovators. Time will tell….

  • Anil K Gupta commented on Oct 30 2011

    i will be posting my column on innovations here also henceforth, comments are welcome: anil gupta anilgb@gmail.com

    Emerging auto innovations at grassroots: an inspiring story of Nasirbhai

    With the news of Maruti setting up another plant in Gujarat, it is beyond doubt that Gujarat is emerging as a leading auto hub of not just India but may be, south and southeast Asia and eventually world. But there is a difference in the emerging properties of this hub which many may not have fully understood or appreciated. And that is the innovations in the road side workshops and by school drop out mechanics. Let me share the story of Nasirbhai who I met yesterday, thanks to Sam Panthaky. Nasir Bhai has created so many innovations and distinctions in auto service and design that we must create an Grassroots Academy of Auto Innovations around him. Honey Bee Network will back him up and ensure that his dreams come true in service of auto companies, users and other engaged in the value chain.

    If you have things in your hand to carry to car, you have to keep them on ground, open the door and then place those things inside. If you need to use an ambulance and only two people are there lifting the stretcher, then keeping door open while taking the patient inside is not easy. There could be many other situations in which when you go close to the car, you will wish that door of the car opens itself. Well, it is no more a wish, it has happened. And Nasirbhai ( 9227222266) having his workshop, M N Auto electric service, near preyas high school, Khanpur, Ahmedabad, has already done it. The door will open only with the specific key in your pocket. And once you switch on the car, it will get deactivated. It is not just the door which gets opened. Even the rear view mirror get opened which otherwise is in folded state. GIAN is documenting his innovation and patent will be filed very soon with the help of NIF. Then auto industry will be invited to license this technology so that Nasir Bhai gets resources to invest in his other innovations. He has many dreams and if fraction of what he dreams gets actualised, he will be changing the functionality of most cars in future.
    He has trained about ten young boys in repairing electronic and other parts of the cars. How good he is in his skills can be gauged by the fact that many leading auto service stations dealing in variety of imported or Indian car brands send Electronic control modules to him for repairs. Using a laptop, he repairs and then where needed, rewrites the programs in the chips. All this with education up to class four only.
    When we asked about training of next generation, he mentioned that one of his four sons, mushirbhai works with him. But he has already trained about ten young mechanics who are on his own. When he gets orders for various tasks, he distributes these among his former disciples without any consideration. He takes up those tasks which are challenging enough and he finds technically rewarding. He does not expect any share in the income of his disciples whom he patronises through distribution of orders. What a spirit of mentorship by a person who himself has struggled a lot to come this far. In a world becoming more and more materialistic, such a gesture of generosity is worth emulating.

    Right from his childhood, he was interested in tinkering with the things, he will reapir radio, tapes and slowly and slowly, became adept in repairing difficult electronic errors in various cars of various makes. His father is a maulana and teaches children about traditional religious scriptures.
    When asked, whether he would wish to expand his mission to help other budding innovative mechanics in the region, he readily agreed. SRISTI will keep a small social innovation venture fund with him. He alone will decide which ideas to invest in ( no double signatures, no committee of so called experts…) and we hope to trigger new functionalities bottom up. SRISTI will offer internship to engineering students of GTU with this Academy through Techpedia.in, so that they acquire the sanskar of frugal empathetic innovations, generous spirit of sharing one’s knowledge and skills, and collegial learning.
    Let me share some more example of auto innovations. Prof. A.B.Patel and Y.L.Rao guided several projects on exhaust gas recirculation improving the combustion efficiency of the engine. We have also faced the problem of opening the four nuts of a wheel one at a time. Hamil, Nisarg kumar, Daval, and Sandeep developed a device costing Rs.9000 which can open all the four nuts simultaneously in one fourth of the time under the guidance of Profs. Modh and Pandya. Piyush, Chetan, Ketan and Vijay have developed a turbo charger for two wheelers which improves the efficiency of the engine and save the cost. Birendra kumar sinha from champaran ( motihari) had a school opposite his workshop. The 12 hp diesel generator he used in his iron grill workshop made a lot of noise and emitted smoke. This disturbed neighbours as well as the children. The school could not be moved away nor his workshop. He developed a pollution control device which captures one kg of carbon every month from the exhaust gasses and reduced sound by almost half. The government’s resolution to reduce carbon intensity by 25 per cent by 2020, will require changing the standards of gen sets. Attaching such devices must become obligatory. This will trigger demand for the device and at the same time economy will have lesser carbon intensity. Auto companies will find such a device very useful for meeting emission control standards. Some investors from USA are exploring the possibility of licensing this technology.

    Sib Shankar Mondal, Gawhati, supported by NIF has developed a system of saving more than twenty per cent fuel in auto rickshaws by mixing hot air with fuel, instead of cold air and several other design improvements. Dr Das, Faculty, IIT Gawahati helped in testing this technology and found the claims valid.

    Hopefully, Auto companies will offer fair deal to him and other innovators for licensing various innovations so that more grassroots innovators come up and join hands with corporate sector to enrich India’s innovation eco-system.

  • R B commented on Mar 2 2010

    Anil Gupta has done great work in creating HoneyBee Network, but spreading the benefits from that effort haven’t yet materialized. Case study:
    http://rahulbrown.wordpress.com/2008/05/23/indias-national-innovation-foundation-and-honeybee-network/

    • Anil K Gupta commented on Mar 11 2010

      for those who wish to see the list of technologies that have been funded, or awarded, and or diffused, see nifindia.org . What is even more remarkable is the innovation exhibition which President Patil inaugurated at President’s House on Macrh 10, 2010. This is first ever exhibition of innovations hosted by any Head of the state. Recognition at that level bestows benefits which no monetary reward can ever equal. However, list of 57 technology licensing mediated by honey bee network is also available for those who care. In each case, the entire benefits have gone to the innovators. see awarded technologies at http://www.nifindia.org and open source innovations and tk at http://www.sristi.org the impact of open source innovations is even larger then the rest