Seventy-year-old K Mahesh, grandson of TV Sundaram Iyengar, the founder of the eponymous group, and currently chairman of Sundaram Brake Linings says he still uses a re-engineered Tata Nano that pulls a trailer hooked to its back. The car also has a refurbished dash.
The septuagenarian says he still uses the Nano to pursue his hobby of wildlife photography. “I might try to run it into a bison next,” he jokes, but underscored that design innovation can not only be cost-effective but has to be done at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
But, innovation in India is still only a fashionable word thought to be the prerogative of the talented and the intelligent, while it is not, feels Sam Pitroda, adviser to the prime minister on public information, infrastructure and innovation.
Pitroda, speaking at the CII seminar, said India’s problems are different because its numbers are different. So, what happened in the West cannot always be replicated successfully here. Innovation should happen at the bottom of the economic pyramid by people who are working there, he added.
He said the government is in the final stages of creating a venture fund of Rs5,000 crore which will promote innovation on a commercial basis at the bottom of the pyramid.
This fund will be pooled in from contributions from the government, banks and private seed funding with an aim to create ideas which are “affordable, scalable and sustainable”.
“The best brains in the world are busy solving the problems of the rich, who usually don’t have any problems,” Pitroda said, adding India can’t afford that.
Towards this end, the government is doubling the number of National Innovation Centres and task forces have already been formed to work with 200 major business clusters in sectors such as leather, pharma, microbiology, biotechnology.
Arun Maira, member — Planning Commission, believes lack of proper designing of solutions is the reason why the desired results are not seen. “The government has an intention to set up 20 institutes of design across the country to improve productivity and outcome for the products and services offered, including governance,” he said. Of this, five have already been inaugurated.
The government will also award 2,000 innovators per year, around 3 per constituency of each MP.