Innovations which are focussed on providing need driven solutions to the bottom-of-pyramid population are often defined as “Innovations for grassroots”. However, sometimes some innovations also come out of these communities themselves because of necessity. Such type of innovations are categorised as “Innovations from grassroots”.
The enterprises which are focused on developing products for grassroots are often described as social enterprises. However, several follow a for-profit approach while other follow non-profit approach for staying in market. Since bottom-of-pyramid population is driven by a cost-centric approach, therefore, these organizations are primarily focused on delivering cost effective solutions to their beneficiaries.
However, innovations which are from grassroots are driven by different factors compared to the social enterprises. In such cases, innovators identify problems which he/she or someone near him/her faced and create solutions for those problems. Often, these innovations are defined as incremental innovations as these innovations solve those problem which existing innovation is not able to solve. Though these innovations are unique in their nature, but often lack capacity to attract investors or customers due to their poor design, poor access to market as well as poor funding structure in the ecosystem, consequently, limiting themselves only to their regional areas.
Therefore, to further boost country’s innovation ecosystem, Accelerating Growth of New India’s Innovations (AGNIi) which is a flagship program under the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India and executed by Invest India, have followed several mechanisms for enabling technology adoption at bottom-of-pyramid and some examples are as follows:
1. Discreet innovation scouting based on specified problem statements– Secure Himalayas Project of UNDP sought AGNIi’s assistance to identify innovative solutions for challenges associated with human-wildlife conflict. To aid UNDP in this endeavor, ANIDERS, a startup which uses infrared technology to detect the presence of approaching animals and repels them before harm, was identified by AGNIi during a discreet innovation scouting process. As a result of this exercise, the innovation is getting implemented across locations as specified by the UNDP. The challenge that ANIDERS solves is prevention of crop wastage due to stray animals and hence reducing unnecessary human-wildlife conflict. The startup also claims that their device successfully repelled the animals 86 per cent of the times, which in turn resulted in a 60 per cent increase in crop yields.
2. Facilitating commercialization of incremental innovations through one-on-one facilitation – Bageshwari Charkha is commonly used in Uttarakhand for spinning wool for the last 80 years. Rural technology action group (RuTAG) center at IIT Roorkee has incorporated changes to meet the demand for an upgraded Bageshwari Charkha for improved productivity and product quality. These changes include motorization of the traditional charkha with speed control mechanism retaining its foot-paddle operation, thus, classifying modified version of Bageshawari Charkha in the category of incremental innovation. Upon request, AGNIi shared a list of textile-based innovations with a famous rug making company in India. The company further shortlisted modified Bageshwari Charkha from the list and AGNIi then, facilitated introduction between both the parties so that a demo-session for charkha can be organized. After the demo session at IIT Roorkee, the company requested some modification in the innovation prior to introducing it at their warehouse in Bikaner, Rajasthan among their artisan community.
3. Convening opportunities for technology commercialization through events – Through events, AGNIi acted as a convening platform by bringing together stakeholders on the demand side (MSMEs, farmers, NGOs, investors, and corporates) and supply side (innovators, startups, and labs) at a bigger stage. In some cases, the format usually deviated from the conventional pitching session and primarily followed a showcase format where the innovators were given a fixed space to display their technologies and engage with attendees at their pavilion. As a result of these events, various innovators from startup and R&D ecosystem got an opportunity to directly engage with mass-audiences and show the impact of their innovations on-ground to the world, and it was also an impeccable opportunity for the demand side to get familiar with solutions for their existing problems.
4. Using digital interface for facilitating innovation showcase in rural areas – AGNIi is collaborating with Common Service Center e-Governance Services India Limited (CSC-SPV), a Special Purpose Vehicle that has been set up by the Ministry of Electronics and IT for organizing digital innovation showcases in rural India. The objective of this exercise is to showcase market-ready indigenous innovations to these Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLEs) as well as Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and help them in understanding how they can work together with startups directly or leverage technologies available at R&D labs for creating livelihood opportunities within their own community. The first showcase was organized in Alwar district of Rajasthan in the month of January this year where 5 startup founders in field of agri-waste management, animal husbandry, e-waste management etc. were invited to directly interact with VLEs and SHGs over a digital platform and as a result of it, several participants showed interest in working together with these startups.
5. Conducting surveys for accessing demand – To support Office of Principal Scientific Advisor’s agenda of innovation adoption in rural areas and generate livelihood opportunities through it, AGNIi collaborated with Common Service Centers (CSCs) for identifying pain-points across various sectors from selected number of villages under CSCs’ Digital Village scheme. These identified pain-points will be leveraged further in creating innovation adoption opportunities at these geographies. The survey addressed the needs of villages through VillageLevel Entrepreneurs (VLEs) and focuses on identifying pain-points in areas like agriculture, textile, waste management, food processing, etc. in their local community. As one of the results of this survey, we got to know that out of 790 respondent VLEs, around 415 respondents were interested in knowing more about innovation in water sector such as clean drinking water, water management etc.
Thus, through the results from above engagements and from various other currently running initiatives, AGNIi is identifying potential intervention areas required at various geographies of the country and then matching it with appropriate technological solutions from R&D and/or startup ecosystem which can solve both social as well as economic problems for the bottom-of-pyramid populations.
To know more about such innovations available in various sectors, please visit www.agnii.gov.in.
This article is written by Prakarsh Mishra.