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About Innovation

We talk of innovation every other day and perhaps the scene today is that along with strategy and management, Innovation too perhaps has turned to be one of the most loosely used words. We read about Zara, Facebook, Southwest,etc and think that they must be great to look upto. Yes they are, but not the only ones. In India too we have several really ingenious innovators who have transformed the world around them. There are people like V. Kurien, Elaben Bhatt, Sam Pitroda who have brought about a great deal of reform as well.

But let me just mention two specific innovations that have fascinated me dearly.

1. HUSK POWER SYSTEMS

In Bihar, one of the poorest states in India, 85 percent of people are not connected to the electricity grid so households use kerosene lamps when they can afford it and businesses use expensive and dirty diesel generators.

Some view this ‘energy poverty’ as a development problem, others view it as an environmental problem. The founders of Bihar-based Husk Power Systems view it as an opportunity to build a social enterprise.

Husk Power Systems

Husk Power Systems

Their motto is tamaso ma jyotir gamaya – ‘from darkness to light’

Husk Power Systems realized that one waste product in Bihar, rice husks, could be used to power a small biomass gasifier. Along with rice husks, they also use mustard stems, corncobs, grasses, and other agricultural residue. After five months of R&D, they developed a system that could produce 32 kilowatts of power by burning 50 kilograms of rice husk per hour. In the last four years, they’ve installed over 80 biomass mini-plants across Bihar, bringing power to more than 32,000 rural households.

This is just a fraction of the potential market. According to Salman Zafar, CEO of BioEnergy Consult and a renewable energy expert in India. The potential demand for biomass power generation in India exceeds 30,000 megawatts (MW); more than 1,000 times Husk Power’s current installed capacity.

Despite the large potential market, Husk has limited competition.    (Read more…..)

2.  SUPER 30

In a land where the curse of caste has often impaired the progress of the downtrodden, the story of Anand Kumar’s “Super 30” students cracking the IIT JEE is more than just a ‘feel-good’ Hollywood script with contrived plots and composite heroes.

Super 30 _ Anand

Super 30 _ Anand

In news recently for its inclusion in TimeMagazine’s “Best of 2010 Asia” list, the personal tribulations of the institute’s students – often children of marginal farmers and landless labourers – reveal a larger, determined struggle to usher in a semblance of democracy within Bihar’s jaundiced education systems.

“This year, more than 20 students who made the cut-off were from the backward classes,” says Mr. Kumar, who, along with his mother, once used to sell papads in the Patna’s streets following the untimely death of his father.

For Anand Kumar and his dedicated team of teachers, the purpose behind setting up the “Super 30” goes beyond merely helping needy students secure a chance to have a go at the IIT JEE. It is a mission of social transformation – one aimed at subtly hacking away the fundamentals of Bihar’s repressive caste system.        (Read more….)

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