Why should we focus on Grass-root Innovations?

What things come to your mind after hearing the word “Innovation”? I could think of mobile phones, high configuration devices, highly complex software, applications, infrastructure, automobiles, home utilities, decor, cinematography, storage facilities, delivery services, food, in brief — each and every sector humans are associated with is on a continuous path of graduation with innovation. This very word, has changed the caricature of the world we are living in.

During the years of getting trained to be an Engineer, I learned a very important thing — ‘There is no scarcity of innovations. Most of them were just not getting executed in the right direction.’ I have seen a lot of my fellow mates developing some amazing products but they often ended up at prototyping stage. During the same years, I got introduced to the world of “Entrepreneurs” and then got involved in the more interesting concept of “Social Entrepreneurship”. I tried to link what I had learned about innovations and the concept of Social Entrepreneurship when I happened to meet an Industrial Employee during my Industrial Training. He was not an Engineer nor a graduate in any other field but he had been working in the Automobile industry for a very long time. During one of our conversations, he mentioned that he had been trying to develop a prototype of his design to generate electricity from gravitational force. That sounded like a very disruptive idea to me. The problem was that this man did not had any resources to build the prototype and test it out. It was not much later that I found out that there are lakhs of such innovations stuck somewhere in the way to consumption by mass.

After meeting with a bunch of innovators from different innovation banks, I tried to note a few important characteristics of these “Grass-root Innovations” —
1. They are majorly results of “Needs” rather than “Curiosity”
2. They are usually made of more economic and Eco-friendly resources and support the same during their consumption
3. They are, in general, community products — focused on community requirements rather than individual needs
4. They promise more sustainable future

With these, I think it’s very important to give these innovations a fair value and market place in the economy. In recent years, these innovations are getting recognized by the Government very well. (Click here for some recent news on the same). My concern is not over the recognition part; it’s over the commercialization of these innovations. I mean, how many of these innovations can be found on our e-commerce websites even after recognition? I was unable to find any. Efforts are being made to create enterprises out of these innovations but then you cannot keep building new entities every time and then what is the guarantee for that business to reach out to every possible target consumer? This thing needs to be centralized in some way. As per my thoughts, the focus should be directed towards the linkage of these innovations to existing entities in their particular innovation sectors. This is what we are trying to do at “Beyond the Radius — BTR”. BTR is a start-up where we take grass-root innovations from innovation banks and conduct pilots in the target market segments. With this, we aim to convert these prototypes to consumer evaluated and ready for market products. We would conduct experiments to analyze the demand and profit segments into these markets and make these innovations valuable enough to get linked with the current business holders in the market and make it accessible to a larger group of consumers. If you think this is something worthwhile please keep an eye on for such innovations and consider the value that they can give to the society rather than what you can give them as a charity.

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