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Report on lecture by Prof. A. K. Gupta (IIM Ahmedabad) at IIT Kanpur.

‘I’ for Innovation with an ‘eye’ for innovation

Origin of the phrase “bottom of the pyramid” -U.S. president F. D. Roosevelt in a radio address

These unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten, the unorganized but the indispensable units of economic power...that build from the bottom up and not from the top down that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

On 3rd August, Friday, IIT Kanpur played host to Prof. Anil K.Gupta from IIM Ahmedabad who was here to share his experience of grassroots innovations under the title- "Inverting the Bottom of the Economic Pyramid: Building upon Grass Roots Innovations"
Dr. Gupta earned his Ph.D. degree in management from KurukshetraUniversity (India).He is currently a Professor in the Centre for Management in Agriculture. Prof. Gupta is a recipient of Padma Shri and President, SRISTI (Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions) and Editor, Honey Bee (a newsletter on indigenous innovations).He was adjudged as one of the Star Personalities of Asia among the fifty leaders at the forefront of change by Business Week, New York, and received Asian Innovation Award Gold from Far Eastern Economic Review for coordinating SRISTI and Honey Bee Network.

We observe that there is significant convergence in the global agenda for economic reforms at macro level. A similar level of interest and sensitivity is lacking in support of local communities conserving resources or grassroots innovators solving problems without external aid at a very micro level. In this talk, the speaker shared his experience of grassroots innovations and building institutions to harness them through Honey Bee network. Prof. Gupta gave numerous examples like that of an old man who invented a cycle boat for less than Rs.3000/- which could help him cross the river. And why did he do so- just because he did not want to wait for the boat that delayed his meeting his beloved.Remya, a 16 year old girl from Kerala faced lot of trouble washing the entire family’s clothes. The process was time consuming and left her exhausted. What she did was invent a cycle run washing machine which made washing clothes a matter of few minutes and in this process she also invented an exerciser for people like us who want to get rid of that extra flab.

The IIT s and IIMs are institutes of excellence delivering path-breaking matter year after year. But to what extent have we been successful in finding, funding and maintaining the innovations of the people at the bottom of the pyramid. The innovations that these people make are raw materials for the students of the IITs and IIMs. The future is in IT, IT not as in Information Technology, but IT as in Indian Talent. We students have access to world-class infrastructure and state-of-art laboratories. Every year if some of these innovations are taken up by students for refinement and enhancement, the day is not far when we can truly call ourselves a knowledge economy built by the real IT (Indian talent). Interaction with the so-called poor innovators teaches one beyond technology, beyond class room theory. These innovators have immense respect for nature as they derive most of their products from her. They teach us the responsibility for future generations, the ethics one should maintain regarding ecosystem and the principles one should hold on to when dealing with these precious resources that nature offers.

Neha Bhardwaj
MBA 2007-2009, IIT Kanpur.

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