By Ambarish Ray
,000 bucks per square feet apartments
Sex before marriage
Expensive cricket matches
Multi grain bread
Diamond studded mobile phones
In my concerted opinion, the above is the viewpoint of unmitigated ignoramuses. People with a Google understanding of India. Or probably, Chrome. But this is not a critique of myopic thinking. It is, actually, a celebration of the endemic innovation and ingenuity that extremes of circumstances – economic, social, infrastructural, political or cultural create in a society like India. Documented here are cases across time of products, services and even approaches that have made the attempt and succeeded in rising above the debilitating counter forces that hold any progress in our country in their vice like grips and keep it in perpetual and impotent stasis.
But more importantly, they are also testimony to the fact that in India, functional simplicity, scaled down size and a pricing strategy that knows how many people exist below the poverty line will always deliver on hope and profits. Read on –
1) In rural India, ‘ghaaslet’ fueled lamps are costly, dim and destructive to health, not to mention the environment. Enter: the solar powered lanterns, Kiran, that provide up to 8 hours of bright light after a day’s solar charging and are durable and weather resistant to boot. And at approx. 500 bucks a pop, they are surely putting their money where their innovation is. Dlight design.
2) In a country that can confidently boast of only one renewable source of energy – that of the sinew of its 85% plus physical labour force, raise the curtain on a dynamo flashlight that doesn’t require power and works for a full 17 minutes on 2 minutes of winding only. No electricity, no wastage and no complaints. With its shock resistant cover and durable, long life LEDs, these are the bright spots in an otherwise darkened rural belt. Solar lighting
3) If you thought the Korean chaebols couldn’t get funnier with their English when they screamed ‘Next is What?’, please think again. Whether it is innovation or a deep sense of humility that makes them respect the markets whence they make their billions, Samsung has rolled out the Solar Guru, the first solar charged phone that offers 5 to 10 minutes of talk time for every hour of solar charging. At less than 3,000 bucks and offering innovation like an Indian calendar, mobile prayer and fake call feature (hold your breath, this means it sets off a ringtone so users can pretend they have an incoming call), this piece has democratised access and made things possible for a whole lot more people than we will ever care to know.
I can go on. In fact, I am very tempted to. The Grameen Bank projects and their caring micro finance, affordable housing, non electrical water purification, no frills hotels, compact 4-wheel delivery vehicles for inner city navigation, the world’s lowest cost refrigerator and many, many more. But this forum is limited and there never will be enough space ever to chronicle the dynamic optimism that poverty and limitations spawn. But there is a conclusion. And it is this: before we worry about polar ice caps and carbon footprints, wax about the Davos debacle and the Himalayan glaciers, let’s switch off the lights when we leave a room.