Saturday, August 11, 2012

Rural INDIAN innovator, a candidate for NASA award

Uddhab Bharali is a living example of the maxim that adversity causes some men to break, others to break records. As a 23-year-old in remote North Lakhimpur in Assam, he was left saddled with his family's debts amounting to Rs 18 lakhs when his father died. "At the time, I heard that there was a requirement for a cheaper model of a polythene manufacturing machine. I knew if I could come up with model for the same, I could find my way out. I came up with model that cost only Rs 67,000 as opposed to the prevalent market price of Rs 5 lakh. I haven't looked back since then," he says.

                 Bharali with his model of a pomegranate de-seeder
Bharali, who has been the recipient of numerous awards for his grassroots innovations, has recently again shot to the limelight after he was nominated by NASA for a technology award for his model of a pomegranate de-seeder that can be placed on a table top and used even at home. "I got the notification on 2 July. I believe they heard of me through the Assamese diaspora in the US, who had written about me in New York this April. After that, I got nominated for the World Technology Network's World Technology Awards, and now this. I had already invented an industrial model of a pomegranate de-seeder in 2006, which was exported to the USA and the UK. But then I innovated further on it and came up with a table top version," he says.
Bharali would have remained undiscovered but for the efforts of the National Innovation Foundation that took him on board as a grassroots innovator in 2005. Bharali is grateful to Prof Anil Gupta of the foundation. "They have done laudable work in bringing to light the work of grassroots innovators like me," he says. The foundation awarded him the Shrishti Samman – Master Innovator award in 2007. Four years later, he also received the Meritorious Invention Award from the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.
How long does Bharali take to invent a new product? "It might take days or months to build the machine, as I have to source the appropriate components and materials. But if you cannot crack the basic model in 48 hours, then there is no time in spending your life trying to build it. It has to happen quickly," he says.
Bharali could have had a cosy life in a metro, given his achievements and the fact that several companies have offered him millions to design products for them. But he has chosen to stay close to his roots and help out the people. His UKB Agrotech, set up in 1992, is a research and development centre where he trains poor and illiterate students. People who speak of corporate social responsibility should take a leaf out of Bharali's book. He earns 25% profits on his inventions through royalties. But he keeps only 5% of that for himself, preferring to spend the rest on an orphanage and an old age home. Most of his innovations are also in the field of agriculture, and are aimed at making the lives of poor farmers, living in rural areas, simpler.
Not someone who rests on his laurels, Bharali spends two hours every day trying to come up with an aid apparatus for physically challenged people. He has come up with a low cost and low power consuming concrete brick making plant, aimed at promoting rural industrialisation. Last week, he came up with a machine that produces an Assamese delicacy, kharisa (bamboo chute). He's almost finished wrapping up a mini rice mill that produces unpolished, nutritious rice, which runs on domestic power connection. "Innovation is something that you have to be involved with 24/7. You can't just leave your work and go out partying if you are working on something," he sums up his mission.

Lets us make Shri Uddhab Bharali the winner; he deserves it. Voting is on and open until August end.
Vote for him online at the following link:

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