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    Innovations from India

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Reinventing Education

CUTLERY YOU CAN EATByju’s - The Learning app, known for its unconventional and practical methods of teaching, has grown rapidly over the years. The goal of the app was to make learning accessible, effective, engaging, and personalised for everyone. It initially started in 2011 in Bengaluru with a focus on K-12 (students in classes 4-12) and launched its eponymous flagship product in August 2015. Byju’s creates personalised learning journeys for individual students based on their proficiency levels and capabilities, which help them learn at their own pace and style. Byju’s adopted an online mode because children are primarily visual learners and learning through visual representations is exciting and easier for them. Also, as the country becomes more tech-savvy, people are getting more inclined towards education apps and parents are opening up to technology-backed learning. According to a recent report, out of 2,000 users surveyed, about 89 per cent were in favour of online learning.

Byju’s has been growing 100 per cent month-on-month for the past three years. The company had a revenue of Rs 520 crore (US$ 73.00 million) in 2017-18 and is targeting to triple revenue to Rs 1,400 crore (US$ 196.53 million) this financial year. The company is planning to build a product for the international market and K-3 (1st, 2nd and 3rd grade) segment. Its recent acquisition of Osmo, the US based playful learning system, will help in offering customised, engaging and fun learning for younger kids. Byju’s can effectively capitalise from changing mind-sets and developments in the country.

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Zomato: Top of the food chain

CUTLERY YOU CAN EATZomato, an Indian start-up is in the business of online food ordering. It initially launched in Gurugram in 2008, a website that scanned menus and provided ratings and recommendations on restaurants. It soon expanded to cities like Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru and renamed itself as Zomato in 2010. Presently the food ordering business has its presence in 24 countries and has achieved a milestone of 21 million monthly online food orders in India alone. Zomato’s overall revenue from food ordering increased from 35 per cent to 65 per cent after acquiring a delivery provider company named Runnr in 2017. After receiving its first investment in 2010 by info edge, Zomato started expanding its operations and achieved improved growth. The company made nine acquisitions by 2015 of which five acquisitions were made in a single year. By 2016 Zomato was valued at US$ 1 billion. It has raised about US$ 635 million in 11 rounds.

Over the years, Zomato has been able to come up with new products like Zomato Gold, Treats and hygiene ratings to tackle the newcomers like Uber and Ola. Zomato gold was labelled as the fastest user subscription programme in the country after getting 300,000 paid users and partnering with about 2,200 restaurants. Having overcome the initial tumultuous period and firmly establishing itself as a leading player in terms of deciding your next meal, Zomato is in an excellent position to capitalise on the growth of the sector across the length and breadth of the country.

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HackerEarth: A Springboard for Innovation

CUTLERY YOU CAN EATHackerEarth is an Indian start-up that is simplifying the recruitment process in the IT sector by connecting suitable developers with the right companies. It has built a platform where code would be evaluated automatically; this in turn evaluates the developer based on the skill and disrupts any biases or mistakes unlike those faced while hiring in colleges during interviews. The problems of clients are solved by innovative ideas from the developer community of HackerEarth. The company earns revenue by selling the license for about US$ 40,000-100,000, while it charges for each campaign that is undertaken for specific problems.

The company was started in 2012 and received funding of US$ 4.5 million in 2016. Initiatives by Government of India like Digital India and Startup India have helped the ecosystem, it operates in and the company is currently working on their Move Hack Campaign. About 60 per cent of its revenue comes from India and the rest predominantly from the US, with a small presence in Europe and South-East Asia. The company plans to focus on the existing areas in near future rather than expanding to new markets. After registering a year-on-year growth rate of 100-150 per cent for the last two years, it sees the potential to grow ten times in the next four to five years.

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Darwinbox: Redefining HR

CUTLERY YOU CAN EATDarwinbox is a comprehensive and integrated Human Resource (HR) software that provides a one-stop solution to all the technical aspects of the HR department. From recruitment to performance management and to exit management, Darwinbox takes care of all the HR related needs across the employee life cycle including payroll, leave, transfer, etc. The makers of Darwinbox believe in product superiority and market-fit to drive success in long run.

With annual revenue of about US$ 2 million, Darwinbox is growing three times year-on-year with a critical client base. It is also expanding beyond the Indian geographies. With an aim to deliver the most insightful enterprise HR technology solution, Darwinbox plans to focus towards innovation and investment in deep-tech solutions along with acceleration of their market and sales efforts to expand their reach globally.

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Zuper: Dynamic Disruptor

CUTLERY YOU CAN EATZuper is a B2B Software as a Service (SaaS) offering for organizations, irrespective of shape and size. It is the first in Asia to offer voice biometrics-based timesheet management of workforce. Zuper offers an end to end platform to bring together the power of people, process, product and promise with mobility and Internet of Things. Organisations using Zuper have increased workforce utilisation by over 50 per cent, reduced services turnaround time by over 35 per cent, increased customer adoption and profitability by over 45 per cent and reduced costs by over 30 per cent.

The companyhas more than 40 clients across ten different cities in India and Singapore, and is deployed in more than 500 client sites catering to around 6,000 end users. After registering a revenue run rate of about US$ 200,000 for FY18 with monthly growth rates of over 30 per cent , the company is planning to expand its business in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Middle East and reach Series-A round funding by 2019 end.

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Smartivity: Making Learning Smarter

CUTLERY YOU CAN EATSmartivity strives to focus on mind-and-body engagement for children in the era in which most technology-based products are created for entertainment and offer passive engagement and mind-numbing experiences. Their products encourage children to become ‘makers’ instead of ‘consumers’ by bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds with the help of Do IT Yourself (DIY) activities, Augmented Reality (AR) products, virtual reality etc. The company aims to inspire children to make things with their hands and give them unique sense of accomplishment, pride and ownership. Smartivity has an in-house team of product designers for their products – both physical and technology.

Since 2015, Smartivity has shipped over 500,000 units, sold in over 800 prime retail stores in India. The company now has an annual revenue of Rs 10.5 crore (US$ 1.52 million) increased from Rs 64 lakh (US$ 92,921) in the initial stages after facing numerous problems such as fund-raising, cash flow management and zero-money marketing. The company also has established its presence on e-commerce websites like Flipkart and Amazon, and global markets such as US, Europe and Australia. Smartivity aspires to strengthen India’s innovative and knowledge-based economy and-complement-its-Skill-India-Movement.

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Ambrane: Powering the Future

CUTLERY YOU CAN EATIncreasing demands for mobile phones in the market has created a huge market for mobile phone accessories. Ambrane, a start-up startedwith Rs1 million (US$ 14,518) in 2012, is one of the major market players for mobile phone accessories like power bank, cable chargers, earphones etc. The company enjoys 15-20 per cent market share in the power bank category and is present on all the major e-retail websites like Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal. Ambrane has sold more than a million products across the country and is present in 2 and 3 tier cities as well. The company also plans to diversify the range of products and enter into the audio category as well with about 30 new audio products.

Ambran is a 100 per cent ‘made in India’ brand with the leverage of competitive pricing and a strong R&D team benefited from the Make in India campaign initiated by the Government of India. The company has recorded a turnover of Rs 100 crore (US$ 14.52 million) in the previous year and targets to double it in this year. It also plans to expand the business pan India, offline. After establishing a wide reach in India, Ambrane is now focusing on reaching international markets with great variety of products and competitive price advantage.

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CUTLERY YOU CAN (India ki pharmacy), is an online portal for medicines where one can upload the prescription, order medicines, and get them delivered at the doorstep. The company came into being in 2015 and since then it is trying to make all the modern medicines available and affordable for all with a hybrid inventory/marketplace model. takes full responsibility for every order from receiving and venting prescriptions, to taking payments and then finally sourcing the products. The company is partner with Third Party Logistic (3PL) which handles the delivery part of the process. has a customer base of nearly one million people. And have delivered to more than 800 cities, towns and villages in more than 12,000 pin codes. The company is funded by Orbimeds, one off the world’s largest healthcare focused investment firm with approximately US$ 15 billion in asset under management. According to a study conducted by FICCI, online pharma could touchRs 20,000 crore (US$ 2.90 billion) by 2020 and intents to have a share of that.

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Between the Covers

CUTLERY YOU CAN EATThe shift from buying books at traditional book stores to buying books online is posing a threat to the publishing industry. In 2009, one publisher named Ralph Möller realized that the Internet is where the users are. With an initial investment of €25,000 (Rs 1.84 million) and the motivation to find new ways to sustain sales, Ralph partnered with WITS Interactive to develop a tool that would use the power of the internet and social media to market and promote books. This led to the creation of Book2Look, which makes the point of discovery the point of sale! Book2Look already has more than 115,000 books available from over 1,200 publishers and more than 5,000 self- publishing authors. So far, over 75 million users across 240 countries have viewed biblets with an average of over 15 pages and spent 15 minutes on each visit.

Earlier this year, Book2Look was launched in India, which is the sixth largest book market in the world, in partnership with Nielsen Book. Going forward, the company plans to expand to newer geographies and invest in IP creation.

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Clean N' Green

CUTLERY YOU CAN EATWho thought banning plastic bags by the municipal corporation of Mangalore could spark the thought of creating eco-friendly products. Well, Mr Aswath Hegde, founder, EnviGreen Biotech Private Limited did. With a passion to preserve the environment and perseverance to achieve it, he and his friends created a 100 per cent biodegradable product, an alternate for plastic bags. These products are completely eco-friendly since it dissolves quickly in hot water and decomposes soon under natural conditions. The Government of India’s initiatives like ‘Make in India’ and ‘Swachh Bharat’ too helps in creating awareness about such products.

Till date, they have invested Rs 76 crore (US$ 11.8 million) and made 12 products. After launching in Qatar in 2016, they expanded to Middle East and Southeast Asian markets. EnviGreen’s important clients in India are Reliance Retail, METRO Cash & Carry, Godrej and Havells. Currently, they only cater to businesses and soon plan to supply to individuals. They also plan to enter the European Markets within three months.

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Reality of the Future

CUTLERY YOU CAN EATAs businesses change rapidly to embrace new technologies, innovations in the field of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have revolutionized customer buying experience. Mr Hemanth Satyanarayana, the founder of Imaginate Software Labs, having spent a decade working in the VR/AR space, got the idea of creating something in this field while shopping in a textile shop in India. Its flagship product Dressy, a virtual trial room, got good response from clients as well as went on to win the MIT TR35 Innovator of the Year Award.

Some of the other products developed by the company include Augmented Manual, HeritageAR, ShootAR, and NuSpace. NuSpace even received the Most Innovative and High Potential Product Award at the NASSCOM Product Conclave, 2016. They currently service only corporate clients. The company’s revenue grew by about 2-2.5 times in FY 2015-16 after growing at 1.5 times a year earlier and they are optimistic about this year also. The company expects its NuSpace product to grow at least four to five times its flagship product.

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Redesigning the financial landscape

CUTLERY YOU CAN EATWith unwavering focus on low operating cost and high efficiency, Vortex Engineering has developed a reliable and secure range of ATMs that have changed the face of banking in India. Efforts such as these assume more significance in the wake of the recent demonetisation drive by the government and help in India’s journey towards a cashless economy.

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3Nethra – providing vision of hope

CUTLERY YOU CAN EATK Chandrasekhar founder of Forus Health has created 3Nethra, a compact portable optical diagnostic machine that can be used by ophthalmologists in any place or conditions. The inspiration behind the creation of 3Nethra was to treat preventable blindness, which comprise of 80 per cent of blind population of India, which itself has one-third of the world’s blind population.

The machine has been designed to be used in a versatile manner. It has an integrated telemedicine module on a cloud platform, which makes it possible for a doctor to diagnose remotely. It can be used both indoors and outdoors, has a small footprint (a small table is sufficient), is robust enough to be used in medical camps in the rugged outdoors, and is compact enough to be carried on the back of a motorcycle. After the creation of its flagship product 3Nethra, Forus Health has planned to reach a total of six variants for different target groups. Apart from being present in India through various hospital chains, the company has also expanded its offering overseas. Since the launch four and- a-half years ago, the company has about 1,200 units across 26 countries and with a reach of up to 2 million people.

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CUTLERY YOU CAN EAT Narayana Peesapaty, a former researcher at the International Water Management Institute of Hyderabad, has created an innovative edible cutlery, mainly made out of sorghum.

The basic idea behind the innovation - replace plastic spoons – struck Narayana during a flight, upon observing fellow passengers scooping out food with khakra pieces instead of easily bendable plastic spoons. Narayana started with manufacturing lunch spoons with self-made machinery and experimenting with several grains and millets. He has tried out soup spoons, chopsticks, dessert spoons, and forks and is now contemplating expanding his range of products to small dip cups, stirrers and prick sticks.

Narayana has experimented with not only different materials and shapes for the cutlery, but also tried various marketing techniques including door-to-door sales. He found social media to be a great boon, which helped publicise his innovation and also helped him raise funds far in excess of his targets. He now plans to increase utilisation of his indigenous machine, followed by making multiple machines, including new fabrications for few other shapes of cutlery by 2017.

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A Big Step Forward

The Voice of Indian Innovation Krispian Lawrence co-founded Ducere Technologies with Anirudh Sharma in 2011. Lechal is the outcome of their concerted efforts to use haptics in the wearable technology space.

Both Anirudh and I were always fascinated by wearable technology, and were tinkering with various ideas in this space. But the concept was nascent in India when we started Ducere Technologies. We were not only venturing into a less-explored territory, but also pushing it a notch further by building the world’s first smartshoe.

The basic idea behind Lechal was to see how haptic technology, which is related to the sense of touch, could be used for assisting the visually impaired in navigation. And what could have been better than shoes! No one leaves their home without a pair of shoes; it is like a natural extension of the human body. Initially, we wanted to design a haptic-enabled shoe only for the visually impaired. But after the first prototype, we decided to make this technology available to tech-savvy users and give them a wearable product that will make navigating hassle free.

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The Voice of Indian Innovation

The Voice of Indian Innovation Ajit Narayanan, an electrical engineer from Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras), is the inventor of Avaz, India's first augmentative and alternative communication device for children with disabilities. It all began when he started working with Vidyasagar, a school for children with special needs, in Chennai. After studying various technologies in the market as well as some prototypes developed by IIT Madras professors, he developed several prototypes for students of Vidyasagar, culminating in a working prototype good enough for the children to give useful feedback.

With the proliferation of tablets, Avaz has transformed from being a hardware device to a software app. Further research is being concentrated on 'Avaz Together', which also includes features to train a parent or a teacher, as well as provide them with feedback, including analytics. Avaz received plenty of support from the Indian government in form of grants to develop the product. The Ministry of Information Technology helped Ajit to secure funding. The market for Avaz in India comprises of special schools in the country which fall under a national trust set up by the central government.

Ajit Narayanan received National Award for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (2010) and was felicitated by the President of India for his outstanding contribution in the field. However, he humbly admits that the main focus is to change people's attitudes towards disability rather than selling the app.

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FUTURISTIC SOLUTIONS, CURRENT SCENARIOS eToilets, the self-flushing, self-monitoring technology-based sanitation solution, is no longer a dream, but has been brought into reality by Eram Scientific Solutions (ESS). The easily portable eToilet is indigenous revenue generating, innovatively designed and engineered public sanitation model with a unique ambience to suit Indian cities and urban locations. Laced with sensors, it detects usage and is pre-programmed to automatically clean itself after every use. Made with stainless steel for durability and non-corrosion, it generates its own electricity, needs no manual intervention or maintenance and saves energy and water while functioning efficiently.

Eram Scientific Solutions, the developer of eToilets, is part of Saudi Arabia-based US$ 1 billion Eram Group, and is primarily a research and development social enterprise with focus on the water and sanitation sectors. The innovation began in 2008 in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala and the first eToilet unit was implemented on a pilot basis in Kozhikode in 2010. Since then 650 eToilets have been successfully implemented in 16 states across India. The project has received the Kerala Chief Minister’s Award for Public Innovation and among the more than 34 honours, awards and recognitions from across the world. The world’s largest donor organisation in sanitation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), has provided grants for further research and development.

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Virtually Yours

Stay Connected with Gecko Brickwork India is not just the pioneer of the virtual assistant services concept but the most famous one as well. It has prominently featured in two global bestsellers—The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman and the 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris and is the India Representative for Fairfax County Government (USA). What gives the cutting edge to the company in this competitive arena is their path-breaking concept, REA™, a trademark application, launched in early 2005. The idea fuelling the development of this service was “simple but powerful”, said Mr Vivek Kulkarni, Founder and Chairman, Brickwork India. He had observed that while in India most senior executives have a lot of help, in developed countries like the US, Europe and Australia, secretaries are available to only a few senior executives. The middle management and often some senior management as well, have to depend on either a shared assistant or manage on their own. “The idea of a REA™ germinated from the needs of large global organisations to free up their executives from non-core, routine and process-driven activities and instead repurpose their time towards more strategic and business critical activities,” he explains.

The concept was new and avant-garde and instantly caught the imagination of the global community. The idea to provide basic to most complex business assistance sitting at a distance had not yet been conceptualised of by the fast growing outsourcing industry. The media blitzkrieg that followed saw the company feature in top dailies, TV shows and print publications. At the centre of the hype was one former top officer of India’s administrative services—the pioneer—Mr Vivek Kulkarni.

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Stay Connected with Gecko

Stay Connected with Gecko This Gecko is not a lizard. It is a bluetooth low energy (BLE) device that works as an appcessory (an accessory with smartphone app), to make your smartphone even smarter. “The product Gecko, I can say proudly, is my idea and dream to show the world that India can produce innovative products,” says its creator Mr Bahubali Shete, Founder, CEO and Managing Director, Connovate Technology Pvt Ltd. It is with companies like Connovate that India is marking its presence on the Internet of Things (IoT) platform. The frenzy around IoT is reaching an inflection point across the world. As the crescendo around connected devices builds up, we are inexorably moving towards a world where we are destined to live with almost everything connected—objects, animals, plants, people, etc. The space in India too is poised for bigger innovations, with the country coming up with a framework policy on IoT. Vision Digital India is a further boost to the rapidly evolving IoT space, offering immense opportunities to businesses.

Connovate was launched as a design engineering and product solutions company with the aim to become a globally recognized name in connected devices. With its focus on the entire ecosystem for connected devices, the company primarily specializes in design and manufacturing of all components required in the field of wearable smart devices, personal wellness gadgets and smart home control and automation solutions. In the technology domain, its expertise includes devices, embedded applications and cloud and mobile applications space. Wearable technology has taken the world by storm since its first avatar in the form of a calculator watch in the 1980s and Connovate is a rising star here.

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Laying the Grid for Smart Energy

Indulge Your Sweet Tooth with Diabetic SugarAn innovation or invention by definition is something that is new, revolutionary, creative and original. But when someone ventures into a field in which no one else has earlier imagined any such accomplishment possible, a high level of skepticism can be expected. Mr VSK Murthy Balijepalli met a similar treatment when he presented his PhD research proposal to the panel at Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-Bombay).

The young scholar went ahead and published his paper at the end of the term titled—Towards Indian Smart Grids. It was Balijepalli’s concern about the power losses during distribution that had him mulling the idea of such a research. The field research served to sustain it further and industry interactions deepened his understanding of the subject. Thus, with the accumulated knowledge and insights from various quarters, he perfected what he called km-tech—a technology or a tool for load, price and grid frequency forecasting. It is an innovation that has the world taking note.

Balijepalli’s achievement assumes significance in a much larger context as at the time he took up the research, smart grid was a largely unknown field. His pathbreaking innovation in 2012 and the subsequent global recognition that followed, won India a strong foothold on the smart grid map of the world.

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Indulge Your Sweet Tooth with Diabetic Sugar

Indulge Your Sweet Tooth with Diabetic SugarThe world is grappling with a largely lifestyle disease that has taken an epidemic form. According to the International Diabetes Federation’s IDF Diabetes Atlas Sixth Edition, International Diabetes Federation 2013, there were 382 million people living with diabetes in the world in 2013. The number of people affected by diabetes is projected to increase by 55 per cent to reach 592 million worldwide by 2035.

CK Nandagopalan, Founder, Revolution, a research foundation dedicated to Tamil sciences, and Chief Technology Officer, DiaBliss, says, “It is a very simple herbal technology and no skilled person is required for handling it.” He is talking of his breakthrough innovation, which in simple words is the world’s only diabetic friendly herbal sugar. He claims this sugar suits all age groups and all types of diabetics and that too without quantity restrictions.

The herbal sugar called DiaBliss is essentially 99 per cent cane sugar and 1 per cent herbal extract. The formulation is totally safe and 100 per cent natural as it uses 15 ingredients that are extracted from plants. It is a tasteless, colourless and odourless aqueous herbal extract made from fenugreek, pomegranate, cinnamon, gooseberry, turmeric, black pepper and ginger.

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The Big Bug Slayer

The Big Bug SlayerThat irritating buzz has always been a menace. Earlier it was malaria, encephalitis and filariasis that lurked threateningly. Post a monsoon downpour, a new enemy lurks in the soothing green potted plants, the puddle of water across the road or even that bucket of water stored in the bathroom to tide over perennial water woes—the deadly dengue-causing Aedes aegypti mosquito. As of now people are arming themselves with mosquito repellants, sprays, gels, electric racquets, mosquito nets, and homemade and Chinese remedies to buzz off the bugs.

But are these remedies really effective? And how ecofriendly, harmless and cost effective are they in the long run? Not a lot as we all know. MozziQuit may not yet ring a bell for many of us. Blame it on the lack of commercial hype that usually surrounds the launch of FMCG products. Yet, this mosquito trap is an award winning patented innovation by serial innovator Ignatius Orwin Noronha.

Fifty-three-year-old Noronha is not a scientist by education or training. It is surprising then that this commerce graduate has such a keen knack for science and innovation. His career, in fact, began as an office assistant for a Cypriot Greek construction company in Bahrain where he worked for seven years. Thereafter, he moved to Saudi Arabia and worked for three years as Inventory Controller for a manufacturing company producing construction chemicals, fireproofing products and fertilisers as per the formulations of W. R. Grace & Co. of USA.

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A BIOTECH MODE OF LIVINGDr Rita Kumar is on a mission to provide sustainable solutions to a world grappling with wastewater pollution.

My passion is to bring out technologies for the proper monitoring and treatment of wastewater emanating from industrial establishments, municipal wastewater, and domestic wastewater emanating from households/ residential establishments,” said Dr Rita Kumar when queried about her innovation—a biological method for rapid treatment of municipal wastewater. Her latest innovation, which is available for commercial expression of business interest on the DST-Lockheed Martin India Innovation Growth Programme website, is not a single stroke of genius. Dr Kumar, an Energy and Environmental Biotechnology Scientist at Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), has 19 innovations in the field to her credit.

Dr Kumar has gone a step beyond the call of simple academic research, involving herself in robust scientific collaboration with the industry. She has demonstrated ample managerial capabilities, interpersonal, and networking skills, which she counts among her core strengths, and has served as CMD, National Research Development Corporation (NRDC), New Delhi, on an additional charge in August-September 2012 and April-September 2013.

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For the Fun of It

For the Fun of It"It's a revolt against convention. Happily Unmarried counters the propensity of marketers to create products in the conventional backdrop of happily married couples and families. The idea is a little unsettling and their products quirkily funny. The result: a loyal clientele and an expanding market.

Though Rajat Tuli, Founder and Director, says that he and partner Rahul Anand launched the company without a business plan, the vision for Happily Unmarried sprang from the ‘pains’ of the two bachelor partners. Recounts Tuli, ‘While house hunting and buying gifts for friends we discovered that everything in our country is targeted towards families, be it movies or products or holidays. No one was paying attention to the needs of a new class of young Indians who were relocating to take up jobs in different parts of the country—these included MBAs, BPO industry employees and design professionals.’

The company that expects a turnover of US$ 1.6 million this fiscal, started out with a seed capital of US$ 797.32 in 2003, through the sale of the company laptop after it folded up leaving the two unemployed and with six months’ salary unpaid."

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THE SMARTEST OF THEM ALL"Shifu is your smart friend who lives in your smartphone. It observes when and how you use your phone. It knows what important things need your attention and when is the right time to show them to you... Shifu reminds you to do things which are important to you... Shifu reminds you of things which you otherwise would have missed and it does so without being intrusive. Shifu is the sidekick you always wanted."

Sounds interesting, right? Welcome to the world of smarter Made in India application Shifu. Yes, this app with a Chinese name pronounced "shur-foo" in China, and "shee-foo" the Indian way, is smarter than your iPhone voice assistant Siri or your Google Now assistant for Android phones.

Prashant Singh, Co-founder, Signals, the fledgling company behind Shifu, explains how Shifu is very different from Siri and other apps in this space."Siri provides a voice-based interface to control smartphones. In this, the user has to think what to do. Siri does not do the thinking for the user nor does it suggest what the user can possibly do at a given point of time. But Shifu does exactly that. It makes suggestions and helps the user make smart use of not just his smartphone but also his time."

For all of us who just can't live without our smartphone, Singh makes a startling declaration: "One thing most people don't realise is that in spite of all the advances we have made in smartphone technology, it is still not that smart." He backs his contention saying, "Beyond some surface level detail, a smartphone is not very different from a regular one as, for example, both show call logs in reverse chronological order and not in the order of importance of calls. Neither phone can sense when to go on silent mode on its own. Shifu is our attempt to solve such issues."

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Pedalling a Green Cause

Pedalling a Green Cause Bambikes promises physical exercise, fresh air and in addition reduces your carbon footprint on Mother Earth. The architect of India's Bambikes, Mr Vijay Sharma, passionately desires that more people take to cycling for the health and ecology benefits that it packs in its pedals. It is this singular wish that is driving him to persist with building these ecofriendly Bambikes. The bikethough has created plenty of buzz in the India and abroad.

The popularity of Sharma's Bambike pans across the globe. From Mauro Vanoli, a bike enthusiast from Italy who came down to Bengaluru to get a customised mountain terrain bike (MTB) made at Sharma's workshop, to the German granny who was on a mission to travel across the world on her bike in 10 years, and chose Bambike for her forward journey after meeting Sharma in Bengaluru in 2010.

Sharma, an alumnus of the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology, Ahmedabad, credits his creative skills to his carpenter father whose workshop was his childhood playground. Perhaps the reason he was always keen to have his own space—a workshop. When his wife Niyati bought a bicycle to commute to work in 2008-09, his interest in bicycle design was aroused and he started researching online. Meanwhile, after a short stint at a furniture design company, he set up his own workshop in collaboration with two friends—6mm Designs and Furniture. Interestingly though, it was not a bicycle but a tricycle or a trike that first rolled out of Sharma's workshop. The next invention was what he called a unique Tandem Trike. Both the varieties were an instant hit in Bengaluru, especially with kids, to whom Sharma would give free rides as a reward for doing their homework.

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Building Robots with Human Intelligence

Building Robots with Human Intelligence Aakash Sinha, Robotics Scientist and Founder of Omnipresent Robot Tech, has an impressive resume. He has worked with some top US robotics companies including Lockheed-Martin. As an employee he proved his mettle, winning the outstanding employee award as the Technical Head at iRobot Corp, where his team delivered over 3,000 PackBot robots to the US Army. As an engineer-scientist too, he was making his mark with more than 15 international publications in robotics. After 10 years in the field of robotics and accolades galore, it was just about two years ago that the MS/Ph.D in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University decided to become an entrepreneur.

Omnipresent, the company, was initially launched in the US. "It was started by my wife Jyoti, who is the co-founder, and me on a shared vision to build truly intelligent robots for the future," says Sinha sharing the belief that is the foundation of Omnipresent. The move to India was motivated as much by ideals as sound business sense. "We wanted to contribute back to India and also saw the emerging market here in robotics," says Sinha. The first branch of Omnipresent was set up in Delhi and its first contract was with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to build a bomb disposal robot. "We were so excited with this prospect that we decided to move all our operations to India," says Sinha. Currently, Omnipresent is based in Delhi. The project was successfully delivered to DRDO which was earlier convinced that robots could only be built abroad, reveals Sinha.

Sinha sees a bright future for robotics in India. "It is one of the big disruptive technologies coming up in the next 10 years," he predicts adding, "this wave will be similar to the rapid movements witnessed in the information technology industry. Nobody could have predicted the extent to which they would revolutionise the world, as they have done today." In fact, Sinha envisages a big role for robotics in human life. "Robotics will become eubiotics (eu=good/bios=life) and omnipresent (present everywhere simultaneously), just as our company name suggests. We can see robots cleaning our homes, guarding our borders, fighting wars for us, assisting our elderly and being our companions, doing monotonous household chores and also protecting us. In domestic and civil life, robots are going to be the future of our civilization and in 10–15 years we will realise how integral to it they have become."

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Innovating for the Farmer

Innovating for the FarmerIn March 2012, then President Pratibha Patil presented the Sixth National Grassroots Innovation Awards to 47 innovators of India. Among the top three honorees was Mr Gurmail Singh Dhonsi of Ganganagar, Rajasthan, winner of the National First Award.

Rapid Compost Aerator and Tractor Mounted Tree Pruner, innovations that fetched him the national recognition, are prime examples of what drives Dhonsi. The compost aerator, in fact, was a follow up of the tree pruner. It was a remark by Surender Kumar Jakhad of Maujgarh, a Punjab village bordering Rajasthan, that set him thinking. Says Dhonsi, "Jakhad said why don't I make a machine for him that could use all the leaves and fruits wasted in pruning?" That was the lead for Dhonsi to start drawing for his next invention.

It was Jakhad, again, who inspired Dhonsi to develop his award winning tree pruner. A tractor mounted device, the pruner draws upon the tractor's hydraulic system to power its motor and operate the blades. The beauty of the simple device is that it can be mounted on any tractor of 40 hp and above. It can prune trees of up to 20 ft height; in about one hour it can prune and dress 200 trees consuming just 3.5 litres of fuel. The tree pruner is a cost, time and fuel-efficient innovation that can revolutionise farm production in orchards and horticulture gardens. NIF has filed a patent for the pruner which is priced at US$ 8550.

This 53-year-old inveterate innovator is not ready to hang up his boots yet. He is currently in the process of perfecting a ridge-maker. There are other machines on his agenda—all of them inspired by the grassroots problems of farmers and aimed at easing their workload. He wishes to produce these on a large scale for economy of scale benefits and hopes for subsidies on raw material for himself and for farmers on finished goods. "If farmers get subsidy, it will be good," he says. Given Dhonsi's sincere pursuits, more inventions are sure to come out of his ‘workshop'.

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With a Human Heart

The field of biomedical engineering is just coming into its own in India. CGN Research Labs is unique in its devotion to the promotion of cutting-edge research, technology and innovation in a field that would add lustre to India's growth story. Dr C Jairaj Kumar, Director, R&D, and Chief Medical Officer, CGN Research Labs, is confident of the country increasing its presence in the field: "Majority of the medical equipments that we use are currently imported or non-Indian innovations. We do not have established Indian medical device innovations that rule international market. But this field offers huge potential with increasing promotional programmes aimed at encouraging Indian innovations. We are sure several Indian companies shall make their mark in medical device industry in the near future." The researcher firmly believes that "established mid-sized medical device companies in India must focus on path breaking innovations rather than making small technical improvements to their existing device." This is the way for India to make its mark as an innovator of medical equipment on the global firmament.

CGN Research Labs was founded in 2010 by Dr Jairaj Kumar, Joint Managing Director of the company and Mr C Satish Kumar, Chairman and Managing Director, with two inventions-the first was a device that uses the revolutionary chaos theory to diagnose diabetic neuropathy and the second a device called Thermo Scan, that was developed using a patented nanoparticle focal plane array.

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A Green Extension

With a Human Heart It is a bit incongruous to find a game application on a website which is purported to have unleashed a quiet revolution in India's countryside. But right below the neatly stacked vignettes of farming activities is the link to the game which takes you to Facebook. You're inclined to dismiss it as a takeoff on Farmville, another app that has 21 million Facebook community members hooked. But, Wonder Village, with 22,000 registered uset, does what it says—bridge the real and virtual, with the aim to raise social awareness and help raise funds for the development sector. There are many such technological marvels in store as you trawl the website to understand what exactly Digital Green innovates.

Digital Green was established in 2006 in Bangalore by Rikin Gandhi, a young computer science graduate from Carnegie Mellon University and masters in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A pilot with ambitions to become an astronaut, Gandhi changed course midstream. In fact, it was to help start a biodiesel venture on the wastelands of Maharashtra that had brought Gandhi to India. No one could have foreseen that the boy born and raised in the US would decide to soon ‘reverse migrate' to India and work in the rural countryside.

Today, Digital Green's ‘agriculture extension innovation' has wrought beneficial changes in the lives of 109,911 farmers of 1,541 villages belonging to six states of India. Not surprisingly then, the International Fertiliser Association (IFA) has recognised Gandhi for the 2012 IFA Norman Borlaug Award. In 2010, Gandhi also featured in Technology Review's Annual List of 35 Innovators under 35 years of age. The same year, he was one of the eight visionaries to feature in The Fortune Global Forum Visionaries List.

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Nurturing Innovation

Nurturing Innovation Genome Valley is India's first biotechnology cluster and home to some of the most prestigious research and development (R&D) institutions. It provides world-class infrastructure to more than 100 biotechnology companies for conducting cutting-edge research in life sciences, training their scientists, scientific collaboration and manufacturing activities. In the heart of this cluster, the IKP Knowledge Park sits on a sprawling 200-acre campus. Launched in 1999 by ICICI Bank in partnership with the government of Andhra Pradesh, the park fosters innovation in life sciences. The park contains five facilities that it calls innovation corridors. The first of these corridors holds 10 cavernous laboratories.

The park's mission is to "create a world class centre for leading-edge business-driven research in India," says Deepanwita Chattopadhyay, its managing director and CEO. The IKP Knowledge Park has some of the most distinguished scientist entrepreneurs on its board who have made it their mission to deepen India's research achievements.

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Asking the right questions!

Asking the right questions! Giri Balasubramaniam, founded Greycaps India Pvt Ltd in Bengaluru in 1999. It is now the country's second largest quiz company.

"Greycaps began as the translation of a passion. When we were quizzing in our college days in the late eighties and early nineties we found that quizzing needed the infusion of fresh blood and ideas. For the audience, quizzing was also very difficult. There were two kinds of attendees—those who had read up, and those who did not even understand the questions, leave alone know the answers. People found quizzes for the brainy, not for entertainment. Perhaps because in that era quizzing was largely confined to statistical data—remembering dates and numbers, per capita income, growth, production data etc." said Balasubramaniam.

Therefore, he wanted to make quizzing entertaining, easier and more widely sought and enjoyed. Soon, Giri and some of his classmates began developing such quizzes. These quizzes, were more awareness based, they were about recent happenings.

Greycaps holds the merit of having held India's biggest business quiz—for Tata Sons in 2004 called Tata Crucible–the quiz formed part of the centenary celebrations of the Tatas, and has now become an annual event.

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Wood Worth

Wood Worth Imli Toshi Namo, a young innovator who grew up in Nagaland, spent his time roaming around the sprawling bamboo plantations and observing the grass being harvested and processed, before it was shaped into furniture or items of handicraft.

In 2006, Imli designed Arulepsa, the prototype of an integrated, precision-controlled, bamboo processing machine. Arulepsa processes five feet of highly finished bamboo per minute. That is approximately 25 times the speed of manual processing. "Even then, the finished bamboo that Arulepsa produces is far more uniform, better finished, well-planned and surfaced," according to Imli.

The prototype and its improvement cost him a total of INR 300,000 (US$ 6,725). He received funding from the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) and the National Bamboo Mission (NBM).

Imli says the first of the new machines should roll out by August this year. He is thinking of pricing them at INR 80,000 (US$ 1,800) each.

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Express Innovation

Express Innovation Satish Deb of Bhilai in Chhattisgarh, an inspired innovator, has revived the dying treadle presses with a cheap and easy conversion kit. He has converted the slow and foot-operated treadle press into a smart screen printing press, and has a US patent for his innovation.

Satish received his first patent on March 10, 1999 and now has five patents for various versions of his machine. The innovation successfully combines the technologies of screen printing with letter press machines. The cost of the Motek India Treadle press kit is about Rs 25,000 (US$ 550), against Rs 125,000 (a little more than US$ 2750), for a new offset press. Satish's kit increases the efficiency of the treadle press at least five times, and makes the press versatile.

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The Coolest Little Refrigerator For Rural India

The Coolest Little Refrigerator For Rural India Godrej has de