Grassroot innovations draw India Inc

Source: Business Standard, May 23, 2011

Mumbai/ Ahmedabad: While so far the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) spearheaded innovations at grassroots level, the organisation is now getting a sound support from India Inc. With word spreading around about interesting innovations being discovered from across the country, corporates are queueing up at NIF to for commercial and social tie-ups.

While the likes of Future Group and Britannia intend to brand and market such grassroots innovations in food products discovered by NIF, power equipment company Alstom is joining hands with NIF for pilot projects in low-cost windmills.

For instance, retail giant Future Group recently unveiled Nutraceutical Cookies, developed by three tribal women innovators from Panchmahal in Gujarat. The products have been unveiled by Future Group in association with National Innovation Foundation (NIF) under the aegis of their ‘Khoj lab- India ka Idea’ initiative. With a memorandum of understanding (MoU) being signed between them in December 2010, the tie-up will result in more such launches in the coming months, said Future Group.

The patented cookies are made from natural ingredients under the four categories of Anaj, Cornif, Kodri and Farari, and are rich in calcium, protein, omega 3 fatty acids, dietary fibre, phosphorus and iron, its bio-active and antioxidant compounds. The cookies will be available in two pack sizes of 100 grams and 200 grams at all Big Bazaar and Food Bazaar stores. Starting with the six Big Bazaar outlets in Ahmedabad, the product will be sold in across Big bazaar outlets in India soon.

According to Anil Gupta, executive vice chairman at NIF, the organisation is also in talks with another FMCG major Britannia for a similar tie-up. “While we have been promoting grassroots innovations since sometime, it is now that they are seeing us mainstream. What makes our innovations different is that we try to sell by people and not to people. It is a positive sign to see many corporates showing interest in our grassroots innovation,” said Gupta.

Apart from retail and FMCG, NIF is also in talks with corporates for commercial or social tie-ups in verticals like automobile, food and food processing, technology, agriculture, energy and transport.On the social front, Alstom Foundation has extended financial support of 56000 euros (Rs 35.68 lakhs approx.) to Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network (GIAN) and NIF for setting up 50 low-cost windmills for irrigation in salt farming areas of Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. “The low-cost windmills are an innovation by two brothers from Assam which was identified by NIF. GIAN has been adding value to the innovation and helping the innovators make it more commercially viable. This green technology will help cut the diesel expenses and labour by 40 percent and 18 windmills have already been installed for the same. Among corporates, Alstom Foundation, the CSR wing of Alstom Group has shown interest in supporting use of low-cost windmills for irrigation in salt farming in Gujarat,” said Mahesh Patel, chief innovation manager, GIAN.

GIAN and NIF are planning to set up in all 130 windmills in the near future in three phases and hope to see more corporate support for the same.



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