Google+ Consumer Psyche: India's rural inventors drive change

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Friday, January 29, 2010

India's rural inventors drive change

Mansukh Prajapati invented a first-of-a-kind refrigerator that is made out of terracotta, works without electricity, costs US$53 and is selling in the thousands. It's a sample of an innovation wave from rural and small-town India enriching the world with common-sense products.

Anil Gupta, a professor at India's premier business school, the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, leads a pioneering tribe of technocrats working for no-frills change at the mass level, by harnessing knowledge wealth from economically weaker sections of society.

"Being economically poor does not mean being knowledge-poor," Gupta told Asia Times Online. "But the poor who are at the bottom of the economic pyramid are often considered as being at the bottom of the knowledge pyramid as well. Nothing could be further from the truth."

To prove the truth that wisdom does not depend on university degrees, Gupta's 21-year-old Honey Bee Network has compiled an unprecedented database of 140,000 innovations created by farmers, villagers and small-town inventors. Many have no formal education or technical training. Teams of Honey Bee volunteers scout across India to hunt out local innovations, inventions and traditional knowledge practices.

The Honey Bee Network of rural and small-town inventors, academics, scientists, entrepreneurs, policymakers and volunteers gather, pool, develop and share know-how from a mass-based, much-ignored source. India's heart beats in its villages, and the country is entering a phase of listening to its heartbeat.

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