Sustaining Frugal green innovations: a new paradigm of empathetic and evocative ecosystem

Sustaining Frugal green innovations: a new paradigm of empathetic and evocative ecosystem

Frugality is not just about affordability. Even I had not stressed enough about circularity (that is, cradle to cradle approach of not developing a waste oriented economy) in my earlier talks and writings. It has of course been a core issue in the Honey Bee Network philosophy for the last twenty five years through a sieve of eight E’s that we use to screen opportunities: ethics, empathy, excellence, efficiency, equity, education, entrepreneurship and environment. While pursuing the innovations for the communities at so called base of economic pyramid, we commit several basic mistakes: a) treat poor people as sink of advice, assistance and aid rather than as a source of ideas, innovation, and institutional values, b) focus on short term at the point of consumption affordability to the neglect of effect on environment, ethics and empathy in society, c) young people who wish to develop solution for inclusive development should be supported where they are, that is in situ support, or incubation, distributed, diversified, decentralised and de-bureucratised; d) incubation model relies on too much control, too many rules, too many boundaries. I propose that we use sanctuary model for providing support to start ups. In the conventional incubator, chaos is outside, order inside. In the sanctuary model, it is opposite, chaos is inside and order outside. And e) most venture funds neglect and ignore very early stage ideas at the inception or sometimes just at proof-of-concept stage. We need to correct these mistakes, build reciprocal and mutually accountable connections between corporations and student start-ups, communities, grassroots innovators in the informal sector and also self-inspired and self-triggered social innovators. We need a new paradigm of empathetic and evocative eco-system. This will encourage young people to share more, balance collective and individual benefits appropriately, and embed concern for perfect strangers and nature in the entire supply chain.

comments are welcome here or by email
this is for a paper and also a talk at smu, singapore aug 26-7, 2014

how not to support start ups

there are several problems with these policies:

a) unless we decide to invest in student ideas when they are still students, that is, they r in their colleges and not when they join incubators, we will miss a lot of good ideas,

b) in situ incubation is the future, off site residential incubator framework is passe

c) we should not talk too much about how much share will be obtained by whom at at early stage, instead focus should be to provide an easy to handle helpful platform for taking one’s ideas forward, eventually, a stage will come when students will like to discuss how to go forward, at that stage discuss the respective stakes,

D) we need an online ecosystem ( see a n experimental platform) for collaboration, co-creation and co-sharing the ideas, e-commerce can also be integrated there

e) Unless government learns to be humble, flexible, amenable to openness and transparency, how will transaction costs go donw

this fund of 10k cr will work only when 90 per cent is investe din start ups and rest in sme

else it will be carry forward of same old fund that was proposed by NInc under sma PItroda when i failed to convince them to open it to very early stage start -ups
what a tragedy then it will be

karnataka must also learn lessons in this regard, the technical university is not taking steps to give a boost to early stage ventures yet, maybe things will change if corruption can be controlled, greater transparency can be brought and concerns of young innovators can be given importance

“only 12 early-stage investments worth $22 million in agribusiness start-ups since 2010, compared to 695 investments valued at nearly $2 billion in information technology”

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BRICKS by brick: an emerging new pole in the unipolar world

BRICS by brick: An emerging new pole in the world

Recent agreement, among BRICS nations [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] to develop a new development finance institution is a highly welcome step. A unipolar world needed very badly a new pole. India has the opportunity as the head of the new institution to create new standards of transparency, accountability, participation, democracy and empathy. The World Bank culture must be systematically shunned if the new institution has to make a difference. The first would be to avoid the tendency to make it a well-paying place for retired bureaucrats. The whole character of the institution will get changed if it brings together professionals on merit with bias towards youth and preference for enthusiasm over experience. It must be remembered that we need a new institution because we find the experience of the older institution not very welcome and happy. If we reproduce the same culture and same process of inducting staff, then there is no way a new culture can be crafted.

It is well known that society is expecting much more openness and much higher opportunity for participation in decision making. Every project document will have to be shared in local language with the communities to be affected by the outcome of the projects so that they can voice their opinions. Public sharing should be obligatory and modification of the project should be an indicator of degree of participation. If the original goals and the activities do not undergo a shift through the consultation, then either consultation was a farce or the project designers were so smart that they could read the minds of millions of people. World Bank does not do it.

The public procurement system under funded projects should follow the Brazilian model of reverse auction which made it possible for Brazil to reduce its procurement cost by 40 per cent more than a decade ago. Fiscal prudence is one of the norms for maintaining economic stability at national and international level. Subsidizing those who don’t deserve is a recipe for disaster. Free power and free water have created huge problem of non-sustainable resource use. Similarly, giving subsidized foods to people who don’t need it is a wasteful policy. Every country should make anti-poverty programme more targeted and focused. If these programmes can also become more entrepreneurial, then creativity of the people will be harnessed much better. The students of colleges should be mobilized for audit of various programmes and make suggestions for their local adaptation and improvement. If younger generation is involved more actively in the process of governance, then the future leaders are likely to become more accountable. The selection of the projects, the methodology of their appraisal, the choice of indicators for monitoring the success, etc., will need reconceptualization. The new development finance institution must promote zero tolerance for corruption. The salary structure of the staff must be compatible with the living standards in BRICS nations. These should not be set to European standards. That one step will make it less attractive for opportunistic people who join such services for post-retirement perks and other benefits. A new ethics of frugality and simplicity must be practiced to create a role model effect and influence the institutions financed by this new bank. The regional cooperation and joint ventures within and among the BRIC nations must be particularly encouraged. There should be a strong bias in favour of investments in the ideas of youth so that an entrepreneurial revolution takes place along with the kind of a Cultural Revolution. The long march of chairman Mao, the socio-technological revolution by President Lula, the great literary tradition of Leo Tolstoy Russia which inspired Mahatma Gandhi should be built upon in the new framework of development. The Chinese achievements of science and technology, high quality publications, surpassing global record in patents, should be complimented with the grassroots innovation movements of India, Russian achievements in space and nuclear power and Brazilian achievements in green energy and social technology and South African resolve to achieve cultural pluralism in a country so deeply divided for so long. There is an opportunity for redefining the discourse on development by the leadership of BRICS nations. The sun rising in the east should shower its rays much more evenly and compassionately worldwide. China will have to contain its desire to have excessive control on African minerals and other resources. Africa should see a new era of knowledge and technological public goods being shared by the BRICS nations so as to create a more emancipatory developmental conditions. I hope that Indian Presidency of the new development bank will set new standards of probity, purposefulness and prosperity through an open, inclusive and shared culture.

Making budget more responsive to the aspirations of the youth

Making budget more responsive to the aspirations of the youth

There have been several welcome announcements in the budget that deserve appreciation, even if some of them are symbolic and segmented. For instance, the venture capital fund for MSME, district level incubation and accelerator programme, startup village entrepreneurship programme for rural youth, technology research centre network to promote innovation, entrepreneurship and agro industry, national climate adaptation fund, virtual classroom for cultivating knowledge, fund for restoring soil health, halting deteriorating malnutrition, etc., are encouraging ideas. I welcome them and hope that the implementation of these ideas will be responsive and agile to meet the expectations of entrepreneurial community of the country. The tragedy is that many of the earlier programmes, for e.g., Food Security Act to provide cheap food to people who neither demanded nor deserved it has not been refocused only for the poor. There was a strong opportunity to recast these programmes so that we first eliminate the worst form of poverty and only later alleviate the stress of other vulnerable communities. Otherwise, we will achieve neither. The rural employment guarantee programme has been only marginally modified to give stress on productive assets even on private land [which is appreciable], but the definition of the work has not been changed. The fundamental assumption of the last 67 years that a large majority of rural poor are so-called unskilled labourers has not been challenged.

Despite some stress on skill building, the idea of leveraging traditional skills and competences has been left out. The physical work has not been matched or widened to include mental work. Irony is that UPA government didn’t give due recognition to the skilled people of the country and the NDA government has continued that prejudice. If a sculptor, highly qualified mason or a gardener is asked to dig earth and break stones to get employment even on private land, the erosion of innate skills does not stop. To consider majority of the traditional skills and knowledge systems as redundant and dispensable is not a worthy assumption for a dignified society. Many of these skilled people can become part time teachers in the schools to teach young kids and build their interest in various other forms of societal learning. Many of these artists could be engaged to paint the walls of primary and secondary schools and encourage children who have talent to join them. What is wrong in considering that as a legitimate work to be paid for under MNREGA?

The restructuring of District Innovation Fund has been left out. If the Finance Secretary organizes a tele conference with any 50 District Collectors, he will know in an hour that the DIF is being used mainly to buy furniture, upgrade offices and such other things, which have nothing to do with innovation. The Fund requires decentralization and a sharp focus on only innovative ideas from or for public systems and purposes. I hope 14th Finance Commission will take note of it and try to restructure both the DIF and also the Centre for Innovation in Public Systems, both of which have failed in their mission. I feel guilty for not having anticipated this outcome at the time of preparing the proposals.

We should learn from the mistakes of the past and create a highly flexible, trust based and responsive system of implementation for various initiatives announced in the budget. The Venture Capital Fund for MSME should include at least 20 per cent allocation for early stage technologies by young engineering and other technology students for taking proof of concept ideas further. It is well known that more than 90 per cent ideas are aborted for want of angel support at the early stages. Despite focus on youth in the manifesto, the neglect of youth in such a major programme is difficult to understand. I am happy that promotion of entrepreneurship based on innovative ideas at village and district level has received so much attention. I find the argument of kick-starting the process now and expanding these initiatives in the next budget in 2015 quite meaningful. This way each programme machinery will have a chance to prove its worth and thus claim higher share of resources next year. Seeding ideas with smaller allocation of rupees 100 crore each is a sensible entrepreneurial model of public policy experimentation. If UPA government had followed this approach, they would not commit huge resources for programmes, which they could not properly target and deliver. The high quality generic medicine in public health system was a good idea but poorly implemented. National Innovation Council was also a good idea but again very poorly implemented. Not one penny could be invested in the early stage ideas of young innovators. Will the new government repeat the mistakes of the previous government or learn from it will become apparent from the reply to the budget speech in the coming few weeks. I hope the Finance Minister will not hesitate in making amends wherever necessary to give a fillip to the entrepreneurial model, so strongly articulated as a contrast to the legacy of only entitlement based model of development. Indian growth hinges on the growth of MSME and young startups. They deserve empathy, early stage hassle free support [not only in the form of venture capital but also R&D grants where necessary] and a time bound responsiveness. Grassroots innovators have remained on the margin of the developmental story. We will wait till the minds on the margin don’t remain the marginal minds as far as resource allocation is concerned. Sooner or later, the margins of the country will become the mainstream.

Wanted four Research Associates/innovation champions

Wanted three or four Research Associates/innovation champions


Post graduates in social or natural sciences with keen eye for detail, patience with impossible deadlines, and willingness to enjoy workaholic schedule;

Experience in editing, communication and research both  library and field oriented will be added advantage. The Person should not treat it as a work opportunity but consider as an investment in his/her learning capabilities in the field of innovation eco-system management



Key tasks are:

Support in  organization of International Conference on Creativity and innovation at Grassroots, Jan 15-19, 2015 iima (;  library and field research on open innovation systems,  linking corporate  innovation strategies with more open, inclusive and responsive innovation and learning strategies; documentation of Innovations in Public systems, rural and urban areas, formal and informal sector, possible organization of Inventor of India ( FIFTH WORKSHOP),  innovations for CLIMATE CHANGE resilience;  they may also assist me in courses  such as: CINE, MTSA, GRIIT, SMIPR, IB, SY etc.,

Scholars are encouraged to publish alone or co-publish papers based on the research

Compensation likely to modest but sufficient to keep spirit of inquiry alive and vibrant; in some cases part time appointments can be considered, but all positions are full time