people’s festival of Innovation:
blending deep tech and grassroots innovations

There have been many initiatives and engagements by the Honey Bee Network over the last four decades influencing the evolution of  inclusive innovation ecosystem. The recognition, respect and rewards for the innovations from and for grassroots was one of them. However, an important gap was bridged through partnership between C-CAMP and GIAN when around 50 deep tech innovations-based start-ups curated or supported by C-CAMP and 50 grassroots innovations supported by HBN and GIAN were invited to share their innovations with various stakeholders at first People’s Festival of Innovations. The Festival was a part of Diamond jubilee celebrations of India International Centre, New Delhi. Dr Renu Swarup, former secretary, DBT, Govt of India being a member of the organizing committee of Diamond Jubilee celebration of IIC along with Prof Shailesh Nayak curated the festival in collaboration with prof Anil Gupta, Founder, Honey Bee Network and GIAN  bringing deep tech and grassroots innovations on a single platform. Dr. Taslimarif Saiyed,Director, C-CAMP along with his team coordinated the deep tech innovations. Dr Swati Basu, former secretary, Principal Scientific Adviser office coordinated with Delhi life-science cluster and PSA office for supporting the Festival. GIAN team was led by Dr Anamika Dey, CEO and Chief Innovation Officer.

It was realized that a festival which was open to all would trigger unexpected partnerships among innovators but also with various stakeholders. Democratizing innovation is the need of the hour. It is not necessary that every visitor to the exhibition would be curious about the same aspect of an innovation. The experience has vindicated this hope. The representatives from various embassies, institutions, research labs, businesses including domestic traders, export houses, policy makers and numerous other organizations visited the Festival. Most of them were intrigued by the blending of deep tech and grassroots innovations but some of them  made new connections for the innovators on the spot. Abdul Razzak, innovator of the fuel-efficient rocket stove from Kerala sold 20 stoves during the exhibition as against five or six sold per month back home. Bijayshanti Tongbram from Manipur also made some sales. Farmer breeder, Prakash Singh Raghuvanshi, shared his Kudrat seed of wheat variety freely with  those interested.

One of the volunteers, Priyanshu from Madhubani, Bihar  studying in Karori Mal college, Delhi University,  learned making a coffee from roasted seeds of dates  from an innovator of multi-purpose food processing machine, Dharambir.  He  got encouraged to pursue entrepreneurship in the process. Prof Archana of Lady Irwin college and Prof Raj Kumar from Karori Mal college provided several volunteers for  a few days. Kamal, a HBN volunteer invited about 25 farmer members from various villages of Haryana and  UP to participate in the exhibition and also share experience of crop protection through insect-ecosystem not pesticides,

An exporter from Kashmir got so motivated after meeting several innovators from J&K that he offered to get some products developed for them for export market. Within a few days, he got apple dried chips made which will be sold at GIAN stall at Sattvik Traditional food festival at Ahmedabad, Dec 22-26, 2022 by SRISTI and HBN.  Two other deep tech entrepreneurs Ansuman and Kunal at the Festival have extracted high quality dis-flavoured  protein from pulses. They are also planning to reach common people through Sattvik.

Everyday, there was a story telling session in the afternoon at Gandhi-King ground at Festival site. Prof Gupta shared on social media stories of at least two deep tech and two grassroots innovators. In the process, some of the deep tech innovators got ideas about repurposing their innovations for community level applications. Grassroots agricultural innovators asked Maheshwar Rai, developer of  a portable microscope with 8000x amplification, to explore its use for farmers to identify diseases of crops. Ramya and Nikhil  had developed headgear based brain stimulant to reduce depression through complimentary cognitive feedback. Amul Behel had developed certain nano particle based essential oils for this and other purposes. Both tried to explore cooperation to enhance mutual effectiveness. This was in line with six models of Network entrepreneurship which were discussed by GIAN in the afternoon session. The creativity of Trash for Cash and stick for blind/old people by Akash Singh got a lot of traction in the festival. He collected temple waste and converted these into useful crafts and idols. Rahul Singh, a student entrepreneur from Gorakhpur, impressed everybody by his brilliance in academics as well as in his start up. He manufactures solar tractors and has sold already 20 of them while pursuing his studies in a college at Noida. He gets up at 3 am and after studying also monitors work in his factory through telephone and then attends classes and scores more than 9/10 cgpa in the first year. GIAN team led by Dr Anamika Dey, CEO supported him under MVIF partly supported by SIDBI during COVID period without ever meeting him or asking or signing any legal documents, collateral or co-obligant. Under a single signature, the  amount was transferred to his account. He has already paid back the amount though the scheme. GIAN is looking for other social investors who would like to be part of such a model of risk capital at early stage to mainly rural innovation based entrepreneurs. Akash and more than two dozen grassroots innovators including Murgesan, producer of banana fibre ropes, crafts yarn etc.,  from Tamil Nadu  were financed under the MVIF. Murgesan shared how his contributions were appreciated by the Honorable Prime Minister in his Mann ki baat in 2021. Several more innovators were mentioned by the PM likewise including Bijayshanti from Manipur. Sunda Ram ji, Padma award winner and a very sincere HBN collaborator was also present at the Festival and inspired many visitors. A young boy had planted more than thousand trees in Rajasthan inspired by Sundaram ji technology of growing trees in arid region with one litre water once. Adhi visited the exhibition along with his grandmother to learn from other innovators.

Karan rao, an innovator used bamboo fibre for making air filter and rice starch for making the frame fitted on a fan to improve indoor air quality. He showed how such a fan could bring the AQI of 350 to 50 in two hours in Delhi. There was only one catch. He would sell the limited quantity he made only to schools or families which had young children since their right over clean air was first. What an impressive business value, full of concern for the future leaders of our society.

Two panel session were organised on deep tech and innovations for and from grassroots. Both indicated enormous scope of expanding the opportunities for inclusive innovations.

Dr Rajiv Kumar, former Dy Chair, Nitri Aayog also visited the Festival and listened to the stories of the innovators and encouraged them to pursue their inclusive agenda with reinvigorated energy after the Festival. Dr Chintan Vaishnav, Director Atal Innovation Mission not only  visited the exhibition himself but also sent some of his team members  to draw inspiration  from the unique amalgam of deep tech and grassroots innovations. Dr Shailesh Nayak, Director, NIAS and a trustee of  IIC also listened to the stories of the innovators and encouraged all those present to absorb the energy unleashed by the Festival and pursue cooperation among themselves. Prof Gupta recalled the six models of network entrepreneurship which can leverage cooperation-based models and not just the ones based on competition.

The Festival was inaugurated by the Chairperson, IIC,  Shri Shyam Saran, Former Foreign secretary and Indian Representative in the COP on climate change,  in the presence of the organizing committee of the festival. He expressed hope that IIC might be able to support such a confluence of a broad spectrum of innovations at a common platform.  In the valedictory session, Shri K N Srivastava traced the long history of IIC and recalled how it has promoted ideas that help in nation building. He felt that the first People festival of Innovation has evoked tremendous positive and optimistic energy among the stakeholders of the ecosystem and IIC in particular. He assured all the help for the next Festival and felt that more space and support should be mobilised next time. It was very fortuitous that in the last session there were a large number of girl students from Lady Irwin school who came to visit the exhibition just before its closure. GIAN team interacted with them and explained about how young students could also innovate. May be next time, we should include the innovations by children too.

While Dr. Pratibha and Dr Swati from Ccamp, Ms. Kanta and Ms. Lalsawmliani Tochhawng from IIC were very helpful; Akshay, Kishore, Rageshri, Aashik, Dhyanesh, Sameer, Chetan and Parth from GIAN and HBN team  toiled day and night to make this event happen and run, helping the innovators and visitors!

Various  examples of creative innovations engaging the young and the old at the exhibition are presented through the  posters in this special double  issue of Honey Bee Newsletter. It is edited by Dr Anamika Dey, associate editor, HBN.

Anil K Gupta



Visiting Faculty, IIM Ahmedabad & IIT Bombay and an independent thinker, activist for the cause of creative communities and individuals at grassroots, tech institutions and any other walk of life committed to make this world a more creative, compassionate and collaborative place