One Idea You Need To Know in 2011: The Floating Bicycle


Nicole Perlroth


This post is part of an ambitious project at Forbes Magazine to crowd source the cover of our January issue with “Names You Need To Know in 2011. Click here to submit your ideas for names and ideas that have potential to shake things up in the coming year. The best suggestions will run in the magazine.

In the wake of this year’s devastating floods in Pakistan, I’ve become personally intrigued with a name few have heard of, Mohammad Saidullah, and his simple, yet potentially life-saving idea: the floating bicycle.

I learned of Saidullah and his amphibious bicycle through the Honeybee Network, the organization created by Indian business professor Anil Gupta that aims to track innovation in India’s rural villages. Since 1988, Gupta has been traversing India in search of inventions that are changing the lives of the country’s rural poor. The network now boasts 13,000 inventions, from a foot-pedal operated washing machine to a mobile phone-activated irrigation pump that saves farmers the time and hassle of manually turning on/off water in their fields. More recently, Gupta worked with the Indian government to establish the National Innovation Foundation, which helps scale grassroots innovations, formalizes their intellectual property rights and is ultimately helping transition India’s rural masses into self-sustaining entrepreneurs.

In the process, the Honeybee Network is drawing attention to entrepreneurs like Mohammad Saidullah, who developed a simple contraption out of necessity that now has the power to save thousands of lives.

Saidullah arrived at the idea for a floating bicycle during one particularly grisly flood season in his home state of Bihar, India. Like many in his town, Saidullah used a bicycle to get around and a boat to cross a river to procure basic flood provisions in a nearby city. He thought if only he could make his bicycle float on water, he could save the cost of hiring a boat to cross the river and catching a bus once he arrived on the other side.

It took Saidullah three days and just over $130 dollars to create his amphibious bicycle. He named it the NOOR Bicycle (after his wife), and claims he can now assemble a model for half that much.

Such a simple invention with the power to transform the lives of so many should be a shoe-in for our cover. I’m interested to hear what you think? Does this simple contraption have the potential to scale in 2011? Are there similar innovations worth highlighting on our cover?

Anil K Gupta