Celebrating the ‘Decade of Innovation’ at the ASME India Conclave

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Celebrated and established speakers from various disciplines came together to:

  •     Understand the forces driving the general Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) market, and discuss specific engineering solutions
  •     Identify the products, business models and principles that are effectively serving the BoP market
  •     Identify potential ways ASME could engage in the BoP by engaging the engineer community

The ASME India Conclave is an endeavor from The American Society of Mechanical Engineers to promote art, science and the practice of multidisciplinary engineering and related sciences around the globe.

Professor Ravi Prakash, the Vice Chancellor at Jaypee University of Information Technology who currently chairs the ASME India section, kick-started the event with his opening remarks on ‘Innovation.’ He also elaborated that innovation is different from invention, as innovation requires the input of ideas, whereas invention requires the input of cash and should lead to revenue generation.

Sam Pitroda, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations, made the inaugural address. Emphasizing the role of innovation towards bolstering inclusive growth, Sam Pitroda elaborated on how the ‘National Innovation Council is working towards democratization of information and e-governance by adopting cloud computing. During this talk, Sam Pitroda focused on four key points:

a)     Building ‘innovation’ as a platform – Innovation is geared towards the bottom of the pyramid and all efforts are aimed at making processes, governance, health and agriculture more inclusive, affordable, scalable and sustainable.

b)    Improving ecosystems – New policies are being formulated for entrepreneurship, venture capital and angel investment. More energy is being invested at understanding intellectual property rights to create a fertile ground for innovation.

c)     Inclusive Innovation funds – Many clusters of small and medium scale enterprises are being educated by innovation. These clusters are being further connected to universities to show them the benefits of innovation and new opportunities that help create shared wealth.

(From left) Panelists Thomas Loughlin, Executive Director – ASME, PaparaoKodali, VP & GM – Ingersoll Rand,  Marc Goldsmith, President – ASME, Prof. Ravi Prakash, Vice Chancellor of JUIT, listening to the inaugural address by Sam Pitroda

Sam Pitroda’s address was followed by a series of panel discussions by thought leaders from diverse fields. Here are a few key take-aways from the sessions: -

H.K. Mittal (right) and Bansi Phansalkar (left) delivered their keynote talks at the conclave

  •     For innovation to be scalable it must be affordable –For an innovation to be scalable it must be accepted, adapted and affordable for the masses. Mobiles phones are a case in point. “Focus on a deliverable product rather than a disposable product”-Sam Pitroda.
  •     Marriage between marketing and engineering – G. Sunderraman, VP and, Godrej & Boyce, explained the importance of a perfect synchronization between the ‘thermodynamics of engineering’ and the ‘thermodynamics of marketing’ which was used in Godrej’s innovation, ‘chhotukool’ – a refrigerator for the BoP masses. G. Sunderraman believes that rural entrepreneurship is the answer to alleviate rural poverty in India. He very rightly stated -“Create earnings for the BoP before you make them spend”.
  •     Enhancing the value chain – Rural industries generate large-scale employment opportunities in the rural sector, as most rural industries are labor-intensive. L. Kannan, a rural technologist, shared his journey in the field of rural entrepreneurship and how innovation can lead to the elimination of intermediaries, thereby enhancing the earnings of the BoP in rural India. He further said that there is a need to relook  the definition of ‘quality’- “We need to re-examine the definition of quality. Quality should be defined by the context.”
  •     Focus on solving bigger challenges – Industry driven innovation has, in the past decade, paved the way for an innovation-driven industry where ideas are nurtured and aggressively protected. HK Mittal, Secretary of the Technology Development Board, Department of Science & Technology, advised entrepreneurs to evaluate the size of the problem before venturing out. He also laid emphasis on providing affordable and frugal solutions to make the products or services scalable. For entrepreneurs it is critical to start young and act.

New innovation is a process of risk mitigation – While most other speakers spoke about frugal innovation, Bansali Phansalkar, GM – GE Energy addressed the topic with a different lens. He said that looking at new innovation as a process for risk mitigation is the recipe to succeed in large infrastructure projects.