Is the Firepower for Innovation missing in India ?


What is Innovation? Is it all about discovering groundbreaking theories? Or is it about re-inventing the wheel? Could the development of products embedded with disruptive technology be equated to Innovation? Is innovation all about the intertwining of sophisticated technology with the highest level of optimization? Well, Innovation is nothing but applying new ideas or modifying an existing concept that solves the problem or meets customer needs. It's not about inculcating rocket science concepts. It is all about how simple the idea is and its ease of implementation to reality. Studying intensive theoretical subjects alone won't induce innovation. Understanding the needs of the user is indispensable.

And Dr.Vishal Rao had understood this in-depth. An oncologist who is a head and neck surgeon at HealthCare Global Cancer center, located at Bengaluru, was in charge of treating patients affected by Cancer. People suffering from throat cancer were always in a delirious state when they have to undergo an operation for laryngeal cancer as it would result in the removal of their voice box or larynx. So, as a replacement for the voice box, a prosthetic voice box has to be implanted. This works similar to our voice box. It consists of a valve that enables us to us make sound by pushing air from our lungs through the valve. To ensure that the air from the lungs flows through the oesophagus(food pipe), we need to press our fingers against the stoma(opening) of our throat.

And placing this implant does not necessarily mean that the treatment is complete. This has to be replaced after a particular period. And this comes with an extremely cozy price tag of average Rs. 22,000 which is far away from the reach of an average Joe. An estimated 25,000 people(which keeps increasing every year) in our country require this artificial voice box. But the majority of them are not able to afford this because of their financial constraints. This made Dr. Vishal Rao think of an alternative cheaper solution without zero compromises on quality.

Voila, he figured out an idea to achieve this exquisite task. But then he was not sure of the nooks and corners of the industrial domain to convert his idea into a reality. That's where his friend Shashank, a person rich in industrial expertise came into his rescue. Awe-struck on knowing the intention of Dr. Rao's slow-cost reliable healthcare product, both of them work deliberately for two years to research on the material, principle, and methods to manufacture at a low cost with considerable profit. Don’t think that they charged an exorbitant profit! With a manufacturing cost of Rs.47 and a profit of Rs.3, they rolled out this new product at a total cost of meager Rs 50 per device and it weighed 25 grams and 2.5 cm in length

Remarkably, the material used to make this was from high-quality silicon. Their simple design and ease of manufacturing helped them to reduce the cost to a greater extent apart from inheriting the necessary techniques for bringing this into the market. As they got permission from the regulatory body, they started manufacturing it under the name AUM voice prosthesis. Through their innovation, people would be able to communicate once again with much ease. And with the support provided by Puttaparthi University, the Innaumation Medical Grants was formed to enlighten innovative concepts in the healthcare sector.

Well, a common question arises in everyone's mind. When a country having a population of billion people with millions of youngsters, why there is a lag in developing such low-cost disruptive products. The answer is not that we lag technical knowledge, it lies in bridging the gap between ideas and its transformation into a viable business product. There are so many people with rich knowledge having no connection with entrepreneurs who possess the capability to commercialize into a viable business model. Bringing doctors and engineers together was the most important thing required for bringing the change. With help of Ankit Gupta, the founder of Docs and hackers which acts as a platform for bridging the above-mentioned gaps, they were able to start the Bengaluru chapter of Docs and Hackers to spur the innovation growth.

Only when such institutions are created and the awareness of the presence of these models are spread everywhere, there would be rapid growth in bringing innovative products into reality. Although there are so many government institutes offering this help, a huge gap exists in bringing awareness about these bodies in the first instance to the public. Public media also pays less attention to these institutes. To improve this situation, the existing communication channels have to be revamped and new techniques have to be adopted to have easier access for people lying in any part of the country. Institutes such as the National Innovation Foundation and other bodies must work even more on spreading knowledge on the various platform available for the people to bring their idea to reality and bridge the gap between technical researcher and industrial experts.


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