Ideas man: professor in quest for India’s rural inventions
Monday, August 6, 2012
t’s 43 degrees Celsius, and Prof. Anil Gupta has been hiking the scorched plains of central India for hours. But he smiles widely as he enters a tiny village in search of another unsung genius. “If you have any new ideas or you have any new inventions, I’m here to promote you,” he tells farmers squatting beside a dusty roadside shrine to Lord Shiva.
For more than two decades, Gupta has scoured rural India for its hidden innovations, motivated by the belief that the most powerful ideas for fighting poverty and hardship won’t come from corporate research labs, but from ordinary people struggling to survive.
Gupta, 59, and his aides have uncovered more than 25,000 inventions, from the bicycle-mounted crop sprayer to the electric paintbrush that never needs to be dipped in a paint can.
Many of the cheap, simple ideas he spreads for free from one poor village to another with the inventor’s blessing. Some he is working to bring to market, ensuring the innovator gets the credit and the profit that will spur others to create as well. Many ideas are simply documented in his database waiting for some investor to spot their potential. He routinely dispenses tiny grants, either from a government fund or his own web of organizations, to help poor innovators finish their projects.