Kyle Poplin

Weekly Roundup – 10/4/14: Reputation for cost-effectiveness blasting off in India

India’s recent successful launch of the Mangalyaan satellite to Mars was amazing on several fronts, not the least of which was its price tag. The mission cost $75 million. That’s a whopping $25 million less than it cost Hollywood to make “Gravity,” a movie about space travel, and $600 million less than NASA’s recent Mars mission, Maven.

“The mission is a triumph of low-cost Indian engineering,” Roddam Narasimha, an aerospace scientist and a professor at Bangalore’s Jawaharlal Nehru Center for Advanced Scientific Research, told the New York Times. “By excelling in getting so much out of so little, we are establishing ourselves as the most cost-effective center globewide for a variety of advanced technologies.”

The Mars mission is not a total shock. India also built the world’s cheapest car.

And faithful readers of NextBillion know that plenty of health care innovators are currently doing business in India, displaying remarkable cost-effectiveness. We’ve run blogs about many of them, including Narayana Health, with its $2,000 open-heart surgeries and world-class outcomes, and others.

GE Healthcare is a believer in India’s ingenuity. It built the largest R&D operation in the country, according to the Times, and has already produced low-cost innovations in infant health, cancer detection and heart disease treatment.

“If necessity is the mother of invention, constraint is the mother of frugal innovation,” Terri Bresenham, chief executive of GE Healthcare, South Asia, told the Times.

Harvard Business Review blogger Vijay Govindarajan says other multinationals should follow GE’s lead: “They should view India and other emerging economies not as just markets to exploit but also as sources of breakthrough innovations.”

India sent a satellite to Mars while working with resource constraints that would have paralyzed NASA for years. It’s an achievement that leaves those interested in global health wondering what might be possible. If low cost doesn’t have to equal low quality, and resource scarcity can serve to focus ideas, there just might come a day when international health care companies will be lining up to invest in India.

What’s a couple billion here and there?

Speaking of innovations in health care, it looks like we’re going to need more than we might have thought.

The United Nations Population Division said last month that it might have been a little off a few years ago when it predicted the world’s future population would stabilize at 9 billion or so. How far off? About 2 billion.

The new estimate, published in Science and reported by National Geographic: “There is an 80 percent probability that world population, now 7.2 billion, will increase to between 9.6 and 12.3 billion in 2100.”

Predictably, that growth is expected in less-developed countries. Most of it will occur in sub-Saharan Africa, where the population is predicted to quadruple by 2100, becoming as densely populated as China is today.

Specifically, Nigeria, already Africa’s most populated country, is expected to mushroom: Of the people added to the planet in this century, the UN told National Geographic, one in five will be Nigerian. That would bring that country to around 900 million folks.

Frighteningly, the World Health Organization ranks the Nigerian health care system among the worst in the world, or 187th out of 190 countries.

Global health experts frequently talk about the 4 billion people who currently live at the base of the pyramid. What if that number swells by a couple billion?

The main reason for the population miscalculation is the birth rate; it’s remained higher than expected in some parts of the world. Those numbers can change quickly, however. The birth rate in China and Brazil, for instance, went from more than six to less than two in three or four decades.

What can change the numbers? The experts agree: Increasing women’s access to education and family planning has been proven to slow birth rates.

The data show big challenges ahead, maybe bigger than imagined, but also reveal possible solutions.

’Dox-in-Box’ for NCD’s

At NextBillion, we love hearing about health-care related startups that aim to change the world. So we kept a close eye on this year’s Hult Prize, the student competition held annually in partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative. With more than 10,000 applicants, it’s been called “the Nobel Prize for students” by none other than Muhammad Yunus, Nobel laureate.

?This year, students were asked to design sustainable, scalable solutions to the problem of non-communicable disease in urban slums.

The winning team, NanoHealth from the Indian School of Business, designed a network of health workers equipped with “Dox-in-Box” to help diagnose patients, create health records and refer patients to health professionals when needed. It’s basically a “one-stop shop for all services related to chronic disease management,” according to the team’s application. As a result of their win, NanoHealth now has $1 million in startup funding to help get their idea off the ground.

Read more about their idea, and the proposals of the other five finalists, here.

The Hult challenge for 2015 concerns early childhood education. For more information, follow them on Twitter @hultprize? #‎hp15.

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