Ideas That Spread, Win

Ideas that spread, win. Some ideas spread like a wild fire while others turn out to be a damp squib. As per Seth Godin, an idea has to be remarkable enough to catch attention. If it is not bold or audacious enough, no one will notice. But just having a purple cow of an idea will not make it go viral. There is a method to the madness. Even if you have a hotshot idea, not everyone will be interested to listen to it. So, the first task, if you want to spread your idea, is to figure out who is interested to listen to your idea. Typically, one needs to talk to innovators and early adopters among the consumer base to spread the idea. They are the people who care to listen. So, connect with them first. Then, a critical mass will be formed and slowly the idea will snowball.
Christian Sarkar and Vijay Govindrajan mooted the housing problem for the poor and turned it over to the crowd as a design challenge. The 300$ house challenge was definitely a purple cow. It was one of its kind events. It promised an invigorating intellectual exercise for the students, academicians and research community. It offered economic opportunity for those marketers and business that want to milk the bottom of the housing pyramid. It offered CSR opportunity for others and promised to do some good for the poor. Rarely has there been such an idea that brings in so many benefits together in its wake to so many diverse stakeholders. They threw open a competition to students, architects, businesses to design the best prototype for a 300$ house. This was an exercise and experiment with reverse innovation. For a localized problem, a decentralized global team would provide a solution.
One thing led to another. Many people and groups were interested. There were as many as 300 responses.  Innovation is contagious. People did not stop at providing the design. Some went further. They built prototypes and some went a step further to build sustainable communities and villages.
Now, being aware of an idea does not mean anything. It is what you do with it. So what are you going to do about it?
This post is written as part of ‘The Idea Caravan’ organized by Indibloggers with Franklin Templeton Investments. Franklin Templeton Investments partnered with the TEDxGateway Mumbai organized in December 2012.

Time is Money

Franklin Templeton, the investment company is listed on the NYSE under the ticker BEN. This was in honor of Benjamin Franklin, who was highly admired by Johnson, Sr., the founder of the company. Benjamin Franklin was one of the founding fathers of the modern day US. He was born in 1706. Very few people in this world have donned as many different hats as Franklin.  In his lifetime, he had been a great statesman, a shrewd politician, an astute businessman, prominent philosopher & writer and printer, inventor and diplomat. He was a person who made up his mind to cultivate his virtues. He listed all the character traits that he wanted to develop and then spent considerable time enhancing each character trait.  In fact his autobiography is a bible and workbook on character building.
In a 1748 article, "Advice to a Young Tradesman, Written by an Old One", Ben Franklin announced "Time is money". This phrase has since become a holy grail of many men and almost all business enterprise. I can even stick my neck out and state that in today's world, time is not money, but in fact become more (important) than money. Well, almost for everyone.
How would you react if I tell you that from tomorrow you have to spend 5 hours every day on your feet to secure water for your domestic use? 
Is this some kind of a joke? You may be wondering why on earth anyone would do that. Water anyway comes directly to your taps. If ever there is a shortage in supply, you do have money in your wallet.  You can always place an order for a water tanker privately. Most of us are smart enough to avoid all such hassles. We buy all amenities and conveniences in exchange for money.
But there are remote villages in India where womenfolk have to carry pots full of water over their head everyday for more than 5 hours. These women, who carry such heavy load, apart from risk of developing health problems, are also wasting 25% of their life in completely avoidable chores. This is not a figment of my imagination. It is the fact in many of our villages. If they had water available to them easily, it would be a boon to all such people.
An enthusiastic team, an innovative idea, and a big dose of determination is all that is needed to change the life of many people in those villages.
See how Cynthia Koenig of Wello water is contributing to the lives and times of the villagers. With this innovative approach, they are not only providing them with an alternate delivery mechanism, but also are giving the villagers the gift of several productive hours every day. They are giving them the gift of time. And as I mentioned earlier, time is greater than money.
But, here is my take on this.  I agree on the benefit of time saving part. But Wello water and other organizations promoting this should not just let the 5 extra hours that these women gain daily, just fizzle out doing nothing. There should be some mechanism to get the womenfolk utilize this free time for their benefit and that of all others in their village community. Can you think of any innovative idea that can help villagers utilize the extra time they get?
This post is written as part of ‘The Idea Caravan’ organized by Indibloggers with Franklin Templeton Investments. Franklin Templeton Investments partnered with the TEDxGateway Mumbai organized in December 2012.

Think From The Heart

Last weekend we went to Eat Street.  Eat street is a popular food court on Necklace road in Hyderabad. It is on the banks of Hussain Sagar, a large man-made lake built over 500 years ago in Hyderabad. The lake and its surrounding areas have been developed into various recreational centers and parks. It serves as a popular weekend unwinding destination for the Hyderabadi crowd.
There is a good choice of food available there from several outlets. Wife went around and zeroed in on a very interesting and exotic looking potato fry on a stick – A Tornado Potato. It is one of those things that entice you with its presentation only. The substance, as we found later, was just deep fried potatoes.
Wife ordered it. While that was getting ready, we occupied the chairs towards the side of the lake. I just looked down at the lake and could not believe my eyes.  Every type of plastic - bottles, packs, straws, cups, polythene bags - was littered there on the bank.
This lake like numerous other lakes in and around Hyderabad is actually dying. While other lakes in the city are dying due to one reason - encroachment, Hussain Sagar is dying because of pollution. Industrial effluents and domestic sewage finds its way into this lake through some of its inlet streams. Today, no one would even dare to touch the water from Hussain Sagar. If you travel in the Hyderabad MMTS towards Secunderabad, there is a stretch where the train crosses the Hussain Sagar. The stench there is unbearable. If you look down to the stream running into Hussain Sagar, it is covered with filth and black muck. The sight is enough to make you puke. It is difficult to imagine that this lake once provided drinking water to the city. I do not think this could have happened in the last 30-40 years. This must have been the case may be a century ago.
Water pollution has become a huge problem now. I remember that in my childhood, we used to drink the tap water directly. No filter, nothing in between, but just pure unadulterated water. Water used to gush out of municipal supply tanks in schools, parks, railway stations, temples and other public spaces. We used to drink it. Free. Best part was that there were no charges - hidden or otherwise. We guzzled the water straight from the tap.  I know, you may be turning your nose up now by reading this. But it was quite common in those days to drink water the municipal water. There was no real fear of drinking polluted water as such. No one ever had any compunction drinking that water. Some people used to filter water by simple mechanical filters.
But, by the late eighties/early nineties, water pollution started raising its ugly head in India. With industrial waste and domestic sewage diverted directly to rivers and seas, slowly, over years of abuse, the water resources started getting so contaminated that by the mid-nineties, tap water became simply untouchable.
Overnight, the simple mechanical filter of yesteryears gave way to electronic filtration system using UV light and other technologies. Over the years, as water contamination kept increasing, these water purification systems became more and more sophisticated and even more expensive. Today, an electronic water purifier costs anywhere between INR 6000 to INR 20000.  A normal mechanical purifier costs around INR 2000. 
These days, there is no place for public goods. When the brain starts thinking, every idea becomes a monetization opportunity. Water is a business with super normal profits. Wherever you go, you find the ubiquitous disposable polythene packets and plastic water bottles. While it is of no less concern that being non-biodegradable, these plastics pose a separate threat to our environment, what is equally worrisome is the malpractices that are happening in the bottled water business. There have been instances of unscrupulous, unlicensed bottled water businesses sprouting across homes and supplying plain tap water in cans to unsuspecting consumers. Unaware of this, most of the road-side eateries and many middle class residents today still use these 20 liter cans or water for their cooking and drinking purpose. Each of these cans cost at least from INR 20 to INR 80 depending on its source and brand.
The founding fathers of our country wanted to have a sovereign, free and egalitarian society. But in this age of consumerism, nothing is free. In our country almost 30% of the population subsists on less than a half-a-dollar a day. Is it possible for them to buy clean drinking water? No. They cannot. But does this mean, we leave out the bottom 30% of our population who cannot afford to spend 20 bucks on water daily? Should water be available only to those who can afford to pay more? Is this the society we plan to build?
I doubt that our previous generations ever even in their wildest dream thought that their progeny will have to pay for plain water.
There are still some people who know that problems are all we need to make lives meaningful. Some beautiful people think from their heart, and not from their brain. With their perseverance, even insurmountable difficulties give way. I believe that when thinking starts from the heart, not from the brain, the ideas and innovation that sprout becomes a gift to the society. Suprio  Das from Kolkata has given one such wonderful gift to the society. He took the problem of providing clean drinking water to the poor head on and came up with an innovative solution.
Do check out Suprio Das’s inspiring story in this Video at TEDxGateway Mumbai.
How wonderful would it be if we all think from our heart! Would you ?
This post is written as part of ‘The Idea Caravan’ organized by Indibloggers with Franklin Templeton Investments. Franklin Templeton Investments partnered with the TEDxGateway Mumbai organized in December 2012.

All you need is a problem

Many of us want to lead a fulfilling life. But we do not know how. In these days of crass consumerism, when people run blindly after money, we hardly have any role models to emulate. Folks who have made it big in today’s world, the hero’s of this age , the ideals for youth – are nothing but mints printing money through their talent. Is there anyone who has offered his talent, dedication and service as a gift to the society?
You would be surprised to know that we have someone from a village in South India – Mr. Arunachalam Muruganantham – who has stood out from the crowd, paved a new path and is showing the way.
Mr Arunachalam identified a problem. For the next few years, his goal was how to get a solution for it. Like a postage stamp that remains stuck to the envelope till it reaches the destination, Mr. Arunachalam silently and relentlessly worked towards that goal, undeterred in the face of challenges on the way. Finally, he was able to get a break through solution. Today, he is also challenging the hegemony of MNCs. He has developed a unique method and model to produce low cost sanitary pads for women.
As per him, all we need is a problem. Yes, let our goal be to design the solution for the problem. Then we keep trying. We may fail. We may fall down on the path. But we have to dust ourselves and rise up to work again towards our goal. Eventually we will succeed.
Talent is a gift. Some people use their talent and come up with something unique and useful for the society. But once we arrive at a solution, we also have a choice.  We can make it a gift to the world or we can make a business out of it. The choice is ours.  Mr. Arunachalam not only gave the gift of hygiene to millions of poor women but also is an inspiration to the millions of youth in India. This selfless act is a true gift that he has given to society which has made life better for millions of women all over the world. This is a gift that cannot be repaid by any award, reward or royalty.
To know about his inspiring story, please watch this video:
This post is written as part of ‘The Idea Caravan’ organized by Indibloggers with Franklin Templeton Investments. Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.