Pawan Goenka Of Mahindra & Mahindra Says Disruptive Innovation That Combines Frugal Engineering & IT Expertise Is A Must For Indian Automotive Players

Pawan Goenka, Executive Director of Mahindra & Mahindra, says disruptive innovation that combines frugal engineering and IT expertise is a must for Indian Automotive players.


Today, almost all major global OEMs have an India development centre with plans to increase sourcing and use India as its manufacturing base. With the government’s support, OEMs and suppliers have put in herculean efforts in shaping the industry’s achievements. There’s no surprise that India is ranked 10th in the auto segment of the Future Brand’s Country Brand Index (CBI) for 2014-15 – the only segment where India is featured among the Top 10 across industry sectors like FMCG, electronics, fashion and luxury.

Having said that, one still needs to wonder, ‘Have we established a rational and emotional value proposition of Brand India?’ It is still associated as an LCC (Low Cost Country) with lower level of manufacturing quality and has a long way to go to improve its aspiration quotient. Will a customer in the UK aspire to own a car because it is ‘Made in India’ or will he rather pay a premium for one designed and made in Germany?


We do need to find the platform on which to build (automotive) Brand India. I believe we have two platforms to build on – frugal engineering and IT expertise. The latter has been an acknowledged strength of India for some time but more in terms of providing software expertise to the world and not in terms of building this expertise into our own (automotive) products. Can we take a pole position in this? In the last several years, frugal engineering is being recognised globally as a strength and not a way to cut corners. The world acknowledges that India invented it and frankly all others are now imitating it, thanks to the exposure they now have to Indian engineering ecosystem. Can we translate these two strengths into a brand image of India – not that of an LCC with low labour cost as the only advantage, but of a country that has the ability to design products differently and use its IT expertise to give customers a product that others cannot?

Brand building has an extremely long gestation period to reap any formidable result. In spite of challenges, the automotive industry has continuously steered the path of creating world-class products, building a manufacturing ecosystem and frugal innovation.

Read his entire column written for Autocar Professional here.

Gave A Talk At “Visit Startup India” Pre-Event At Aalto Ventures Program In Espoo Today

The Nordic Frugal Innovation Society (TNFIS) is a partner with Startup Europe India Network.

Startup Europe India Network (SEU-IN) connects the European and Indian Startup ecosystems. It is a partner for growth, investments, and strategic sourcing in the European and Indian digital markets. SEU-IN works with Startups, Investors, and Corporates to accelerate growth, investments and innovation. SEU-IN is set out as the key initiative for Startups in the “Agenda for action 2020” between EU and India.

SEU-IN is organising for the first time an event to help jump start it’s mission in a big way Between October 17-20, 2016, it is taking a delegation of EU startup ecosystem actors to India. It contains 2 parts.

Part 1: VISIT STARTUP INDIA (“VSI”) takes a selected group of European Startup ecosystem players to visit India and meet with with their counter-parts and policy makers in Delhi and Bengaluru.

Part 2: On the final day of the visit, VSI participants also attend the Startup EU India Summit (“SEIS”) in Bengaluru.

Did a pre-event at Aalto Ventures Program this afternoon to spread the word and Praveen Paranjothi from SEU-IN joined in via Skype to answer questions posed by the attendees. Thanks to AVP for hosting and for the free Coffee/Tea for the attendees.

Source: Aalto Ventures Program
Source: Aalto Ventures Program

Interested? Check out the website links provided above or reach out to me via email or twitter.

Wharton Knowledge – The Sharing Economy’s Success Lies On Creating Accessible & Affordable Solutions

In an article from December 2015 on Wharton Knowledge – The Sharing Economy: A New Way of Doing Business, there are really good insights into the motivation to create sharing solutions and the success of such solutions.

Source: Venture Beat
Source: Venture Beat

At least until recently, car buyers haven’t worried about the excess capacity they were purchasing, as long as the lifetime value of the vehicle was greater for them than its lifetime cost.
“In the collaborative economy it’s not the idea of sharing that’s new… What’s different now is the introduction of technology into the concept.” — H.O. Maycotte, Umbel

All this excess capacity is what makes the sharing economy possible.
“Consumers simply want to make savvy purchases, and access economy companies allow them to achieve this, by offering more convenience at lower price.” — Giana M. Eckhardt and Fleura Bardhi, researchers

MIT’s Tata Center -Affordable Next Generation Mobile Health Devices Will Use Machine Intelligence And Advanced Algorithms

MIT Tata Center for Technology + Design was founded in 2012 with funding from Tata Trusts.

Since then the centre has been working to address the challenges of resource-constrained communities, with an initial focus on India. Amongst the many projects that they are working on, this current project seems really interesting and had the ability to scale not just in India but to other emerging markets as well has a chance to become reverse innovation for the developed world.

I am talking about their project “Machine intelligence to enable the next generation of mobile health tools” .


What the MIT team wants to do is elaborated on MIT news website:

Although pulmonary testing equipment such as the body plethysmograph, impulse oscillometer, spirometer, and gas diffusion meter are available in many modern hospitals, this equipment typically costs over $100,000 and is extremely scarce in developing countries.


Fletcher and Chamberlain teamed up with pulmonary experts at the Chest Research Foundation to develop a more general solution for diagnosing pulmonary disease that employs a simple mobile stethoscope and a common peak flow meter, which together cost less than $50 in low volumes. Using a combination of input methods — including the microphone, USB, and augmented reality — they developed a mobile application that is able to reliably capture various data on a mobile phone, and then run machine-learning algorithms to predict the probability that the patient has a specific pulmonary disease.

They initially built the world’s first USB-powered mobile stethoscope collaborating with the Chest Research Foundation in Pune, India. According to the Mobile Health Lab’s website:

Plugged into a smartphone, its companion app transforms the device into a low-cost diagnostic tool, which health workers and nonspecialist physicians can use to diagnose lung disease.

This team won the $100 000 third prize in Vodafone’s 2015 annual Wireless Innovation Project awards program.

This is a a quality, accessible, affordable solution- Meaning a true Frugal Innovation!

Below is a really informative video on how they plan to use new technology to make affordable pulmonary healthcare solutions.

Weekend Relief – Dilbert’s Company Economist


Winning Design Of The Affordable Dialysis Prize Can Fit In A Suitcase And Costs Less Than 1000 USD

According to The Lancelet, somewhere between 5 and 10 million people in the world need dialysis right now for terminal kidney failure, but only 2.5 million have access to it, mostly due to cost – the rest will die an unpleasant death. The news gets worse: the number of people on dialysis is set to rise to 5 million by the year 2030, and most of the increase will be in developing countries.

A year on dialysis costs about US$90 000 per person in the USA, and many thousands of dollars in low-income countries—an unaffordable price in places where the annual health spend might be just a few hundred dollars per citizen.

The first dialysis machine was invented in 1943 and apparently since that time not much has changed in the design of it nor were there any real attempts at making the machine more accessible and affordable. And a dialysis machine these days can cost more than $10 000 each. And top of it these dialysis machines need to be attached to elaborate water purification systems based on reverse osmosis which also often cost at least $10 000 again. And of course the way the machines work are that most of the time the dialysis machine can only be used in a hospital setting or in homes that have all the needed infrastructure.

To truly make a dialysis machine accessible and affordable that can also be used in infrastructure poor areas, three of the leading players in global kidney health have joined together to create a world-wide competition, with a prize of US$100,000, to design the world’s first truly affordable dialysis machine. The prize is sponsored by The George Institute, the International Society of Nephrology and the Asian Pacific Society of Nephrology with the support of the Farrell Family Foundation.

The Affordable Dialysis Prize encouraged inventors around the world to develop an innovative dialysis system which works just as well as a conventional approach, but runs off solar power, can purify water from any source, has low running costs and can be sold for less than US$ 1000.

The winning design by engineer Vincent Garvey is so compact it can fit into a small suitcase, and uses a standard solar panel to power a highly efficient, miniature distiller capable of producing pure water from any source.

Source: Affordable Dialysis Machine Prize Winner,
Source: Affordable Dialysis Machine Prize Winner,

So, how does the winning design work? According to the Prize distributor:

Vincent Garvey’s winning dialysis system recognises the critical barrier to affordable dialysis is the lack of cheap, sterile water in countries where the electricity supply is unreliable and water sources may be contaminated. Using a standard solar panel, it heats water taken from any local source to make steam, which is used not only to sterilise the water but also to fill empty peritoneal dialysis (PD) bags under sterile conditions. PD is potentially much cheaper than haemodialysis, but in poor countries the cost of transporting thousands of foreign manufactured two litre bags of PD fluid to remote locations can make it prohibitive.

The winning entry will be just as useful for short term dialysis for acute kidney failure, supporting children and young adults whose kidneys have stopped working temporarily due to infection or dehydration, and for whom just a few days of dialysis can be lifesaving. The design also offers detailed plans on how the system could be used for affordable haemodialysis, the more common type of dialysis.

A truly wonderful frugal innovation! Thank you Mr Vincent Garvey. The world needs more people like you.

Brookings Institution’s Financial and Digital Inclusion Project Shows Kenya Topping It’s List Amongst 26 Emerging Economies

Brookings Institution recently released a report titled “The 2016 Brookings Financial and Digital Inclusion Project Report”

Their 2016 report assesses financial inclusion ecosystems in 26 geographically, politically, and economically diverse countries based on four dimensions of financial inclusion: country commitment, mobile capacity, regulatory environment, and adoption of selected traditional and digital financial services.


Brookings has launched these rankings in 2014 as a way to examine access to and usage of secure, affordable formal financial services among underserved populations and released it’s first report in 2015. Back in 2015, Kenya also topped the list.

Read the whole report here.

Fraunhofer-ISI & Nesta UK Just Published An Interim Report On A Conceptual Analysis, Trends And Relevant Potentials in the Field of Frugal Innovation (For Europe)

There was an EU tender last year to write a report on Frugal Innovation that was won by Fraunhofer-ISI and Nesta UK. They have just published an interim report titled “A Conceptual Analysis, Trends and Relevant Potentials in the Field of Frugal Innovation (for Europe)”

Source: Fraunhofer-ISI and Nesta UK
Source: Fraunhofer-ISI and Nesta UK

In their “Study on frugal innovation and reengineering of traditional techniques”, therefore, Fraunhofer ISI and NESTA, together with external experts, will establish what Europe can do to better capture the potential of frugal innovative activities at various levels.

  • First, by establishing if and in what way frugal innovation could be a central success strategy for and on the European market.
  • Second, by analysing European firms’ situation on emerging markets where frugal innovation remains a main driver of growth.
  • Third, by finding how frugal innovations can help address concerns with regard to resource efficiency, waste reduction and the preservation of cultural heritage.
  • I have been eagerly awaiting to read about this interim report as well as obviously the final report slated for 2017.

    I am an evangelist of Fugal Innovations and we started our non profit The Nordic Frugal Innovation Society to show these innovations’ relevance for both emerging economies and the developed markets.

    The issue here is that emerging economies require solutions that have “affordable excellence” for B2B and B2C sectors. But increasingly because of the economic crisis in 2008 and it’s repercussions even 8 years later in Finland and much of EU and other developed markets, there is an increasing relevance for frugal solutions in the developed world.

    Frugal Innovation Meaning_Urban Mill

    Coming back to the interim report from Fraunhofer-ISI and Nesta UK, they put forward 8 hypothesis and propositions as a conclusion to their report:

    On mentality
    1. A mentality for frugal innovation and technological recombination is not exclusive to emerging
    economies. It played a central role in Europe’s past development and remains prevalent in
    many market oriented, mid-sized firms. Even in technology-driven contexts, frugal mindsets
    can be (re)gained through active engagement.

    On routines
    2. Current routines of technology development will have to be substantially re-thought to enable
    frugal solutions. Concrete applications of technologies under development will have to be
    considered at much earlier stages (TRL4-5) and additional actors will have to be involved to
    integrate a market dimension from the outset.

    On openness
    3. In Europe, many innovation processes remain contained within firms and fail to relevantly
    involve potential users – creating a “closed world” with a lack of market awareness and an
    overt affection to high-tech solutions. Successfully creating frugal solutions will require firms to
    shift innovation practices towards more open models.

    On transformation
    4. Key enabling technologies (KETs) will open up new avenues for frugal innovation. In particular,
    newly available technologies such as various ICT applications, 3D printing and industry 4.0 will
    not only open up new options for frugal products but, at least equally, for new, frugal
    processes of innovation and production.

    On markets (European)
    5. In principle, many trends in European markets spur rising demand for frugal solutions – based
    on needs and out of choice. While the refugee crisis has added further momentum to the
    former, aspirations and preferences for the latter remain to be shaped. Finally, the public
    sector itself can be an important customer for frugal innovation.

    On markets (emerging)
    6. Frugal innovation is a business opportunity for European firms in emerging markets and many
    larger corporations have devised strategies on how to leverage it to the best of their ability.
    Moreover, exposure to emerging market contexts is a suitable tool to engage with differing
    mentalities, enable learning and improve business models in a holistic sense.

    On scale
    7. Achieving scale is a key challenge for frugal innovation as solutions will only develop a relevant
    impact when delivered at large scale. Localised frugal solutions of the grassroots type,
    however, may in fact not be scalable. In Europe, cultural, linguistic, regulatory and other
    barriers between nations complicate the challenge.

    On tensions
    8. Increasing access for more people is not unanimously positive with a view to ethical, ecological
    and social impact. Detrimental and potentially conflicting outcomes have to be considered.
    Hence, policy makers should not only promote frugal innovation, but also consider how to do so
    in a way that addresses and manages potential tensions.

    Weekend Relief – Dilbert on Persistence


    Nokia Cuts It’s 360 Degree VR Camera “Ozo” Price By 25% As It Enters Chinese & Other Emerging Markets


    So, if you haven’t heard of Nokia’s OZO camera, here is a brief overview.

    Ozo is touted as the world’s first professional Virtual Reality camera. As you can see from the image it can capture 360° spherical video at 30 FPS and 360×360 surround sound via it’s 8 2K cameras.

    Nokia just announced that they are now selling Ozo in the Chinese market and with that press release they also announced new global pricing of $45K USD (€40K Euros). This is down from $60K that it was priced so far.

    So Nokia is entering the Chinese market with a new global pricing that is 25% reduced from it’s original pricing

    We have also previously seen that there is a lot of activity from major players like Google to be in the VR camera business. For example this headline in The Verge – “Google is working with IMAX to build a cinema-quality Jump VR camera”

    If we checkout Google’s VR page, it shows how it wants to be in the commercial as well as the consumer sector and with collaorations with IMAX, Jump, and Go Pro; Google has the deep pockets and the knowledge base to become a competitors to Noika’s Ozo.

    Google lists that the Jump camera rig consists of 16 camera modules in a circular array and it costs $15K.


    Both Google-Gopro Jump and Nokia Ozo seem to be aimed at the professionals but at the same time there are also good, affordable alternatives aimed at the consumer market, eg: Vuze VR. Going on sale at $799, it puts VR in the hands of budding professionals who can’t afford the expensive Gopros and Ozos but also for families who want to record their own activites.

    Source: Vuze VR
    Source: Vuze VR

    Albeit $799 might be still costsly for VR to take off in the consumer market but these are really early stages, and I can imaging a sub $500 VR camera rig in a year or two.

    Few final thoughts:

  • Nokia realizes that for faster adoption to occur globally, it needs to reduce it’s original price
  • Entering and selling in China and eventually in other emerging markets also has pushed Ozo to be offered at a 25% lower price
  • There will be competitors from USA, China and maybe India who will start to offer a frugal alternative just like it happened in the smartphone arena and Nokia wants to be in the drivers seat with it’s own offerings.