FranceCol’s Frugal Innovation – A Wheel Drive Built To Travel 100 kms In A Single Charge Is Winner Of France’s Creativenext India Contest

Just came across this on google news feed that FranceCol, a French startup, was named the winner of the Embassy of France and its international business development agency, Business France India’s Creative Next India competition.

FranceCol has developed an embedded wheel motor, which allows the electrification of any bicycle, motorcycle or wheel chair, without any structural modification.


According to the report on the French Embassy in India:

This cost effective solution for urban mobility converts mechanical energy to electrical energy and is poised to revolutionize transportation in India. It is environment friendly, durable and presents a perfect solution to using public transport in the cities as well as in rural India. The battery operated bicycle is built to travel 100 kms in a single charge and is ideally adapted to young Indians who do not want to depend on public transport, and would like to commute efficiently and at a reasonable cost.

You Know What Will Always Be In Fashion? Quality, Affordable Solutions. Here’s Why.


Emerging Economies will always want Quality, Affordable solutions.

Developed Economies will increasingly ask for such solutions.

In the case of EU:

  • Brexit.
  • Banking crises.
  • The largest influx of refugees since World War II.
  • In April 2016, EU GDP finally became larger than it did at its peak before the financial crisis in 2008. So, it has taken eight years to recover. But the bloc also slipped back into deflation in April.
  • Also most EU countries are showing a bit of growth but this growth is mainly coming from domestic consumption. The issue here is that domestic consumption helps but doesn’t really solve the big elephant in the room, ie. Exports! Without exports gaining a proportionate share, the economic growth will always be slow.


The UK-based study by the Resolution Foundation found that people under 35 earned £8,000 less in their twenties than the previous generation. Part of the launch of a new Intergenerational Commission, the report warns of the “growing divide between a more prosperous older generation and a struggling younger generation.”



Even though US growth has done well compared to every other developed economy, economy expanded by just 1.2 percent in the second quarter of 2016 while the first-quarter expansion was revised down to 0.8 percent from an initial 1.1 percent estimate. And this happening when the labor market is at more or less full employment.

Public and private sector organisations, businesses and startups cannot anymore keep wishing that things will be back to “normal”. This is the “new normal”. They have to really start offering quality, accessible, affordable and sustainable solutions as part of their product portfolio.

Design Thinking & Prototyping Are Helping Generate Affordable Products For Small Farm Owners In Myanmar

Proximity Designs, established in 2004, is a nonprofit social enterprise based in Yangon.

Under the title “Impact Within Reach” @CameronConaway,showcases how Proximity Designs uses design thinking and prototyping to create quality, accessible, affordable and sustainable solutions for small-plot farmers in Myanmar.

Here is an example of how a 63 year old farmer, Thein Than, has benefited from such solutions:

Than is able to make a living as a smallplot farmer in part because the tools of his trade have improved a great deal in recent years. “Here’s how I used to do it,” he explains. With a grimace, he squats down under a bamboo stalk that has a rusted watering bucket on either end of it. When he stands up, his wiry muscles tremble under the weight of the contraption. But he manages to walk up and down rows of turnip and cilantro plants, tilting his body from side to side to give each plant just enough water. He used to fill the buckets and walk these rows 20 times every morning and 20 times every evening. “Not anymore,” he says.

In 2011, Than began using a device called Sin Pauk (“Baby Elephant”), a footpowered water pump made entirely of plastic that costs 15,500 Kyat (about $15). He pairs it with Pyit Taing Taung (“Sturdy Boy”), a 250-gallon tank ($33) that inflates as it fills with water. The pump uses a ropeand- pulley system that makes it easy for Than and his family to operate. Similarly, the tank has a lightweight design—it’s made of PVC-treated canvas and plastic—that allows Than to move it as he irrigates his land.

Together, these items have done more than decrease Than’s workload. They have enabled him to invest time in maximizing the use of his land and in taking his crops to market. As a result, he has been able to double his family’s income over the past five years. “My wife and I have used this extra money to make improvements to our house, but mostly it’s allowed us to cover education expenses for our four children,” he says.

And Thien Than also says something that is in essence what everyone of us want to have.

My sense of self is based on place. Because I can now make a living here, I feel I can be who I am.


When the Proximity team wants to create a solutions, the first step for them is design thinking. The start by selecting a target group of farmers and works iteratively with that group to develop a prototype design. But they encounter challenges to move further in this process because Myanmar lacks a reliable infrastructure for product development.

“There are times when we know our next step, but we have to put production on hold for months because a part is not available in Myanmar and nobody in the country has the tools to make it”

Go read the whole article on Stanford Social Innovation Review, now!

New Book From University of Sussex’s STEPS Centre Called “Grassroots Innovation Movements”

Came across Grassroots Innovation Movements” book blurb on Linkedin Via Navi Radjou. I just downloaded the introductory chapter and seeing the summary, it looks like a good read. I have from time to time been reading the STEPS Centre’s articles and based on that I can say that this book will be a fascinating read.

University of Sussex, STEPS Centre, Grassroots Innovation Movements

“Grassroots solutions arise in unconventional settings through unusual combinations of people, ideas and tools. This book examines six diverse grassroots innovation movements in India, South America and Europe, situating them in their particular dynamic historical contexts. Analysis explains why each movement frames innovation and development differently, resulting in a variety of strategies. The book explores the spaces where each of these movements have grown, or attempted to do so. It critically examines the pathways they have developed for grassroots innovation and the challenges and limitations confronting their approaches. With mounting pressure for social justice in an increasingly unequal world, policy makers are exploring how to foster more inclusive innovation. In this context grassroots experiences take on added significance. This book provides timely and relevant ideas, analysis and recommendations for activists, policy-makers, students and scholars interested in encounters between innovation, development and social movements. This book is part of the STEPS Centre’s Pathways to Sustainability book series.”

Did You Know That The 2nd Largest Marketshare For MobileOS In India Is Homegrown Called Indus OS?

So, this was a fascinating to read about the homegrown Mobile OS in India that reached No. 2 position ( 6.3 % market share) behind Android at the end of 2015 and maintained that position in the first two quarters of 2016, according to data released this week by Counterpoint Research .

What fascinates me is their business model:

Indus OS also offers carrier billing in its App Bazaar, which means users can pay for downloads via their phone bill, for which network providers likely take a cut. This is a big motivator not only for consumers and app publishers but also for the operators themselves, who are less than happy about being left out of a smartphone party where Android and iOS drink more than their fair share of the champagne.

MobileOS in India

Read the article on Bloomberg here titled “India 1, China 0” By Tim Culpan.

January – June 2016 Are The Hottest Months Recorded So Far

So, 2016 is on track to be the world’s hottest year on record.

According to the World Meteorological Association:

June 2016 marked the 14th consecutive month of record heat for land and oceans. It marked the 378th consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th century average. The last month with temperatures below the 20th century average was December 1984.

The average temperature in the first six months of 2016 was 1.3°C (2.4°F warmer than the pre-industrial era in the late 19th century, according to NASA.

NOAA said the global land and ocean average temperature for January–June was 1.05°C (1.89°F) above the 20th century average, beating the previous record set in 2015 by 0.20°C (0.36°F).

Year to date Global Temperature

Be Like Bill – Frugal Innovator

I made this Frugal Innovator based on the Be Like Bill meme, a few months ago.

A reminder to myself and others who visit the blog!


5 Affordable Medical Technology Innovation Programs Aimed At Emerging Markets You Need To Know Right Now

Accessible, affordable and quality medical technologies are still not widely available in emerging economies where traditionally it has been so that medical technology products have always been imported from developed countries. But the way most companies from developed countries treat emerging markets has been very paternalistic. They are usually making a certain type of product(s) for both domestic and all international markets.

Most businesses from developed markets persisted in believing that “Finnish (swap with another developed country) design and engineering” was in itself enough to get the ball rolling and get branded as a great product. And almost in every case, these solutions are expensive because they are built by the best with the best of everything. Also, if one is designing, engineering and working on products largely sold in developed countries, then those solutions might not work in places with very different needs and infrastructure levels. There is obviously a market for some of these expensive solutions where there are no replaceable alternatives but especially in the healthcare and medical technology sector, startups and local businesses in emerging markets are beginning to challenge the status quo.

But now there are also efforts from innovation agencies, investors, entrepreneurs and premier universities from some of the leading developed countries to start co-creating such quality, accessible and affordable solutions.

I want to highlight 5 such programs that are helping make a difference and showing the way for others to follow in creating these frugal innovations.

Stanford-India Biodesign Program

Stanford India Biodesign

The Stanford India Biodesign program was launched to identify the need for affordable medical solutions in 2007. The concept was so that “the fellows” will spend months immersed in the interdisciplinary environment of Stanford Bio-X, learning the Biodesign process of researching clinical needs and prototyping a medical devices. Past fellows from the program have successfully launched 36 companies focused on developing devices for unmet medical needs. This program co-operation with India was ended in 2015 and in it’s place the International School For Biodesign was launched in New Delhi.

School of International Biodesign, All India Institute of Medical Sciences

School of International Biodesign

Started in 2015, the aim of School of International Biodesign is to train the next generation of medical technology innovators and create an ecosystem of frugal medical innovations. Outside of India, they are currently partnering with Stanford University, Cambridge University, Queensland University of Technology, Tottori University and Japan Federation of Medical Devices Associations to help them get to their goal. They do this via fellowships to co-create frugal medical technologies.

Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies (CAMTech), Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Global Health

CAMTech’s goal is to accelerate affordable medical technology innovation to improve health outcomes in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs). They have been using hackathons as a way to generate ideas and solutions. In 2016 they launched the CAMTech Online Innovation Platform to address a critical gap in the medtech ecosystem by providing expertise, resources and targeted support to global health innovators. The online platform gives members access to Experts, Investors, Clinical Opportunities, Partners, Resources and Innovators. CAMTech has focussed activities so far in India and Uganda.



TechEmerge bills itself as a first of its kind matchmaking program for proven technology companies around the world that are looking to grow their business in emerging markets. The inaugural program in 2015-2016 connected innovators globally to healthcare providers in India to accomplish the dual goals of improving healthcare delivery and patient outcomes. The program is operated by IFC (a member of the World Bank Group) with funding also coming from the Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy (MEE) and the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry. TechEmerge is run in partnership with Health 2.0

Pears Program for Global Innovation’s Med4Dev Hackathon


The India-Israel Med4Dev Hackathon is putting together innovators, entrepreneurs, healthcare professionals, designers, engineers, programmers and business professionals over a three day period in up to four locations (Tel Aviv, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai) in order to develop innovative ideas and prototype solutions (hardware and software) to address healthcare challenges of low and lower-middle income communities in India. The program will be having it’s main activities in July 2016.

As you can see most of the affordable medical technology innovations are being piloted in India with CAMTech also focusing on Uganda. The reason I believe is:

  • There is a lot of enthusiasm at the government level
  • There seems to be good professional and personal connections between individuals and organisations that are organising these programs
  • Last but not least, India is big and diverse enough with skilled engineeers/doctors/innovators as well as huge number of people with un-met medical needs to have it as a lead market to test these affordable medical solutions.
  • Do You Want To Succeed In Emerging Markets? Customize Your Offering Or Change Your Business Model

    Just read a great article on how Amazon is growing faster and outcompeting local e-commerce giants in India by Vijay Govindarajan and Anita Warren in Harvard Business Review titled How Amazon Adapted Its Business Model to India

    So these are 3 big guns in the e-commerce sector in India in 2016:


    Amazon India





    As Vijay Govindarajan and Anita Warren point out, Amazon did not come into India and succeed by doing what helped it make the giant it is in USA.

    When Amazon decided to enter the Indian e-commerce market, it was clear from the outset that something would have to give. That something was the very business model that had made Amazon an internet powerhouse in the U.S.

    Especially Amazon being a foreign entity it had to play under different rules. Now the advantages and disadvantages that Amazon faced in India are highlighted as follows:

    The good news: included a very young populace — more than 65% under age 35 — rising levels of disposable income, and ubiquitous cell phone ownership (80% of the population, by one estimate).

    The bad news: 67% of the population lives in rural areas characterized by an underdeveloped infrastructure. Only about 35% of India’s population is connected to the internet. Cash, not credit cards or checking accounts, is still the rule. And, determined to protect its own, India enacted a rigid FDI policy restricting foreign multibrand retailers from selling directly to consumers online. That meant any venture would basically be a third-party seller for Indian-made products.

    After launching India in 2013, Amazon India went about implementing it’s roadmap by doing the following things:

  • Educated the small-business owners using “Amazon Chai Cart” where it took it’s marketing people to the door steps of the small business owners to make them a part of it’s platform

  • Created “Amazon Tatkal“- a self-described “studio on wheels” that provides a suite of launch services, such as registration, imaging, cataloging, and sales training.

  • In U.S.A, Amazon uses a centralized shipping platform, which it calls “Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)“, to store and distribute the products it sells. Sellers send their goods to Amazon’s fulfillment centers and pay a fee for the corporation to store, pick, pack, and ship their wares. They implemented the same in India as well.

  • Created “Easy Ship” whereby Amazon couriers pick up packaged goods from a seller’s place of business and deliver them to consumers.

  • Created “Seller Flex” whereby vendors designate a section of their own warehouses for products to be sold on, and Amazon coordinates the delivery logistics helping speeding up delivery.

  • Inked contracts with a number of major delivery services in the country, including India Post and cargo airline Blue Dart. Using bike and car couriers where needed. In 2015, they also set up a subsidiary, “Amazon Transportation Services Private Limited“, to augment delivery.

  • By making the small business owners especially in rural India as it’s partners, Amazon helps locals with no internet access go to the local store and use the owner’s internet connection to browse and select goods from Then the store owners record their orders, alert customers when their products are delivered to the store, collect the cash payment, and pass along the money — minus a handling fee — to Amazon.

    You should check out the whole article as a quick read into how a western business (albeit a very big one with deep pockets) can make it’s mark in India or other emerging markets.

    Of course these are still early years and no one is yet an outright winner or loser and India is big enough to have multiple e-commerce players ply their trade.

    Image sources:,,

    I Get Excited and Depressed When I Read Stories Of Automation & Robots

    I just read this article in The Guardian, titled “Robot factories could threaten jobs of millions of garment workers”

    This is neither the first nor the last article to be published on this topic.

    Also according to the article,the International Labor Organisation (ILO) has a report stating that up to 90% of workers in south-east Asia could face unemployment due to automation. So this is just one field. Now think about how automation will have repetitive jobs eliminated in all the different fields not just in developing countries but also in the developed world! It will be an unemployment nightmare because it is far difficult for people to update their skill sets in a short period of time to apply for new opportunities.

    A simple Google Search with the words “Automation Job Loss” gives 1.3 million results. This already shows the volume of articles in this area.

    Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 00.58.42

    Sewbots are unlikely to appear in factories in Asia, the report says, but will be installed in destination markets like Europe and the US. It is such a big threat that the ILO urges Asean countries to start planning to diversify to “avoid considerable setbacks in development”.

    I get excited when I read about automation because new tech is awesome and I get depressed because the transition for people to acquire new skills and be part of the workforce will be an increasingly difficult job.

    Obviously this is not just a technology issue but a societal issue. So, factories will be coming back to the developed countries from these emerging markets but they don’t enhance employment opportunities in the developed markets in any significant way either.

    Adidas announced a factory in Germany that will begin manufacturing shoes using robots in 2017. The “Speedfactory” will employ just 160 people: one robotic production line will make soles, the other production line the upper part of shoes. With an additional factory planned for the US, it is a scheme Adidas describe as a “gamechanger”.

    Currently an Adidas shoe takes 18 months to produce from idea to shelf. The aim is to reduce this to five hours, with customers able to customise their order in stores.

    There is a significant amount of experts who are pushing now to create some sort of “Basic Income” to counter this phenomenon. The idea of a “Basic Income” is that the state will providea minimum amount of money needed to survive to all it’s citizens so that it could provide financial security for people and at the same time help unleash their creative juices, get them to take more risks and be more entrepreneurial in their pursuits.

    There is question and answer about how to tackle this automation in this specific context.

    For the millions of people who stitch clothes and shoes for a living and who look set to be hardest hit by automation, could robots be an opportunity for fairer work?

    “In a best case scenario, robots take on board the most repetitive, mundane and non-cognitive tasks of apparel manufacturing,” explains Chang. “Robots would also assume more of the dangerous and dirty tasks, like mixing of chemicals which can be hazardous to human workers. Ultimately, human workers would be able to perform more satisfying and rewarding, as well as higher-paid, jobs in the sector like programming robots for better production and design.”

    I think this is more hope talking rather than reality. Because the transition to automation and building such factories will be lot quicker than making structural changes in the economy or for people to update their skills.

    So, this again brings me to emphasise the importance of Frugal Innovations and creating quality, accessible, sustainable and affordable solutions.

    So, as the quote goes “If not us, who? If not now, when?”

    Businesses and innovators in both public and private sector need to learn to create such solutions because people and organisations with lesser financial resources will demand such solutions.