MIT Tata Center Researchers Unveil Inexpensive Way To Reduce Runoff Pollution By Adding Low Cost Polymers To Pesticide Spray


MIT researchers have found a way to make pesticides stick to leaves instead of bouncing off thereby reducing runoff pollution by using a clever combination of two inexpensive additives to the spray.


The spray is divided into two portions, each receiving a different polymer substance. One gives the solution a negative electric charge; the other causes a positive charge. When two of the oppositely-charged droplets meet on a leaf surface, they form a hydrophilic (water attracting) “defect” that sticks to the surface and increases the retention of further droplets.

The project was developed in collaboration with the MIT Tata Center for Technology and Design, which aims to develop technologies that can benefit communities in India as well as throughout the developing world. Spraying of pesticides there is typically done manually with tanks carried on farmers’ backs, and since the cost of pesticides can be a significant part of a farmer’s budget, reducing the amount that’s wasted could improve the overall economics of the small-farming business, while also reducing soil and water pollution. Decreasing the amount of pesticide sprayed can also reduce the exposure of farmers to the spray chemicals.

Based on the laboratory tests, the team estimates that the new system could allow farmers to get the same effects by using only 1/10 as much of the pesticide or other spray. And the polymer additives themselves are natural and biodegradable, so will not contribute to the runoff pollution.

The new approach would require only minor changes to the existing equipment that farmers use, to separate the pesticide into two streams to which small amounts of each polymer could be added. The polymers themselves are extracted from common, low-cost materials that could be produced locally.


In addition to pesticide spraying, the same approach could be useful in other applications, such as the spraying of water onto plants to prevent frost damage in places like Florida, where citrus crops can be severely damaged by frost but water supplies are already constrained.

Wharton Knowledge – The Power Of A Missed Mobile Call In Emerging Economies

Quick.. If you want to have an effective way to do mobile marketing in emerging economies, what do you do?

Well… try this proven technique.

There are different names for it.

In India it is called missed call.
In Philippines it is called miskol.
In Africa it is called beep.
In Indonesia it is called memancing.
In Pakistan it is called flashcall.

In an insightful article on the culture of missed calls, UPenn Wharton takes us through the origin of this issue 5 years ago and how it is thriving in the here and now.

If one has ever heard the concept of “collect calls”, this must sound familiar. This is the concept of reverse charge call where the calling party wants to place a call at the called party’s expense.

Under the concept of “Missed call marketing (MCM)“, a similar thing is happening in the emerging economies.

According to an article on The Hindu, Ozonetel Systems– a pioneer and a leading provider of on-demand cloud communication services in India has handled 700 missed calls in 9 months leading upto February 2016 and will handle a billion missed calls in a year.

Consumers call back in response to ads targeted at them, but hang up without connecting.

Companies then call them back or send messages with deals, coupons and offers.

More than that, the companies gain valuable information of customer interests, preferences and profiles so that ads can be more precisely targeted. Ozonetel has been handling missed calls for the past four years.

Such has been the power of the MCM phenomenon that ZipDial, an Indian startup that was successful in capitalizing on the prevalence of “missed calls” and was bought by Twitter in early 2015.

The way in which these MCM marketing firms work is quite simple and is illustrated in this figure below:


According to the Wharton article, the missed call marketing has even crossed the income divide, where in recently a luxury housing project had a “Give a missed call to xxxxxxxxxx for more information” tucked away at the bottom of each page.

Politicians and political parties, have been using them to reach to their followers and for their membership drives.

Employer provident funds and Banks are using MCM to help their members with tracking their account balance.

Nestlé’s Bunyad is an iron-rich product specially focused on school-going children to prevent iron deficiency. The brand offered free talk-time top-up to anybody who gave a missed call and listened to the Bunyad message. “We called the user back through an automated system, educating them on the issue,” says Jafri. “The response was way beyond our expectations. Also, we now have a database of these listeners to engage them further with Nestle Bunyad.”

How big is the business in India? There is no simple answer. Three years ago, The Economic Times put it at Rs. 5 billion (approx 75 million USD). But that was in the days before Big Data came into the picture. “Trial prices start at Rs. 1,000 (less than $15) a month,” says Sunil Jain. Add a substantial dose of number crunching and the bill could shoot up to 100 times as much. “The size of the market is difficult to estimate,” says Rajesh Jain.

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.

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.

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:,,

    Want To Know The Secret On How Startups and Mobile Operators Work Together in Emerging Markets?

    Check the infographic and also the web link to see a detailed report on how useful APIs are between mobile operators and start-ups in emerging markets.

    API Mobiles Infographic

    According to the article on GSMA website, there are around 15,000 APIs, with 40 new ones created every week. Salesforce already generates 50 per cent of its revenues via APIs, eBay generates 60 per cent, and Expedia 90 per cent. Welcome to the new API economy.

    An API, or Application Programming Interface, is what allows software programs to “talk” to one another and reach a broader audience. APIs are what allow you to share a news article on LinkedIn or send your location on WhatsApp using your smartphone. APIs are also what allow a farmer in Senegal to check crop prices via SMS (MLouma) or a student in the Philippines to pay for their bus ride using their mobile airtime credit (Bustayo) . Services like these are powered by the APIs of local mobile operators.

    If you want to directly read the report, it is in pdf format here.

    Plastic Waste Is Being Recycled In Road Construction in The City Of Chennai In India

    Plastic waste is a huge environmental issue in countries like India because there are waste management, sorting and recycling issues that are still not put in practice.

    In India, roads made from shredded plastic are proving a popular solution to tackling waste and extreme weather. The Guardian newspaper has an article describing the person behind it and the roads that are being paved by recycling plastic as an ingredient when laying down roads.

    Jambulingam Street was one of India’s first plastic roads… Built in 2002, it has not developed the mosaic of cracks, potholes or craters that typically make their appearance after it rains. Holding the road together is an unremarkable material: a cheap, polymer glue made from shredded waste plastic….

    …While polymer roads in the US are made with asphalt that comes pre-mixed with a polymer, plastic tar roads are a frugal invention, made with a discarded, low-grade polymer. Every kilometer of this kind of road uses the equivalent of 1m plastic bags, saving around one tonne of asphalt and costing roughly 8% less than a conventional road. Dr R Vasudevan, a chemistry professor and dean at the Thiagarajar College of Engineering in Madurai, came up with the idea through trial and error, sprinkling shredded plastic waste over hot gravel and coating the stones in a thin film of plastic. He then added the plastic-coated stones to molten tar, or asphalt. Plastic and tar bond well together because both are petroleum products. The process was patented in 2006.

    Dr R Vasudevan, a chemistry professor and dean at the Thiagarajar College of Engineering in Madurai.
    Dr R Vasudevan, a chemistry professor and dean at the Thiagarajar College of Engineering in Madurai. Photograph: Sribala Subramanian

    A modified version of the road which adds road scrap to plastic-coated gravel was tested out in March this year on a highway connecting Chennai with Villupuram. It was the first time plastic road technology was used for a national highway. It is expected to reduce construction costs by 50%.


    These are what I call ‪accessible‬ , ‎affordable‬, frugal, ‎sustainable‬ ‪solutions‬.
    Read the whole article on The Guardian here.

    Reliance Jio, Leading Telecom Operator In India, Is Combining High-speed Data With Low-to-mid Range Phones.

    Reliance Jio’s plan in India is to sign up 100 million users in one year before commercial launch suggesting that they want to combine 4G data with low-to-mid range phones. Great way to scale and make accessible, affordable solutions.

    Reliance Jio’s Lyf mobile phones will be priced between Rs.4,000 and Rs.19,000—a price segment that has products from a plethora of device makers who are aiming to capture a slice of the market, two people familiar with the matter said, requesting anonymity.

    “It was a conscious decision to be in this range because this is where the maximum offtake happens in India. Secondly, if you see, India is becoming a single-device country. From home to workplace, a majority of the people consume news, videos on mobile phones; so people need good handsets and people want to invest in one product which is cheap and yet of good quality,” said one of the two people.

    The unique selling proposition of these devices will be their ability to convert an ongoing voice call to a data call at a single command without interrupting or disconnecting the call.

    Came Across This Startup Called Lithium- India’s First Electric Taxi Service

    India’s First Electric Taxi Service in Bengaluru, Lithium, is showing the way for green revolution.

    Read the article on The Better India for more info.

    “Lithium has over 200 vehicles that criss-cross the city of Bangalore. Each of these 200 vehicles is traversing 200 to 300 kilometres every day. This means, close to 60,000 kilometres of transport that is hydrocarbon emission free, non-renewable fuel free and pollution free, every single day! Lithium saves nearly 11 tonnes of carbon emissions every day”