Starting today, over 100 innovators and entrepreneurs will gather together in Hyderabad to take part in a three-day event called Tech4Society. Organized by the Ashoka and the Lemelson Foundation, and supported by Microsoft and Infosys, the idea is to direct attention to the importance of technological innovation in driving global development as well as highlight effective strategies for cultivating inventor-entrepreneurs and scaling their ideas.
This newly designed rickshaw is solar battery operated
While entrepreneurs from around the world will be present at the event, Ashoka- Lemelson chose to highlight the work being done by two Indian entrepreneurs and Ashoka fellows, Hilmi Quraishi and Pradip Sharmah, at a recent press gathering in New Delhi.
A veterinarian by profession, Pradip Sharmah has collaborated with IIT Guwahati to design lighter, larger and more stable rickshaws, about 5000 of which are currently plying on the roads in Assam and other states. Additionally, he has worked with the Centre for Rural Development to approach insurance companies and banks to provide rickshaw pullers with social security and financing options. “We provide them with a comprehensive package that includes the newly designed rickshaw, the insurance, two sets of uniforms, a license from the municipal corporation, a photo ID and a pair of Hawaii chappals (slippers),” he says. “The best part is we are not doing this as charity. Nothing is given free. These rickshaw pullers pay us Rs 25 a day as rent, but this leads him to become an owner of that asset in 15-18 months time.”
To view a slideshow of the redesigned rickshaws, click here.
Apart from rickshaw pullers, Sharmah has also been involved in designing better carts for vendors, like those selling vegetables or momos (a popular Tibetan and Nepali snack.) He is currently collaborating with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s Central Mechanical Engineering Rickshaws Institute based in Durgapur, to create solar battery operated rickshaws. “We are running a couple of these on trial in Chandi Chowk,” he says. “We will do field tests and then give feedback to these technical institutes.”
To listen to Mr Sharmah talk about how he first came to develop an interest in the welfare of rickshaw pullers, how he helped design and implement a new model of rickshaws, and how he went about financing this process, click the play button below.
Another fellow Hilmi Quraishi is using mobile telephony to bring public health messages to the masses. He does this through developing games that raise awareness about AIDS and tuberculosis amongst other conditions. “We can raise the standard of living of the marginalized and underprivileged by providing the right kind of information and content on mobile phones. There are people in rural areas who don’t have access to television or even newspapers, but have mobile phones,” he says.
The invite only Tech4Society event will offer panels and sessions on a variety of topics: health and medical innovations, disaster response and rebuilding, the future of alternative energies, and women in science, among others.