Re­verse in­no­va­tion on the sub­con­ti­nent

The China Post - - LIFE - BY SUMNIMA UDAS

They say ne­ces­sity breeds in­no­va­tion. Per­haps there’s no other coun­try where this holds more true than In­dia. The needs are over­whelm­ing here. And whether it’s re­frig­er­a­tors that run with­out elec­tric­ity, heart surg­eries for US$800, or the cheap­est cars in the world, en­ter­pris­ing In­di­ans and com­pa­nies are con­stantly find­ing dis­rup­tive and in­no­va­tive ways to ad­dress the needs of the 1.2 bil­lion peo­ple who live here. This in­ge­nious spirit is not dis­sim­i­lar to cen­turies ago on the an­cient Silk Road; when In­dia was the source of com­plex and far reach­ing ideas like Bud­dhism, Al­ge­bra and Ayurveda — the old­est school of medicine.

For the Silk Road: Past, Present, Fu­ture, I be­gan my jour­ney in Ben­galuru, In­dia’s “Sil­i­con Val­ley,” to see how some com­pa­nies are turn­ing the very method­ol­ogy of in­no­va­tion on its head. Nor­mally, new ideas are con­cep­tu­al­ized and de­vel­oped in ad­vanced economies and then taken to emerg­ing mar­kets like In­dia. But at GE Healthcare, a joint ven­ture be­tween In­dia’s soft­ware gi­ant Wipro and Gen­eral Elec­tric, engi­neers are first cre­at­ing in­ex­pen­sive health care prod­ucts to meet the needs of the 600 mil­lion In­di­ans who don’t have ac­cess to good health care, and then repack­ag­ing the low-cost in­no­va­tive goods for global mar­kets. Its called “re­verse in­nova- tion,” and its chang­ing the flow of ideas and sav­ing lives.

Take a tra­di­tional baby warmer for ex­am­ple. Most In­dian hos­pi­tals, par­tic­u­larly in ru­ral set­tings, can’t af­ford them. The few that can, can’t use them ef­fec­tively be­cause of in­fras­truc­tural or so­cial chal­lenges unique to In­dia. The power sup­ply, for in­stance, is un­sta­ble, fluc­tu­at­ing from 80 watts to 400 watts regularly. GE Healthcare cre­ated a baby warmer that could han­dle such surges in elec­tric­ity. The tem­per­a­ture probe con­nects to the baby like an um­bil­i­cal cord and is meant to pro­vide the warmth of a mother’s womb. Con­ven­tional baby warmer probes would of­ten break in ru­ral set­tings be­cause of us­age and the way it is cleaned. The probes in the low cost model though were re­fit­ted with bul­let­proof Kevlar ma­te­rial to en­sure dura­bil­ity. Low cost, there­fore, does not mean low tech­nol­ogy. The de­sign is also com­pact and the tech­nol­ogy sim­pli­fied so nurses in ru­ral parts of In­dia aren’t in­tim­i­dated by the ma­chin­ery. And per­haps most im­por­tantly, these warm­ers come at a frac­tion of the cost of a tra­di­tional warmer.

Some 26 dif­fer­ent health care prod­ucts are be­ing con­cep­tu­al­ized and man­u­fac­tured in this fash­ion. Engi­neers say In­dia is the per­fect place to in­no­vate be­cause lo­cals are aware of what’s needed and have the in­tel­lec­tual ca­pac­ity and en­gi­neer­ing ex­cel­lence to cre­ate and think out­side of the box. In­dia pro­duces a baby nearly ev­ery sec­ond, where bet­ter to cre­ate af­ford­able neona­tal prod­ucts than here?

At Ben­galuru’s big­gest chil­dren’s hos­pi­tal Vanivi­las I can see the need and im­pact of the low cost baby warm­ers first­hand. Hun­dreds of moth­ers, many of them trav­el­ing great dis­tances from ru­ral ar­eas, wait to hear news of their pre­ma­turely born ba­bies. Most pri­mary health care cen­ters in ru­ral In­dia don’t have in­cu­ba­tors or warm­ers. So these moth­ers sim­ply didn’t want to take the chances. Back in their vil­lages, the only way to keep their ba­bies warm is to use sun­light or a 100 watt light bulb, that’s of course if they have elec­tric­ity.

In­dia has the high­est neona­tal mor­tal­ity rate in the world. Some 750,000 ba­bies die ev­ery year be­fore their first month birth­day. One ma­jor fac­tor is the lack of proper baby warm­ers. Even in Vanivi­las, an av­er­age of four ba­bies used to die ev­ery day. Doc­tors say in­fant mor­tal­ity is down by half since they in­stalled baby warm­ers five years go.

Con­cep­tu­al­ized and made in In­dia for the In­dian mar­ket these low cost baby warm­ers will be ex­ported to some 72 coun­tries. Its just one ex­am­ple of In­dia’s re­verse in­no­va­tion, work­ing to re­verse one of the coun­try’s big­gest prob­lems in health care. Air­times: Taipei Sun­day, Au­gust 30, at 1230 Mon­day, Au­gust 31 at 1100

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Taiwan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.