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Shaping frugal & disruptive innovations for India

The foundations of frugal and disruptive innovations will thrive on value-based education. When innovators are led by benevolence ahead of breakthroughs, the innovation becomes transformative.

Dr Vishal Rao



“When you think something is impossible, you do not disturb the person who is doing it.” — Amar Bose

 With due respect to Thomas Carlyle’s celebrated prescription, it is time we improvised it for the sake of innovation. Our responsibility does not just lie with doing what is clearly at hand but we also need to look at what lies dimly at a distance. Possibilitarian is a person who, in doing so, converts possibility into actuality. 

Every successful organisation today needs such a ‘Dreamer at the Top’, a possibilitarian doing the impossible against all odds. This prime mover dares the team to dive deep and soar high towards timely thought and action but in a manner hearteningly devoid of provocation and intimidation. 

 Science would be deficient if it were only to remain a hope for the future. It will remain a potent force short of purpose if it fails to meet the pressing needs of today. The intention is the key driving force of innovation. No wonder, the right intention is the foundation of most scientific breakthroughs. 

The Covid-19 challenge has thrown down a gauntlet of this century: The Virathon. Unlike prior hackathons, this lifehack has brought the entire innovation ecosystem to the brink of several paradigm shifts. A case in point is the bench to bedside progression in science that spans, on an average, 17 long years — from lab research, clinical research and guidelines to clinical practice. Thanks to Covid-19, this time frame has shrunk to 17 days, making the bench seem right next to the bedside. As the Virathon continues, innovators and researchers are forced to take a big leap forward to create a hyperloop for knowledge aggregation. 

 If the end goal of education is knowledge and that of knowledge is service, we can leave this world by making it a tad better than from where we started. All you need to do is ‘raise the right question’. When one swears allegiance to a principle, the ‘answer’ appears as soon as the question is right and ready, just like how the master appears when the disciple is worthy and ready. Innovations are the fountainhead to set this largely intuitive process in motion. 

Jugaad and frugal innovations have found its earliest origins in India. If innovations represent our ambition, intentions should be the driving purpose behind them. Both collide within you, they are an inspiring combination and leave you transformed. An unknown force takes over, it drives your life to make you a witness of your unfolding idea, not its creator. If innovation is your passion, make compassion your purpose. If innovation is your power, make intention the underlying force.

At the end of one of my lectures, a starry-eyed medical student asked me: Sir, how do I get a brilliant idea? I replied: Develop a deep yearning to help one patient in need and do not stop until you have solved his or her problem. The entire universe will conspire to flood you with the most brilliant ideas. Remember, perfection becomes effortless if the innovation is unflinchingly focused on removing an individual’s pain, not tweaked to ‘meet’ the market potential. Any success achieved in solving an individual’s problem seamlessly attains scope, scale and size, thereby impacting the masses and thereafter the markets in an organic manner. 

 During my interaction with students, I am often asked: “Which branch of medicine do I take up? Which branch has better scope?” I invariably surmise, “I don’t know, ask yourself.” One must necessarily look within to discover inherent interests and deliberate upon how they could benefit your patients. If one is sincere about this introspection, scope and fulfilment become a foregone conclusion.

En route your educational voyage, you will often come across a subject, a chapter or a topic that ‘speaks’ to you. You will sense an instant connect, akin to a reunion with a long lost pal. This premonition of destiny will become your driving force! This has been my experience with oncology, as also my interest in research in the area of Voice. I connected with it from the first year of my medical school and relished exploring its depths. My professor Dr Humbarwadi inspired me to look at the voice box differently. We spent much time dissecting the nerve to the voice box; he would speak to me at length about the enigma and exceptionality of the voice box.

  Today, when I connect the dots, my ongoing work on Voice prosthesis innovation seems to make sense. The truth be told, you connect the dots when you turn back, not when you look forward. You need to keep creating the dots as you move forward in the path of innovations and stop intermittently. At some point, it will all make sense. 

The former Chief Justice of India, Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah, has been one of the most revered mentors. He once told me, “We should examine India’s development beyond GDP.” This limited and inadequate economic parameter can even be achieved through immoral and illegal means, say by allowing pirates or criminals to run riot. 

He shared with me a beautiful note, which etched in my memory for life: “If three doctors walk from their homes to the hospital, the GDP is low. If the same three buy a brand new BMW and drive it to the hospital, the GDP is way better. However, if on the way, the car meets with an accident and all three doctors lose their lives, our GDP maybe turn out to be the best!”

GDP is but a feeble way to assess progress. Let us envision an India of holistic ideals and purposes, beyond mere economic goals, which stands tall to inspire the world towards scaling similar strides. We must envision India’s development as an expansion of freedom across spheres. Through my innovation of 1$ voice device, I only did my bit to expand the freedom of speech. 

 This ascetic spirit of India was envisioned by Swami Vivekananda. He and Jamsetji Tata met en route a Japan to Chicago voyage when Swamiji shared his aspiration with the visionary industrialist, “What a wonderful feat it would be if the philosophy of the East met the science of the West.” Years later, Jamsetji incepted the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), donating almost half of his wealth for this noble cause. Jamsetji’s letter addressed to Swami Vivekananda, which has been embossed on the IISc walls, is a towering inspiration to millions who harbour similar ambitions rooted in selflessness.

A counterintuitive approach to innovation

During a Tuck School of Business global leadership programme conducted by renowned strategy and innovation expert Dr Vijay Govindarajan, the RollsRoyce team offered me a remarkable perspective on innovation: Unlike the 20th century when knowledge was power, today ignorance is power, as the offbeat views and lateral thinking of non-domain experts have become so very crucial to frugal and disruptive innovation, especially in these Covid-19 times. We need collaboration beyond conventional spheres, not a competition between warring cartels.   

   The ultimate truth about ideas defies popular perception: “Ideas never come from you, they come to you”. Although they reach out to many, only the receptive pay heed and accommodate them. What if we could share our ideas, maybe even allow someone to whisk them away, in the hope of a larger good to society through a better use. If we copyleft our work, it will help us evolve and also serve others in the true spirit of innovation. Such an attitude strengthens ideas through powerful collaborations. The copyleft principle (unlike the copyright) unleashes the power of an idea, its true potential, from conceptualisation to implementation. 

 Some time back, an innovator called me up for a possible collaboration on a similar voice device for throat cancer patients. The call was essentially to connect with me and clarify some of his doubts. We ended up discussing a few principles of speech and I urged him to study my designs. One of my colleagues glared at me in absolute perplexment as if I were insane beyond repair. When he asked me for my logic, all I told him was this: if this man were to disrupt the process or device for speech better than me (less than a $), I will salute him. But I am more than confident about disrupting his innovation further, at a pace twice faster. 

 That is how innovators should compete to ensure that the world gets the absolute best. We must always ‘pay it forward’ to society, breaking free of fear, insecurity and conformity to the convention only to see the world anew each passing day. 

We must never forget we are all dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants. The greatest innovations of today could well turn out to be the biggest blunders of tomorrow. We live in an era of a versionable generation gap. Our greatest competitors are our strongest collaborators. What better time than this to harness the power of collaboration to its fullest, thereby expanding our outreach to masses for achieving farreaching, measurable and sustainable social outcomes. 

 The foundations of frugal and disruptive innovations will thrive on value-based education. When innovators are led by benevolence ahead of breakthroughs, the innovation becomes transformative. 

Sadly, in the current medical sphere, we are only innovating illnesses, not therapies. Worse, we are further innovating on top of these ‘man-made’ ailment innovations. No wonder, most medical students feel a compelling need to build a hospital to cherish what they assume is the crowning glory of a successful career. 

Today, the holistic term healthcare is invariably held synonymous with the incidental term medical care. The latter is only a part of the former and it comes into play only when there is a deviation from health. Healthcare is about treating the root cause, not merely the effect which is only the tip of the iceberg. It is an indisputable fact that a healthy society thrives on as fewer ailments and hospitals as possible. High time we broke the conformal barriers that disallow healthcare innovations to serve the larger cause of humanity. High time we neither raise eyebrows nor ring alarm bells that an integral member of the medical fraternity should be endorsing this critical need.

 The writer is the Regional Director, Head Neck Surgical Oncology and robotic surgery and the Associate Dean for Centre of Academic Research at HealthCare Global (HCG) Cancer Centre, Bengaluru.

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Eighteen organisations have come together to announce the launch of the Life Skills Collaborative (LSC) with the aim to support government agencies and education institutions by building a life skills platform that can aid in the transformation of India’s learning ecosystem. In the first phase, the LSC will work in tandem with state governments across Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, and Mizoram to bring contextual, social and cultural inputs to the development of life skills among the young people of India.

The Collaborative comprises organisations with diverse and global expertise in education, skill development, health and gender with a commitment to collaborate in deepening the understanding of life skills, designing learning tools that nurture life skills, and developing context-relevant assessments to measure progress, share learnings and inform system change India. The current collaborators include Breakthrough, Centre for Science of Student Learning, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Dream A Dream, Echidna Giving, Gnothi Seauton, ICRW, Kaivalya Education Foundation, Magic Bus, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Omidyar Network India, Porticus, Pratham, Quest Alliance, Room To Read, Sattva Consulting, Shantilal Muttha Foundation and The Teacher Foundation. Speaking about the launch, Vishal Talreja, an LSC Collaborator and Co-founder of Dream A Dream, said, “One in three children in India live in extreme poverty and have stunted and/or wasted growth. Children from vulnerable backgrounds are exposed to a combination of adverse experiences causing an irrefutable impact on their physical and mental health. Empathy-based transformative pedagogy, experiential learning, and mentoring can help young people immensely.”

The Life Skills Collaborative will focus on three core areas:

1. Voices, a nationwide engagement with youth, parents, and teachers to capture their voices and translate them to insights that can drive the integration of life skills within public education systems.

2. Glossary, a set of definitions that serves as the vocabulary to discuss life skills in India and establish the foundation for discussing and aligning on outcomes, designing assessments across community, practitioners, and government.

3. Assessments, will focus on creation, establishment, and dissemination of an assessment repository for adolescents, teachers, and the system. At the adolescent level, this will assess student’s capacities and strengths in the age groups 11-14 years and 15-18 years; at the teacher level, it will assess the ability of the teacher to foster life skills in an adolescent; at the system level, it will assess the readiness of the system to deliver life skills.

Rathish Balakrishnan, an LSC Collaborator and Co-founder and Managing Partner at Sattva Consulting, said, “Young people often struggle to access education and employment opportunities, limiting their engagement in society and stunting their potential to live a full life. Equipping them with life skills can change this immensely. While there is a lot of interest in life skills, there is a lack of a common vocabulary and effective assessments, which limits its potential. By building credible and system-ready public goods, the Life Skills Collaborative can accelerate the effective adoption of life skills across the ecosystem.”

In recent times, the need for developing stronger life skills has become more acute. Focusing on building life skills in the next generation is imperative in enabling them to handle different situations capably. In a country like India, where a vast majority of the population is young, life skill development enables young people to direct and manage their lives positively.

Geeta Goel, an LSC Collaborator and Country Director, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation (MSDF, India), added, “The Life Skills Collaborative is an innovative attempt to solve a wicked problem – the development of life skills among the young people of India. To achieve this goal, it is essential to support organisations, institutions and government agencies in building a more inclusive learning environment suited towards promoting life skills.”

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RED FM launches World Cup campaign ‘Totka Chalao India Ko Jeetao’



93.5 RED FM has kick-started its World Cup campaign ‘Totka Chalao, India ko Jeetao’. Capturing the passion and craze of fans, RED FM will celebrate the ‘totkas’ and will have RJs follow some of these tricks shared by listeners as part of the campaign.

Witness the best of entertainment with ‘Nand Kishore Bairagi’ aka RJ Kisna taking a spin on the ‘totkas’ in his unique style. The campaign will also have Bauaa aka RJ Raunac calling up opponent teams as part of his prank calls series. Keeping the passion of the World Cup alive, RED FM will also launch the anthem, ‘Totka Wala Gana’ capturing the craze of cricket fans across the country. Speaking on the campaign, Nisha Narayanan, Director & COO, RED FM and Magic FM, said, “Cricket generates a kind of excitement that cuts across all sections of the society in India. Fans have been eagerly waiting for the mega tournament to start after the Covid-19 pandemic put a stop to all sporting activities. Over the years, cricket has united fans and radio has been a crucial part in bringing them together. There’s no denying that luck and superstitions go hand in hand with a cricket fan and this year we are bringing some of those practices the fans have subconsciously picked up over the years and now cannot let go. Our campaign, ‘Totka Chalao, India ko Jeetao’ will highlight some of the crazy ‘totkas’ that cricket fans follow across the country. We hope that you will share your favourite ‘totkas’ with us and cheer for team India with RED FM.”

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Michael Kors has announced the launch of an exciting new pop-up store activation throughout India to celebrate MK My Way—the popular interactive experience that immerses customers in the luxe world of Michael Kors and lets them customise their Signature logo print handbags with their initials.

The MK My Way activation will take place in stores with a colourful pop-up kiosk. Equal parts elevated and high-energy, the pop-up’s countertop and facade are splashed with metallic hues and punctuated by oversized, graphic takes on the brand’s signature print. After selecting their Signature print handbag, customers have the chance to have their bags hand-painted by Bangalore-based artist and illustrator Srishti Guptaroy (@srillustrator) with either their English/Hindi initials or with one of four unique motifs designed specifically for Diwali.

As an extension of the in-store program, the motifs will also be made into gify stickers available for all Instagram users. Supplies are provided by Angelus Paints, a California paint company and world leader in luxury customisation. To celebrate the launch, the brand has also created a digital campaign starring Bollywood actress Janhvi Kapoor (@janhvikapoor).

The pop-up store activations will take place in several cities throughout India, including:

Jio World Drive in Mumbai (from 8 to 31 October)

DLF Emporio in Delhi (from 11 to 31 October)

UB City in Bangalore (from 23 to 30 October)

Tatacliq Luxury (online) (from 18 to 31 October)

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Civilian killings in J&K are not random, but part of deliberate plan: Defence expert



Defence expert Dhruv Katoch, while raising concerns over the recent killing of civilians by terrorists in the valley, on Monday said that the killings in Jammu and Kashmir are a deliberate attempt on the part of the Pakistani intelligence agency where they have made a detailed plan to create disturbance in India especially within the union territory.

Pointing out that these incidents are not “random”, Katoch said, “These are not isolated incidences. Everything is planned. They are targeting the poorer sections working there. The consolidated impact of the act is the cause of concern.” “It is a deliberate attempt on the part of the Pakistani intelligence agency where they have made a detailed plan to create disturbance in India especially within Jammu and Kashmir,” Katoch told ANI.

The defence expert said that it is important to hand this over to these incidents to National Investigation Agency (NIA) to determine the linkages within India, but more importantly to determine the linkages outside India.

Reacting to the ongoing counter-terrorist operation in J-K’s Poonch, he said, “We have already lost nine bravehearts and the operation is still on for nine days.”

He further said that the visit of Chief of Army Staff General MM Naravane to forward areas along the Line of Control in Jammu is simply to convey his support to the troops.

Amid the heightened counter-terrorist operations in the Poonch-Rajouri sector, Army chief Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane is on a two-day visit to the Jammu region to review the overall security situation on the ground.

The Poonch sector has seen heightened military activities in the last fortnight as nine Army soldiers have lost their lives there and operations are still on in the 16 Corps area to neutralise the terrorists. After a lull of six months, terrorist activities have gone up in the hinterland and ceasefire violations attempts are also on the rise in the Jammu area.

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The fall of Kabul and the conversion of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan on 15 August this year has boosted the morale of terrorist outfits, as per an analysis by a Canada-based think tank.

In view of “strong ties” between the Afghan Taliban and the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), violence is expected to increase in the “pro-democracy” countries and even in Pakistan, according to the think tank, international think tank based in Canada, International Forum for Rights and Security (IFFRAS). In recent developments in the South-Asian region, particularly in Pakistan, 52 people died in 35 terror attacks in August indicating the growing instability in the region, according to the international think tank based in Canada, IFFRAS.

The killing of seven Pakistani soldiers by the TTP in Waziristan in September followed by the killing of the Pakistan Army’s Captain in the district bordering Afghanistan are the latest instances of the rising violence in the region including Pakistan.

According to IFFRAS, the role of Pakistan is being studied by the experts and they have been “suspicious” about Pakistan’s “double games”.

The Taliban after capturing power has assured no propagation of terror activities on Afghan soil.

“However, the Taliban has the reputation of saying one thing and then doing quite the opposite,” IFFRAS quoted a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Aqil Shah as saying.

More than 6,000 terrorists had made their hideout in Afghanistan till 2020 even in the presence of the US military, IFFRAS reported citing a report by the United Nations.

“The total number of Pakistani foreign terrorist fighters in Afghanistan, posing a threat to both countries, is estimated at between 6,000 and 6,500, most of them with TTP,” the international think tank quoted the report as saying.

According to a rights advocacy group, Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Pakistani military and civil societies have garnished their relations with the Taliban for smuggling and terror training to counter India’s rising influence in South Asia, according to IFFRAS.

With the Taliban back in power in Afghanistan, Pakistan is staring at the problem of aggravation of Islamic radicalisation on its soil, furthering its image as a terror state.

“The government will be under greater pressure to make the state more sharia-compliant if Taliban next door is doing that,” IFFRAS quoted a researcher at the University of London, Ayesha Siddiqa as saying.

As pressure mounts on the Imran Khan government in Pakistan to recognise the Taliban government, the chief of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI) called for a revolution to “pull down” the government, according to the IFFRAS.

Following such calls for revolution, the terror outfits in Pakistan may get a boost which may lead to “bloodshed”, according to the think tank.

“With the Taliban taking over, anti-Pakistan terrorist groups will be emboldened, but it doesn’t end there. There could be an emergence of a new war of narratives in the country, which will transform ongoing debates about state and society and the role that religion plays,” IFFRAS quoted the director of the Pakistani Institute for Peace Studies in Islamabad, Muhammad Amir Rana.

Former US National Security Advisor, Lt Gen HR McMaster called Pakistan an enemy nation and said that the country uses “Jihadist terrorists” as an arm of their foreign policy.

“We have to stop pretending that Pakistan is a partner. Pakistan has been acting as an enemy nation against us by organising, training and equipping these forces and by continuing to use jihadist terrorist organisations as an arm of their foreign policy,” reported IFFRAS quoting Lt Gen HR McMaster.

The total number of Pakistani foreign terrorist fighters in Afghanistan, posing a threat to both countries, is estimated at between 6,000 and 6,500, most of them with TTP.

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Since lockdown, I felt a surge of people on social media just looking for content: Tarini Shah



She is a Gen-Z content creator and her relatable content is popular with the youth. Tarini Shah already has an enormous Instagram followers count of 248k, and it is growing with each passing day. We hosted Tarini for a frank conversation for our latest series, NewsX Influencer A-List. Below are the excerpts from the interview:

We began the interview by asking Tarini about her journey down the path of content creation. Tarini replied, “I started creating content around two years ago but I really started focusing on content during the pandemic and since lockdown, I felt a surge of people on social media just looking for content.” She added, “I was lucky enough to be there at that time creating content on the other side of it and that’s actually what kickstarted my career.” This was the point when Tarini realized that the creative field was her calling.

On being asked about how she juggles between her college life and her influencer life, Tarini told us, “Sometimes, it does get really, really overwhelming because assignments have deadlines and collaborations have deadlines and managing these two deadlines does get a little stressful,” said Tarini when we asked  Tarini appreciated the efforts of her professional team who help her in keeping up with the tight deadlines. She also expressed gratitude towards her sisters from whom Tarini learnt the valuable skill of time management. Ms Shah further said, “It requires a good to-do list to make sure that both the things go on properly because they are equally important to me. Education is important and content creation is something I really love doing and it’s kind of like my job.”

We then asked Tarini if she thinks content creation can be taught as part of a course and if she plans on taking up the craft as her full-time profession. “I am studying Bachelor in Management Studies and I’m doing marketing, and content creation does turn out to be digital marketing in one way when we start doing brand collaborations, so we do have this tiny thread that connects them both but I feel I’m more inclined towards creating content,” said Tarini. She believes that content creation teaches a plethora of different skills which can be applied in various fields. She concluded the thought by saying, “…content creation can definitely end up being a course because the monetary aspect is there and this is just the start. There are so many content creators who are coming up in the pandemic, so the future of it looks massive to me. The brands are coming to lots of influencers with various campaigns because there is a direct connection between the people and the influencer.”

Our next question to Tarini was about how she maintains her mental health in the middle of a demanding lifestyle. Tarini answered, “I feel talking to people does definitely help- my family, my sisters, my mentor, and my friends.” She continued, “Just talking to them about what’s going on in my life and because of this I feel like I am actually living my life like I’m living my dream life, but I also lowkey want to do those 19-year-old teenager things that sometimes I miss out on, but just by talking to people around me helps me live my life through them a little bit.” This, according to Tarini, helps her keep a calm mental state amid a healthy work-life balance. 

For our last question, we asked Tarini about how she deals with body image issues on social media platforms, to which stated, “…it takes a while to put those insecurities out in the public with so many eyes watching you and you are worried about the opinions of people which is also very natural to do so but seeing other people on social media doing it encourages you as a person as well.” She continued by saying, “That’s what I am trying to do, slowly and steadily one step at a time trying to put myself out there, just the way I am.”

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