TOP 10 INNOVATIONS FOR COVID-19
Blog by Oishani Nandi
Lemon Idea’s What an Idea for COVID-19 competition commenced on the 29th of March 2020, with ideas from over 54 different geographies (including international participation) With over hundreds of submitted ideas, 37 were selected for pitching with only 10 selected for the final idea showcase.
Mr Mukesh Ashar, the co-founder and director of the Lemon School of Entrepreneurship, started the morning with a brief introduction and insight into the dreams and the core fundamentals that Lemon Ideas was founded on, creating an ecosystem for startups in India. Highlighting the challenges and triumphs of the adventure of kickstarting Lemon Ideas, he said that the determination of creating something new and innovative powered them through the entire journey. The executive team always had the aspiration of ensuring that India be the primary hub of entrepreneurship and through Lemon Ideas, we are one step closer to achieving this dream.
The morning then transitioned to a welcoming speech by Lt. Col. Saurabh Shah(Retd), the convener of the WAI for COVID-19 challenge, to give an overview of the competition. The competition was built in a time of need to come up with a solution to help the current crisis at hand, the coronavirus pandemic. Lemon Ideas opened the Innopreneurs platform to allow people from all over India to submit ideas under specific domains that catered to specific sub-problems and helping avenues under the large problem of COVID-19.
Mr Deepak Menaria, the founder and chief idea farmer of Lemon Ideas, then took some time to welcome Lemon Ideas. Mr Menaria highlighted the importance of recognising the pandemic as an opportunity rather than a problem. The major contributions of Lemon include awareness building, training, mentoring as well as creating ventures and accelerating projects based on original pedagogies and learning models. This is all through creating, nurturing and growing ventures through various initiatives such as the What an Idea initiative. Mr Menaria emphasised the reach of the WAI campaign by giving his appreciation to how many rural cities and demographics this campaign was able to reach.
Then came the introduction of the chief guest of the day’s event, Shri Anurag Thakur Ji, the Union minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs with the government of India. Shri Thakur emphasised the importance of this campaign in such a time of crisis, with innovations and bright minds being our only hope. COVID-19 came as a surprise, and it is important to always be prepared and ready to think on our feet, and as Shri Thakur rightfully quoted, “necessity is the mother of all inventions.” Becoming a ‘Digital India’ has been a long-time goal of the current administration, but in times of crisis, all citizens have stepped up to the plate and everyone is working towards making this happen. Shri Thakur highlighted how with the imaginative, innovative, and creative minds of Indian citizens and with start-up incubators such as Lemon Ideas, we have managed to range amongst the top 3 with respect to the start-up ecosystem. Shri Thakur mentioned how despite having such a prosperous country, there is a long and far way to go and he is confident that we can do this, and compete with the world and expand our industries. In summary, Shri Thakur spoke of the importance of doing more as a country through innovations and claiming our own space in the international fabric.
Shri Thakur in presence of other eminent guests, released the publication of a collection of 100 ideas received as part of the idea campaign for COVID 19.
Following Shri Thakur’s opening remarks, came Mr Madhur Bajaj, the vice-chairman of Bajaj Auto ltd. Mr Bajaj spoke of the impact of the pandemic all over the world and specifically in India. Entrepreneurship is the fuel for progress and we should not let one of the largest problems of our planet come in the way of stopping the spirit of innovation of entrepreneurship. Economic stress and poverty are rampantly increasing in this pandemic and thus, it is important that we maintain a balance between safety and economic considerations. After a certain point, we need to progress into a society where instead of avoiding the virus, we live with and beat the virus with persistence and strength. Mr Bajaj emphasised the importance of staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic and that the government should create a synthesis between controlling the pandemic and maintaining the livelihoods of Indians.
Mr R Ramanan Ji, the mission director of the Atal Innovation Mission Initiative, spoke of how with more than 1.4 million schools, it is vital that the younger generation has the opportunity to express their innovations and their unique ideas through a platform such as Atal Innovation. The mission has set up specific tinkering labs that have allowed students to learn how to create solutions, create viable products and etc. This opportunity provides students with a learning opportunity polar opposite to that of what is ingrained in the traditional educational system. Mr Ramanan emphasises the importance of creating economic balances throughout the various districts in India (especially those with infrastructural challenges), improving connectivity through improving the five pillars of our society, nurturing and empowering our youth to ensure that necessary change is made, and using our various challenges as opportunities. Hence, it is important that we give the importance to social innovation as commercially driven and ensure that our country sets an example by improving the infrastructure for education and technology. As mentioned by Mr Ramanan, COVID-19 is not only a threat but an opportunity, and it is important to recognise it as one.
Mr Ramanan’s speech was followed by the long-awaited showcasing of the ideas and innovations.
The very first innovation of the showcase was Carbon Hubs. The mission of this company is to discover, develop and deliver world-class clean technology and create a large customer base using clean technology and their vision is to become a leading global green solution provider. Their products are an air purifier technology that can detect and indicate if there is someone in the company who has COVID-19. Carbon hubs came in looking for connections, funds and ICMR Acknowledgement. Upon questioning, Carbon Hubs clarified that the primary audience is that of spaces that hold large gatherings, such as offices.
Following the very first showcase came Mr Chaman Lal Dnadnda, The director of the MSMS Innovation Project , GIZ in New Dehli. Mr Dhanda has emphasised the importance of coming into the mindset of fostering innovations and ensuring that form of entrepreneurship can make one realise their dream. The only way a product becomes successful and useful is if it serves the purpose that it was made for, and is providing common good to the people. He emphasised the importance of recognising that there are various forms of innovation, and it is important that the generation of today don’t leave their innovation as just an idea, but as a real catalyst for change. Mr Dhanda emphasised that our upcoming generations turn innovations to realisation.
The next of the ideas in the idea showcase was the Low-Cost Ventilator. The problem currently in India is that ventilators are expensive yet they are the key emergency device and are crucial during this pandemic. Many rural health care facilities are in need of a frugal and portable solution and thus it is important that a solution comes through. This innovation provides a low-cost ventilator which costs less than Rs. 5000, is easy to manufacture, easy to integrate ambulance and can be manipulated to the need that it is being used for.
Following the Low-Cost Ventilator came the Disinfect UV-C torch helps in simplifying surface disinfection, an essential prevention technique against the COVID-19 pandemic. With hospitals evolving into infection hubs and relaxed lockdowns that are leading to virus-ridden public areas and thus it is important to come up with a solution to easily detect the pandemic. The primary target audience is areas wherein people gather in large numbers. This torch is a handheld torch, has a vacuum cleaner extension (to help disinfect) and has a motion-sensing off-switch. This product provides unique opportunities never seen before, with its lifetime use, affordability, portability and effectiveness. Upon questioning, the team clarified that in order to enter the market they will require a partner that will help them segue into the market.
Taking a brief break from the showcase, Ms Grace Akello the high commissioner from the Ugandan High Commission, graced this webinar with her knowledge as a high commissioner, from a country not so different from India. Ms Akello emphasised the importance of the statement mentioned by the honourable minister that, to innovate is to stagnate. Uganda and India have had a very strong relationship in the past and she spoke of the importance of igniting and pushing the youth of the two countries to ensure that our society transforms into prosperous countries. The importance of remaining self-reliant is ever-present in both the countries/ Despite the visible polar opposite differences between the countries of India and Uganda, at the core, the two countries are the same and require the same empowerment for their youth.
Following Ms Akello’s speech was Mr Mitun John, the Jt. CEO of the Maharashtra State Innovation Society. He spoke of the main agency to empower the innovators and entrepreneurs of our generation. One of the flagship initiatives of the Maharashtra State Innovation Society is to be one of the earliest customers to new and upcoming startups and provide them with fiscal support. The MSIS has managed to raise over 30 crores to help hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Similar to other speakers, Mr John mentioned that the COVIE-19 could be seen as an obstacle but in actuality, it is an opportunity for young entrepreneurs and changemakers. Mr John emphasised the importance of providing support and help to these startups as they are the builders of our future.
The fourth startup to present was the Nirog Initiative India. They address the problems of the unavailability of sanitisation services, lack of IT process for tracking, auditing and reporting of sanitisation services in India and substandard quality and process efficiency of sanitisation in India. The solution that Nirog India provides is providing a marketplace for large scale sanitisation services, partnering with smaller businesses that work in the same sector, and provide real-time monitoring using an IoT dashboard. This dashboard helps enterprises monitor areas that have been sanitised and which areas are in need of sanitisation. Upon questioning the team clarified that they have operated successful pilot services (wherein there are temperature scanners in public areas which results get uploaded into a dashboard) in Bhubaneswar and Bangalore.
The fifth innovation was the UVC Indoor Sanitisation Robot. The problem addressed is the constant fear of getting infected in large crowded public areas. Spraying chemicals in these spaces have proved to be unsafe and ineffective but robots that use UVC rays are far more effective. This particular robot can inactivate the virus in a room of 400 sq. ft. using focussed beans for walls and tabletops and can be controlled using a mobile app and is the most cost-effective solution in the market at the moment. They are estimated to launch into the market by 30th June 2020 and require INR 50 Lakhs to operate. Upon questioning., the team clarified that the UVC rays being emitted from the robot would never fall directly upon the robot, thus, keeping the human in a safe position.
Mr Nagaraja Prakasam is an Angel Impact Investor who essentially makes use of their personal disposal finance to invest in small businesses to help empower young entrepreneurs. Mr Prakasam emphasised the need of innovation and entrepreneurship in a time of crisis wherein our country is not only facing the pandemic but an economic crisis. He mentioned that there are two avenues of opportunities here: healthcare opportunities and also opportunities to help those who are currently in poverty. Mr Prakasam extended his support to the finalists of the What an Idea competition.
The next startup of this showcase was the Grocery App, an all in one app for booking and delivering grocery and medicines from local stores. This app solves two problems, the first one being the current crowding and lack of maintenance of social distancing occurring nearing local shops, supermarkets and pharmacies thus increasing the risk of contracting COVID-19. The second part is that it is becoming increasingly harder for migrants, travellers and etc. to gain permission to leave their homes. This app provides a platform to connect the farmers to mainstream industries by providing online booking from local shops (both grocery and pharmacies) through a token number system with delivery partners from local regions. This app also helps people apply for permissions to travel from state-to-state. Upon questioning the team clarified that a prototype of the app has been created but it is still in its developmental stage.
The next innovation presented is the UVC Mask, a high-tech quality and cost-effective mask. This mask is not only more cost-effective but comes with a self sanitisation function, is safe to reuse and is far more effective than other masks available in the marketplace right now. They are aiming to work with agencies, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, governments, municipal corporations, companies and etc. They are seeking both mentoring and incubation support of INR 10 Lakhs.
The 8th innovation showcased is the Sanitiser Compulsion device, which helps deal with the large problems of social distancing, disinfection and public sanitisation. These problems are solved with the Sanitiser Compulsion Device which is a small mountable door latch (that can be fitted to any type of door) which will sanitise any hands that come in contact with the doors. It is not only cost-effective but it is easy to operate, does not have any complex technology and can be easily operated. This product cuts down the rate of infection and spreads exponentially.
Momentarily segueing from the showcase, Mr Rahil Narverkar, The founder and CEO of the Startup Studio and the India Network, gave a small address. Mr Narverkar emphasised the importance of maintaining a narrative. Most entrepreneurs have been appealing to logic but it is just as important to maintain a narrative that appeals to the emotions of the investor because most people think with their hearts before their brains. He also mentioned that it is important to capture the attention of the investor within the first few seconds and this is easily done by maintaining a strong narrative. Our current educational system promotes having a strong basis of logic, but in Mr Narvarkar’s experience, he has seen that having a strong story and a narrative has sold more investors than that of strong logic.
The next innovation showcased is the smart ventilator which addressed the problem of the lack of portable ventilators in India at the moment which is critical in the treatment of COVID-19. There is a large demand for ventilators that are portable and cost-effective (roughly one-fifth of the existing ventilators in the market). This ventilator utilises a sensor so that doctors can monitor patients from anywhere, anytime using a mobile app. What sets this startup aside from other brands is that they are low-tech and guarantee the correct operation of this device in emergency situations with the simplicity of this device.
The last presentation of the What an Idea for COVID-19 is the Foot Operated Tap. The problem addressed for this product is the current water scarcity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as many people are manically washing their hands to stay safe against the COVID-19 pandemic. The solution for this is the DC Pump for Tap, essentially what this product does is help add a modification to ready-made taps using gravitational technologies. Their innovation helps save around 30% of the water that is currently being wasted. They have already received repeated orders from the air force and have implemented their product in schools and other such organisations. They already have a proof of concept that this model works, but they require further help gaining access to the government bodies. Upon questioning, they have mentioned that their touchless sensors are specifically for outdoor environments.
Mr Krishnkant Chaturvedi, the CEO of Innopreneurs at Lemon Ideas started the conclusion of the showcase by briefly summarising four other Ideas, the Early Warning System, The Monitoring Device, the I.V. Level Monitoring and the Roll-on Wristband. Information of the aforementioned can be found on the Livestream or can be found in the publication of 100+ ideas from the What an Idea for COVID-19 competition.
A few other speakers such as Mr Noah Omuya all the way from Uganda, spoke of the importance of information and connectivity in the time of the pandemic and the importance of creating entrepreneurship and innovations in a time like this. Mr Nitin Gujarathi came and gave his thanks to the wonderful guest speakers, the participants of the competition and the guests of the zoom session.
Mr. Solomon Ossiya, Minister of State, ICT, Uganda emphasized the importance of information in the pandemic, thus he formed the organization called AICA to share the information with youth and encourage them to find solutions for the various problems that country is facing.
In conclusion, the event was a whopping success with hundreds of viewers on the Livestream and on the Zoom call for the Webinar. Many honourable guests had graced their presence and most importantly many revolutionary and innovative ideas received a platform to create active change in a time of pandemic and crisis.