Sunday, June 19, 2005

Karnataka Diary

Last couple of weeks have been very hectic for us. Getting up in the morning at 7 o'clock to get ready for the field work, taking a quick bath or a quick decision to not take bath and then along with the team members getting packed into jeep (7 people including the driver) and then starts the real work, going from village to village and gathering information about the existing or potential pulpwood plantation. Though, the whole process of gathering information about the plantation is being carried out by our team members as neither we have the ability (no knowledge of kannada) nor the ability. The team members are really something, specially my namesake, a tall fair fellow, showing a great affinity for male jewelry, which I guessed either he has robbed his in law on the pretense of marriage or has some relationship with some jeweler from where he has got all that on installments, as the kinda of salary he is getting from the organization ( the org in consideration is one of the biggest conglomerate of India). He is a bit annoyed by us and our methodology, which the team follows, this might be due to 5 hours lecture we rendered to them in the workshop to train them . In his opinion, there is no need for such kind of exercise as they have been doing all this exercises all the years, though it's a different thing management has never got any substantial result from their exercise.

So we started for Belur Taluk in Hassan district, I took my preferred back seat in the jeap (a result of my craving for leg space ). I tried my best to gather as much of karnataka as possible through my visual receivers, which were constantly focussed outside the window and keeping me busy in the analysis. Actually this is my way of keeping myself busy. Observe around myself and look for extraordinary in ordinary things. Sometime trying to read what is written on the signboards and posters, to know about the town or place. End result, cursing the kannadiga people for their lack of concern for people like us, who do not know kannada, almost all the boards were in kannada, or the information you are looking for is in Kannada.

When we stop for the data collection, all the team members raid the puzzled victim. Thinking us as either police official or some other govt officials, a range of expression does a quick parade on their face. But the moment their hear the word Neelgiri and Survey, they start opening up and in some time we have 10-12 people surrounding us, trying to help us or help themselves I don't know.

The most beautiful experience was visit to Sakleshpur, famous for its coffee plantation. There were a lot of Silver Oak trees with small canopy, talking to sky and creepers of black pepper had surrounded them, they looked more like green pillars ( Coffee plants were planted with Silver Oak trees as they need partial shade. ). Lush green plantation of coffee on both sides of road, and beautiful landscapes give you feeling beyond expression. I must thank IIFM for this experience, I doubt if any other institute provides such beautiful experience. Population density in this region seems to be very low, as we traveled around 20-30 kilometers and whole coffee plantation region was dotted with some groups of 5-6 houses. I found mostly women working in the plantations and nearby areas, dressed in shirt and a kind of Ghagra. Pleased in what they were doing, giving a cursory glance to our vehicle crossed. There were several boards declaring "World's Best Coffee Grows Here".

Another great experience was visit to Belur, where we saw a great example of South Indian architecture in the Belur Temple, beautiful. It was just beautiful. Huge structures filled with wonderful example of subtle, beautiful carvings. I just wonder how many man days, it would have taken to build it. Cameras were allowed inside, a deviation from what was almost universal rule in Tamilnadu. I took full liberty of this. I must thank Mr. Bapat, a real gentleman who took several snaps of us. Then we headed for Hallebeedu, and visited the temple there.
Next day, we got an opportunity to visit the village of our former Prime Minister Mr. Devegowda. Nothing special about the village apart from the road leading to the village, on which you can easily put your car in top gear and enjoy the rare experience of seeing your speedometer needle pass 100 kmh mark. Since we were to visit a lot of villages there, we had to take food in small hotel (if I can call it), that hotel we found out after asking a lot of people for a good hotel. I think that was the best hotel there. The served a food, which you can take only to fill your tummy, don’t ask about the taste. The served something looking like a ball (slightly bigger than a cricket ball ), I could not muster the strength to say yes to that. When I asked what as that, as some of my Kannadiga team members were relishing that. They told me that this dish was secret of Mr. Devegowda’s health, full of protein. We paid Rs. 15 per person for the lunch, which made me wonder that to survive you need not much money. Though food in K'taka or you can say in whole south india is very cheap, you can get good food for 30-50 Rupees, the south indian meals are very cheap compared to the north indian foods here.

One thing surprised me that south indian states have comparatively high literacy rate, but visit a magazine shop and stationery shop, you would find only Kannada magzines on the stand, almost all the magazine are either film based or political. Its very difficult to find some good english mags even in the district headquarters. While in Bihar or UP all the news stand keeps a good range of popular english/hindi magazines. I think its due to a lot of people in these states preparing for different competitive examination. The need to keep themselves updated with wold affairs and different topics make them grab these english magazines. Contrary to that, here in Karnataka, I think majority of youth go for professional education, engineering / medical, and why not, getting 20-30 percent mark in the state engineering / medical entrance, guarantees you a seat. Thanks to the mushrooming engineering and medical colleges. But don’t ask about the quality (no offence intended to anyone), but most of the colleges are just a center for distribution of professional qualification. And their student end up working for 5-6 thousand rupees per month or opt for BPO career.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Rural Innovations

This is first time I am writing on the blog. Currently at the verge of completing my first OT....would be moving back to home tomorrow. It was really a nice experience to work with National Innovation Foundation, Ahmedabad. I got a real-time project to work on a portfolio of innovations done by grassroots people. I worked on six innovations preparing investment opportunity documents for them. This project brought a lot of learning’s to me. All the six cases belong to various fields and varied nature. They ranged from FMCG product like toothbrush to social product like pine needles crusher and stove. All had different challenges in their sector. All the innovations were at different stages of product life cycle. Few were at the concept stage while few where almost at ready to market stage. Few were even at testing stage.
Working on these innovations provided a deep insight about the vast and rich knowledge that exists at the grassroots. The common population has great ideas and traditional knowledge, which if effectively utilized can change the whole scenario of the society. This project also gave me the best exposure to the difficulties and intricacies involved in the new product development. This helped me in understanding that only novelty of innovation cannot make a product successful in market.
Best part of the project was that i was supposed to scout for entrepreneurs and licensees for transferring these grassroots technologies for successful commercialization and I finally succeeded in finding an entrepreneur who became ready to invest 1-1.5 lakhs for product development of an innovation. Hope this brings a change to the life of the innovator who being in the profession of rickshaw pulling has faced a lot of difficulties to carry out his innovation. .

Mukul Jain
(the post was sent to me by email.. - santosh)