January 11, 2014

Reverse Innovation : Meeting with Mr. D R Mehta

I was fortunate to meet Mr. D R Mehta at IIM Lucknow today. D R Mehta is a former chairman of SEBI. He is a founder and chief patron of BMVSS (society behind Jaipur Foot), the world's largest organization for the handicapped in terms of free fitment of artificial limbs/calipers etc. He is a recipient of Padma Bhushan, one of the highest Indian civilian awards, for his contribution to social cause.

Jaipur foot is example of Reverse Innovation on which Prof Vijay Govindrajan talks about. The whole purpose is to provide prosthetic foot at a very low cost and at a very high quality just suited for the kind of people it is required. People who are disabled, below poverty line and dejected by society and lost their self confidence. A innovation for bottom of pyramid. A case study has been written by Prof. C. K. Prahlad of Michigan Business School. The case mentions that Jaipur foot provides foot at a cost of $30 while the same averages $8000 in US. What a example it stands for!

Unlike traditional centers – this doesn’t require the patient to come – get themselves registered and then come back after some months to get their artificial limb fitted which may be a uphill task for such kind of people for whom any movement is already a challenge and making that investment into travelling 4 times. Jaipur foot straight away admits people and only after once the patient is admitted is registered, measurements made to make limbs and then fitted. “awesome” is the word comes to my mind.

How did it all started? The Fuel for Innovation is Passion. In this case it was the passion of Chandra. Chandra was an artesian and he observed that the artificial limbs that were made are not suited for India since they doesn’t address the needs of squatting, working on irrigated (wet) fields since they were made of heavy sponge and were not light weight. He took his idea of building a foot close to the real foot experimented with aluminum mould, willow and sponges. It was a defining moment when the master craftsman was going on his cycle and the tire punctured. He stopped at a road side cycle puncture repairer. He observed how he was retreading the tire. He rushed to the hospital to discuss with doctors. With a lot of refinements and help of esteemed doctors the Jaipur foot was made.

Once the idea is solidify, scalling it up is one of the task all innovators face. Jaipur foot has made the whole thing into an assembly line format where they make some 50 limbs each day. They have done 50 camps across the south asian countries and benefited over 1.3 million people with physical disabilities. None can match this kind of depth.

Jaipur foot is working with some 11 institutions to make further improvement each and every day. The list of institutions includes 4 IITs, Stanford University, MIT, ISRO, Dow Chemicals etc.

Innovations need simplicity in what is done. The whole sceen of Jaipur foot is simple and transparent. The patients can look into when their foot is being made since the assembly line area is all with glasses. In fact the patient can walk inside. They have replaced the need of psychologist by employing the attendees with people who are themselves fitted with artificial limb. It becomes such a huge motivator.

Dr. Mehta also talked about the quality to keep pushing for innovation to spread out. The mis-behavior has to be tolerated.  

They kept on pursuing the opportunity to go to Pakistan to help poor there and finally got the chance when Mr. Mehta could convince the Pakistan’s diplomat that a Pakistani could read namaz in a better manner when he is fitted with Jaipur foot unlike the ones imported from developed nations.

Truly it is one of the most priced Innovations of India. Salute to Bhagwaan Mahaveer Viklang Sahyata Samiti. Jai Hind !

No comments:

Post a Comment