Did you know that more than 150 million plastic toothbrushes are thrown into the garbage every month in India, to be collected in landfills? It’s hard to imagine how even a routine activity like brushing your teeth could have environmental repercussions.
Think about what happens to vehicle tyres after they have served their time. A quick google search will tell you that burning tyres is a huge environmental hazard because it releases toxic pollutants. So they too simply pile up in various dumps.
Then there are the plastic utensils we regularly use – plates, spoons and bowls – that also end up in landfills, adding to the waste.
India is filled with such examples, crying out for a solution. So how does one answer that call? Innovative design is the answer. In a country of jugaads, design improvisations happen all around us. These are created out of a desire to make a common product better, cheaper or easier to use. They are invented to positively impact the status quo.
For instance, to combat the waste generated by millions of plastic toothbrushes, innovators are designing and manufacturing toothbrushes made of biodegradable materials like bamboo, which is antimicrobial and water-resistant. Similarly, instead of letting used tyres increase the load on landfills, innovators are converting tyres into other products like fuel oil, furniture, shoes, construction material, and more. Thanks to such out-of-the-box thinkers, we also now have cutlery made of sugarcane, jowar, wheat flour and other such organic materials to fight the plastic menace.
These are important examples of how a simple thought or idea for an innovative product can lead to wide-scale transformation.
Unfortunately, innovating in India isn’t simple.
It comes with a list of hurdles:
- Cost of innovation: Before an innovator’s idea can become a ‘product’, there must be a prototype. Sadly, this crucial first step is a critical barrier for more than 75% of innovative small and medium firms.
- Scalability: Despite having a solid product and even investor-backing, many Indian innovators are unable to turn their prototype into a mass product.
- Red Tape: 68% of innovative small firms and approximately 75% of innovative medium businesses see government policy and regulations as a barrier to innovation in India.
- Tough Market: Indian markets have many obstacles – seen and unseen. Competition, demand, a protectionist nature and dominance and monopoly affect a firm’s ability to innovate. Moreover, products and processes for niche markets have smaller commercial scope in the nation.
So how do we cross these hurdles and use design to impact social change in India? More importantly, how do we reach out to underprivileged communities with these innovations?
These are just some of the questions that the ‘Design Impact Awards for Social Change’ has set out to answer.
This is an engagement driven programme introduced by Titan in collaboration with Tata Trusts, which recognises and supports innovative product designs that bring social impact.
The awards look to positively impact underprivileged communities by encouraging and inspiring bright minds to design for their benefit. For this, the programme seeks to identify product design innovators, who have been able to innovate solutions in their local communities. How? The programme will identify them through an extensive network of NGOs, a nomination panel and other pan-India organisations.
Creating your application is the first step towards participating in the Design Impact Awards for Social Change.
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Who can apply?
A product design innovator or a team with a prototype or a tested product that focuses on social needs, which has the potential to be upscaled to create a greater impact. If this describes you or your team, then you should apply for the programme. The product designs should be tangible/hard products or a system related to tangible/hard products.
What will you get?
The programme will provide financial grants up to ₹65 lakh per project along with advocacy, recognition and mentorship, allowing products to upscale their reach and impact.
In later stages, grant recipients will get the opportunity to apply for additional seed capital up to a similar amount as the grant. After this, opportunities for networking for further rounds of funding will be provided.
Shortlisted participants will also get to attend workshops, boot camps, interviews and other engagements.
Meet the judges
The judges include Dr. R.A. Mashelkar, one of India’s most eminent scientists and former Director General of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research; Prof. Anil Gupta, globally renowned grassroots innovations scholar and founder of the Honey Bee Network, Prof Ashok Jhunjhunwala, Department of Electrical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras and pioneer in Industry Academia interaction towards R&D, Innovation and Product Development; Padma Shri V.R. Mehta, Trustee, Sir Dorabji Tata Trusts; Mr. Harish Bhat, Brand Custodian, Tata Sons and Mr. Ramji Raghavan, well-renowned India-based social innovator and entrepreneur and Founder and Chairman of Agastya International Foundation; and others.
So what are you waiting for?
Creating your application is the first step towards participating in the Design Impact Awards for Social Change. Applications must be submitted via the Application Form available on www.designimpactawards.in, by October 31, 2017.