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He was in class 9 when 15-year-old Sikanto first noticed his classmates struggling to pick up waste with their bare hands. This was part of their morning duties at the Jai Gurudev Sanstha School in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, which provides free education to underprivileged children.
Boys would either try and sneak out of the assembly to avoid the task or scrunch their noses in disgust. This would be followed by a roar of giggles from the girls who swept the school.
So he came up with the idea to build a manual waste lifting and dumping device. Armed with a paper and pencil, he meticulously scribbled a design. But did he have the funds to execute it? No, he didn’t.
In an exclusive with The Better India, Sikanto reveals how his parents were daily wage labourers who migrated to Mathura from West Bengal, 15 years ago. While his father worked two jobs at a book factory and as a rickshaw driver, his ailing mother couldn’t do much. His older brother, though pursuing BSc, would spend long hours at the book factory to support the family.
So Sikanto reached out to his teachers with the idea, who in turn, encouraged him to apply for the Inspire Awards by the Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India.
His entry impressed the authorities who awarded him with Rs 5,000 to build a model. The young innovator spent nearly two months building a preliminary model of his mobile garbage collection machine using wood, discarded bicycle parts like chains and brakes.
When he tested the model on the school grounds, it was a raging success. From the district level of the Inspire Awards to the state and national level exhibitions, his invention won laurels.
In 2016, Dr Vipin Kumar, Director and Chief Innovation Officer, National Innovation Foundation, helped Sikanto patent the technology. He spent 15 days at the NIF building a metal prototype.
The model consisted of a picker to collect garbage without the need to touch it and a gripper and a handle that made it easier to dump the collected garbage. The USP of the model was its manual working–it was easy to carry and operate, unlike other garbage collection devices which required electricity, battery or fuel for functioning.
Sikanto even customised the cart for sanitation workers to accommodate their brooms, a water bottle and other material they encountered on the field.
His model at the NIF grabbed the attention of Gujarat-based start-up Sarjan Innovators Pvt Ltd. After a few modifications, they got the technology transferred for mass production with patents to commercialise it. Priced at Rs 10,500, the Swachhta Cart is expected to hit the markets soon, with Sikanto getting the royalty for the technology.
Sikanto exhibited the model at the Festival of Innovation at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in March 2017 and was also lauded by the Chief Minister on UP Divas. He travelled to Japan along with the winners of Inspire Awards, funded by the Ministry of Science & Technology, GOI.
Sikanto dreams of becoming an engineer who will innovate many more solution-based machines, hoping that his pursuits will ease his family’s financial crisis. “The small ancestral land we have back in West Bengal with a blanket for its ceiling was the only place we called our ‘own’ home. One day, I will build a pukka house where the dilapidated structure now stands. My brother will no longer have to work at the factory. He will complete his BSc and earn his degree, and my parents won’t have to work two jobs to make ends meet,” he signs off.
Watch his story here
He might only be 15, but Sikanto’s story proves how starting early in life to follow your dreams helps one Reach for Better.
Similarly, in case of investments, it is seen that early earners tend to spend more than actually save. However, if they start saving even a small portion of their income, they could benefit from the power of compounding. For example, one needs to start with just Rs. 1,540 per month in a Systematic Investment Plan or SIP at 25 years to reach a corpus of Rs.1 crore at 60 years at a compounded rate of return of 12% (assumed). But if one starts 5 years later at 30 years, the monthly investment almost doubles to Rs. 2,833 to reach the same corpus. Hence one may start small but needs to start investing early to meet all life goals and Reach for Better in the process!
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(Edited by Shruti Singhal)