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Rai Singh Dahiya never had a formal education and does not speak English. However, the 46-year-old grassroot innovator has been efficiently closing business deals in Europe and Africa for his major innovation- a biomass-based gasifier and engine. Innovators like Dahiya are among the new lot of grassroot innovators discovered by the National Innovation Foundation (NIF), who have donned the entrepreneurial hat to crack their own business deals overseas. 

Raghava Gowda, a 52-year-old school teacher found his exports business to Asian countries so successful that he recently opened a company in Colombo. Gowda, who has developed an elaborate, refined milking machine that can milk cows and buffaloes using a set of reciprocating vacuum pumps with a vacuum gauge, has seen more sale of his product in foreign countries than in India.

In the last one year, Gowda has sold thousands of pieces to farmers in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and other Asian countries.

However, there are cases, where NIF has stepped in to commercialize grassroot ideas abroad. For instance, a herbal formulation developed by Ukhadiabhai from Dang in Gujarat has attracted interest of a US-based animal health company through NIF. The company has undergone trials in the US for the formulation, which has been developed to treat Mastitis, a bacterial infection of the udder in cattle.

Vipin Kumar, chief innovation officer at NIF, said, "The innovators have now become independent and most directly deal with companies, individuals and farmers in foreign countries. NIF supports them whenever required. However, there are still many innovators, who are content with what they get and do not want to transfer their technology. It is difficult to convince grassroot innovators to look outside their area of functioning as their aim is not to earn money but to change lives."

NIF has tied up with premier institutes in the country to refine the crude technology developed by grassroot innovators. The grant-in-aid institution has tied up with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs)-Bombay, Delhi, Guwahati, Gandhinagar, Kharagpur and Kanpur. NIF has also hired private product designers to develop the innovations as per market demand.


"The market wants competitive products and will not see whether the product is coming from a high-end place or from the grassroots. We have an agreement with these institutes, under which the faculty tell us whether a particular innovation will work," Kumar said.

News Linkhttp://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-05-16/ahmedabad/31725598_1_chief-innovation-officer-innovators-nif