Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The sorry plight of India's innovators

In Outlook's latest Science & Technology special, there is a special story on India's innovators and how they struggle because of Governmental and bureaucratic apathy. The story on Balram Singh Saini & Prem Singh says:
... the Saini brothers have ideas a dime-a-dozen. But in little-known Pasiala, as the farmers get ready to rain-feed their thirsty crops, there’s barely any recognition of these home-grown Edisons.
Why do we constantly seek support from Governments? In what way are they qualified to evaluate an innovator's plans, fund them and then get their cash back? Now, about Edison. I am currently in the process of editing a manuscript on Edison's life (in Tamil). That man never went to the Government asking for funding. He found sufficient private entrepreneurs to fund his ventures. His inventions were truly outstanding. He never complained. His life as an inventor was not rosy either. He had to fight several cases in the courts about patent infringement etc. He just carried on and came up with more and more inventions. He also made a lot of money.

Indians should stop self-pitying and get on with their lives. If Balram Singh and Prem Singh have great inventions, let them take a leaf out of Edison's book and commercialise the invention by raising money from local farmers. It is much easier to convince the consumer community than the morons in Vigyan Bhavan or PMO.


  1. //Indians should stop self-pitying and get on with their lives.//

    Well said.

    For rural innovations there are already several NGOs working on commercialising the innovation. To my knowledge, there is one NGO in chennai called RIN [Rural Innovation Network] which identifies rural innovators and market their ideas commercially.

    It's high time, we stop depending upon government, banks and other institutional tails. It's good to hear that Edison will be speaking his heart in Tamil.

  2. Hi Badri, an interesting discussion is on at Charu's blog on this topic, and your views are also being discussed there! (Actually, in my comment on that post, I linked to your post, and said I agreed with you.)

    Just thought I would let you know.

  3. i wonder if edison had to fight cases?
    hats off to theri scientific sprit

  4. Edison had to fight several cases, right from the patent on his light bulb.

    Looking through the history of those days, patent fights had consumed several years and thousands of dollars to the lawyers.

    But the hope that royalties from patents wll make one very rich also allowed several inventors to keep working on their inventions.

    A petent would normally last 17 years. In several cases, the verdict (after travelling through multiple courts) would be resolved only very near the 17th year, and the inventor could hardly make sufficient money.

    Of course, not everyone could fight these cases as it was costing lots of money.

    There was an interesting case involving Nikola Tesla and Marconi on who really invented the radio. Tesla never applied for a patent in USA, a little after Marconi had applied for a patent in UK. After a while, US courts decided Marconi's claims will be accepted and after several years, when Marconi was suing US government for royalties (for using wireless transmissions during first world war), US courts upheld that Tesla should be the one given credit rather than Marconi!

    But our text books continue to teach us that Marconi invented radio!

  5. JC Bose demonstrated wireless transmission a little before Marconi did but never bothered to patent his invention.


    Another case of shortsightedness it seems