Innovation for Social Impact

WHEELS India Niswarth (WIN) foundation's groundwork and impact - July 2021 Newsletter!

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Dear Friends,

As Executive Director of WIN Foundation, it is my pleasure to address all of you through this newsletter.

WIN Foundation was set up with a generous contribution by our Founder and Chairman, Mr. Chirag Patel, with a vision to bring innovative ideas for bringing sustainable impact among the poor and lower-middle-class communities in India, in the twin domains of (i) Water and Sanitation and (ii) Maternal and Child Health. In a short span of 3 years, we have supported several innovative projects and established unbelievably valuable partnerships. This issue brings the spotlight on innovations by startups and institutions to tackle critical challenges in our domains, and how WIN Foundation support has enabled our NGO partners to weave in these innovations within their projects and empowered the communities to use them, improving their quality of life and livelihoods.

While the covid pandemic has devastated the world including India, we remain committed to our vision, partnerships, and projects. Our partners have shown exemplary determination to continue projects in the field under trying circumstances. Our communities have demonstrated an ability to quickly grasp new technologies like web-video calls for communication and training.

The WIN team continues to engage with multiple stakeholders, including reputed NGOs, premier Institutions, and innovative startups, to bring product innovations, technologies and processes at the ground level to empower communities at the grassroots.

New initiatives like an upcoming skilling platform and an Agri-water data system for smart agriculture aim to strengthen the ongoing projects with greater depth and build sustainability and scalability among the marginal communities. India is now coming out of the 2nd wave of the pandemic and has redoubled its efforts to fight the covid pandemic, including the increase in the pace of vaccinations. The monsoon has also started promisingly. We look forward to working vigorously with our partners, to make a positive impact on our communities. Please feel free to reach out to us, at [email protected], to offer suggestions and ideas to explore partnerships for social impact.

ronMehta Sincerely,

Ron Mehta
Executive Director, WIN Foundation
(Guest Editorial)
India saw the quarter started with a severe impact of the 2nd wave of Covid19, with record-high cases and distress, in April and May. Large parts of the country faced lockdowns. Since mid-May, cases have declined and the country has opened up in June. During this tough period, WIN Foundation contributed to a program to cater to the survival needs of urban poor and homeless in the communities of Ahmedabad, by our partner, MHT.

All through the pandemic, WIN Foundation has focused on the following:
  1. How to best support partners and communities, to ensure that our projects continue and then recover once things return to normal.
  2. Generate new ideas, proposals, and activities, which create long-term impact potential.

Under our Innovative Product Market validation support scheme we recently introduced an innovative technology for Modular Cold Chain solutions, developed by Tan90 Thermal Solutions, in the Kutch, Gujarat, through our community partner Kutch Fodder Fruit & Forest Development Trust, together with Tata Power - Mundra, Kutch. This enables better storage and transportation for Fresh Vegetables, Fruits, Flowers, etc., for longer life.

To enable better use of data from the several waters, weather, and soil measurement equipment from startups we introduced last year, we are working on a web+mobile application to provide integrated data storage on the cloud, and dashboard views with combined data, to generate advisory for smart agriculture and water conservation.

To deepen and scale up the empowerment at the grassroots through skilling, we are developing an online skilling platform ”Skilling-to-WIN”, using the open edx platform from MIT/Harvard. The platform is offered to other NGOs and skilling providers at no cost, to offer their skilling programs for social impact.

Under our collaboration with the iTIC Incubator at IIT Hyderabad, to scout new technologies/solutions for critical technology needs in (i) Maternal Child health and (ii) Water and sanitation, we launched `WIN Challenge - Track 1’ for AI/ML solutions for -Child Growth and Health Monitoring.

We have signed an MOU with Coastal Power Gujarat Ltd (a subsidiary of Tata Power Ltd) CGPL with an objective to explore areas of cooperation for supporting grassroots innovations and social impact startups.

Need for Social Impact Innovations

Innovations for social impact domains are essential to make a quantum jump in improving the quality of life, livelihoods, and earnings, for the poor and lower-middle-class communities, and particularly among the rural and tribal areas in the country.

Empowerment of the community to take ownership of the adoption process is a must, including quality skilling, for innovations to take root and succeed. This also increases the circular economy within the community, maintains social vitality, and brings in a strong sense of self-governance.

Following are some examples of the strong community impact of innovative technologies, products, and services:
  1. Digital Technologies and platforms now serve as access points for delivering a variety of electronic services to villages, encourage digital and financial inclusivity, promote rural entrepreneurship, and building rural livelihoods.
  2. Point of care health tech devices enables field health workers to provide better value-added health services for improved diagnostic and therapeutic care to rural and tribal areas, as well as urban slums.
  3. In agriculture, which employs maximum people in rural India, new technologies, coupled with smart farming practices, help farmers shift from input-intensive agriculture to knowledge-intensive agriculture.
  4. Water recharge structures and water level and flow monitoring help water security for villages, assuring them water for the household, agricultural, and other needs.

In subsequent pages, we give many examples of WIN Foundation's experiences in introducing the above innovations.
Interview with Dr. Chintan Vaishnav, Mission Director, Atal Innovation Mission, Niti Aayog, Government of India.
chintan 1. Tell us something about your journey in innovations for society?

As a 20 year doing Bachelor in Engineering in Bangalore, the thought that my work ought to improve lives became strong in my mind and influenced most of my major career decisions. After completing my Masters in Electrical and Computer Engineering in the US, my professional journey began with a 6-year stint of purely engineering-focused R & D work at Bell Laboratories, working at the forefront of Information Technology research. The motive that impelled me then to leave behind such engineering-focused corporate research to become a “penniless graduate student” of interdisciplinary studies at MIT was the observation that, while we do know how to produce a technological artifact, because of lack of well-developed theories about how that artifact impacts its environment (e.g., market, policy, society), we fail to address some of our most pressing challenges, such as hunger and poverty.

My journey as a socio-technologist began at MIT during my Ph.D. in Engineering Systems (now called “MIT Institute for Data Systems and Society”). Here, I learned to apply cutting-edge tools to study, design, and implement large-scale socio-technical systems comprising both technological and human complexity. Since then, the long-term objective that has motivated my research, and therefore driven the selection of short-term projects within it, is: How can we avoid the gross inequity in the Information world, which we still endure in the material world?

2. Why are innovations critical for social impact? How can they be promoted on a larger scale among the communities and how can communities be partners in the process?

Innovations — be it technological, commercial, or behavioral — offer a way to induce non-linear improvements in society. For example, biometric ID like Aadhaar had a visible impact on financial inclusion in a non-linear fashion. Such an impact in a limited time frame is more likely with technological innovations.

While Aadhaar is a top-down intervention, many bottom-up innovations can be developed for and with society. Such efforts are visible in all domains like health, water, agriculture, energy, environment, etc. In my experience, promoting such innovations on a large scale requires a clear understanding of the problem faced by the society; a high-quality solution that is affordable, stable and reliable; and a business model that is inclusive of the communities that engage in producing, distributing and using the solution.

The core logic behind community partnership is the following: one can pass on something to the community only if the product or service commands enough margin based on the value created that someone would pay for. Such margin is a function of the quality of technology and/or service. Of course, the innovator needs a mindset to share it equitably; in other words, to distribute a part of one’s own profit to maximize the impact.

3. What are key initiatives taken by the Atal Innovation Mission for supporting innovations, important for society, across the country?

At one level, with its mandate to create a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship throughout the country, all of the work supported by the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) has a societal angle. Our innovation ecosystem, with all its fervor and excitement, is still in an early stage, having tapped only a small portion of our nation’s creative potential. Also, the innovation infrastructure seeded by Atal Innovation Mission via the various Atal Tinkering Labs, Atal Incubation Centers, and Atal Community Innovation Centers is yet to see a self-sustaining revenue model. AIM's work fills this market gap to create an ecosystem for society.

To support infrastructure for innovation specifically focused on societal impact, AIM launched Atal Community Innovation Centers (ACIC), with the goal to spur community innovation in underserved and unserved areas of the country. Presently, there are eight ACICs across the nation operated by community organizations. The nature of problems and innovations in these centers are distinctly different from those in incubation centers located in large cities. One not only finds the local problems being articulated but also the innovators who understand them and are passionate about solving the problems of their communities. The nature of support they need is also different: being able to operate in regional language, tools to develop personally as well as technical skills, and so on. The mandate of this program is to have 50 such centers.

4. How do you see the role of foundations like WIN Foundation in social innovation for social impact?

Foundations like WIN Foundation bring a unique form of support to the social impact space, with a rare combination of both the grassroots as well as global experience. They have empathy for the problems of our underserved communities, an understanding of what can be done in terms of innovation to address them, and the sophistication to help innovators operate in the most structured markets. It is my hope that their work will help us harness the immense creativity exhibited by innovators that hail from the second, third, and fourth-tier cities of our nation. Presently, I see much potential in these areas yet a weak innovation ecosystem to support them. WIN Foundation’s operation in this geography can produce a win-win for everyone.

About Dr. Chintan Vaishnav :
Dr. Chintan Vaishnav, is currently Mission Director, Atal Innovation Mission, Niti Aayog, Government of India. He is a Senior Lecturer at MIT's Sloan School of Management and is Academic Director and a member of the founding team of MIT Tata Center for Technology and Design. He is a socio-technologist, and his work encompasses understanding human as well as technological complexity in large systems, and creating socio-technical systems for improving lives in underserved communities. He holds a Ph.D. in Engineering Systems from MIT. He also holds a BA in Indian Classical Music.

Key challenges in bringing social impact innovation at grassroots:

  1. Lack of knowledge and trust among “customers”, to try out new products, due to lack of connection between innovators/sellers and the communities.
  2. Lack of local skilled persons to install and maintain the products and services, leading to high cost and poor upkeep.
  3. The above results in even poor customers paying a high price for products and services in financial and non-financial terms. E.g. cost of poor healthcare services leads to frequent and debilitating diseases directly affecting their earnings, while poor agricultural practices lead to poor crop yields, soil erosion, and often unpaid loans.
WIN Foundation support for social impact innovations

WIN Foundation supports innovations in our domains at the grassroots through the following programs:
  1. Scout and support innovations through institutions, startups, and other grassroots innovators, bringing ecosystem support at various stages in a startup’s journey.
  2. Identify startups with promising innovative technologies, products, and business models, and support them for the critical product-market validation phase through our partner NGOs.
  3. Open up opportunities for funding for growth through suitable connects

We promote positive behavior change in the communities by making them partners in the adoption of innovations through the following:
  1. Help innovative product introduction in communities through partnerships with key NGOs, to help trial the product, with community empowerment, training, and involvement.
  2. Train grassroots level youth, including proactively involving women and girls, to understand, deploy, use and maintain the technology and products. This enables them to be change agents in their communities, improve their livelihoods and earning potential, and drive a greater local circular economy.
  3. Enable the NGOs to provide better services with greater innovation and technology quotient.

Overview of challenges in WATSAN that drive innovations

Within WATSAN, the following diagram depicts the major challenges and innovation drivers in Water.

watson To maximize water availability and optimize its usage, accurate and frequent measurements for (i) water availability, water levels and water quality, (ii) soil moisture, soil nutrients, and (iii) monitoring weather play a major role, enabling feedback for precise control, use and treatment of water and other resources. In addition, for agriculture, the crop status data also helps in determining irrigation needs, throughout the crop season. This, in turn, has driven the development of innovative low-cost field usable devices for measurements and quick results. The combined data enables a holistic view and for better and timely decisions. This also empowers the local communities with greater understanding and application of knowledge and tools.

Innovative products introduced by WIN through its Innovative Product Market Validation scheme:
WIN Foundation has supported a range of such innovations from several startups.

Soil and Weather Monitoring Stations
img2 Low-cost Soil and Weather Monitoring Stations technology has been designed, with the capability to transmit data to the cloud in real-time, to provide information on soil moisture and weather including rainfall, humidity, etc, to enable irrigation decisions.

Start-up: Proximal Soilsense Technologies, Founders: Dr. Rajul Patkar, Ph.D., IIT Bombay, co-founders: Prof. Maryam S Baghini, Professor, IIT Bombay, and Prof. V Ramgopal Rao, Director, IIT Delhi and formerly faculty at IIT Bombay. (Supported under WIN Innovative market validation program, through its community Partner ACT).

Dr. Rajul Patkar
Founder of Proximal
Soilsense Technologies
We started a technology pilot with Win Foundation and their community partners, ACT (Arid Communities and Technologies). A few brainstorming sessions along with WIN and ACT paved the way to add a few more important features to the existing platform that would not only benefit ACT but would also help SoilSens in improving the product for other stakeholders. Win foundation has not only connected us to ACT but also their other partners like CGPL and KFFFT. I would like to state that working with WIN Foundation would be akin to working with an extended family. The support that WIN Foundation, especially Mr.Paresh Vora and Dr.Yogesh Jadeja, provided to SoilSens is invaluable.

Soil and water testing kit
img3 Low Cost and Field usable Water and Soil Testing Kits enable estimation of the concentration of nutrients as well as contaminants, in order to determine fertilizers or other corrective steps for soil and water, for specific crops, in a precise and dynamic manner. Water testing also enables determining the potability of water and treatment for potability.

Start-up developing Technology: Foundation For Environmental Monitoring (FFEM), Bangalore, Founder: Mr. Samuel Rajkumar (Supported under WIN Innovative market validation program, through its community Partners ACT, Samerth).

Electronic Groundwater level Sensors
img4 Electronic Borewell Water level sensors monitor the level of water in tanks, borewells, and dug wells, at low cost, and transmit changes in water level to a cloud server in real-time. This enables farmers, village panchayats, village clusters, to monitor groundwater levels in individual wells, and overall groundwater availability in the zone being monitored. It can also be used to remotely control the operation of pumps if required. Start-up developing Technology: CFar Sensors India Pvt.Ltd., Pune, Founders: Mr.Craig Desouza and Mr.Rahul Chauhan (Supported under WIN Innovative market validation program, through its community Partners ACT).

img5User's Voice:
Koli Dharamshi Baubhai, Sharneshwar near Badalpar village says that” The soil testing process is new to me, and I have done it for the first time for my farmland and I will start mixing the necessary ingredients which will improve the condition of my soil in the coming monsoon season. Samerth’s team has provided me the necessary information for the improvement of my farmland.”

Agri and Water data system
This system brings together data on soil, water, weather, and crop progress, collected from (i) various instruments mentioned earlier, (ii) manual measurements, and (iii) public data like weather, to provide an integrated view of data, This will enable multi-level decision making, (i) by farmer themselves and (ii) from which experts who can provide more refined advisories at farm and village level, enabling marginal farmers to implement smart agriculture practices. Over 2 – 3 years, such collected data will also enable AI/ML techniques for more impactful advisories.

Startup developing the above application and platform: Proximal Soilsense Technologies, with ACT as an on-ground implementation partner. The application is sponsored and supported by WIN Foundation.

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Modular Cold chain - storage and transport
Need: Almost 40% of farm produce goes to waste due to improper storage and transportation facilities. Efficient cold chain systems can reduce food product wastage by 75%. However, cold chain systems tend to be large and capital intensive. Tan90 has developed modular Cold Chain solutions for storage and transport for Fresh Vegetables, Fruits, Flowers, and Fish. (Agri-Nutrition). With capacities ranging from 20 liters to 600 liters, these come at an affordable price for marginal farmers, FPOs, etc. They are also energy efficient, including some products using natural evaporative cooling. They can extend the shelf life of the fresh perishable products by 2 - 4 days, thereby reduce wastage, provide better quality for a longer time, and more time to reach larger markets, resulting in better price realization and earnings for farmers. Start-up developing Technology: Tan90 Thermal Solutions Pvt. Ltd., Chennai, Co-Founder - Dr. Soumalya Mukherjee (Supported under WIN Innovative market validation program, through its community Partners: KFFFDT and Tata Power)

soumalyaTan90 thermal solutions are working on cost-effective de-centralized cold chain solutions aimed at marginal farmers. Through WIN Foundation, we have deployed our energy-efficient cold storage, meant for both storage and transport in Kutch, with Samriddhi as the community partner. Creating awareness about cost-effective cold storage is of primary importance, particularly when marginal farmers are the users. WIN Foundation, along with Samriddhi has helped us in setting up infrastructure, thereby creating awareness among the users. Not only that, WIN Foundation is working closely to evaluate the impact of the installed units, which forms the baseline for future installations that can reduce post-harvest losses, primarily for low value, high volume, and highly perishable leafy vegetables during the peak summer or during lockdown periods. We are excited to take our partnership ahead with the firm belief of creating more impact at the grassroots.

Dr. Soumalya Mukherjee
Co-Founder, Tan90 thermal solutions

Water Treatment/Recycling solutions:
Need: The modern lifestyle and industries have vastly increased the usage of water. This has also caused degeneration of water quality. Current technologies like RO are highly wasteful, generating a high % of highly salty reject water. Industrial and domestic wastewater contaminates water bodies and poses serious health problems. Recycling technologies can solve this problem and at the same time make available additional water for consumption.

Chakra household TDS reduction device using electrostatic principle and nanotechnology
img8 Rural household nanotechnology-based water purifier, through capacitive deionization, using carbon nanotubes coated cellulosic threads as electrodes. It reduces TDS from water up to 4000 TDS, by over 85%, with less than 5% water wastage, and running on a single 1.5 V cell. As against this, a typical RO system consumes more electricity and has over 50% water wastage.

Technology and field usable prototypes being developed by: Dr. C. Subramaniam, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. WIN is supporting the development of this technology and prototypes.

Surface Engineered Particle-Based Water decontamination Filter
img9 Low cost, water disinfection using Surface Engineered Particle (SEP) technology. This provides effective disinfection at a low cost and using very low amounts of additives like silver-nano particles. It does not require any electricity, is gravity-driven, and can be used as a point-of-use water filter in rural or tribal areas or urban slums. The product can also be useful during crisis situations like floods, earthquakes, etc. Technology and field usable prototypes being developed by: Prof. Chinmay Ghoroi, B.S. Gelot Chair Professor of Chemical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar WIN is supporting the development of the prototypes and their deployment with potential users.

NanoPearl - Multivalent two-stage nano-engineered water purification solution
img10 NanoPearl is a multivalent two-stage solution, consisting of an adsorbent made up of conscious metallic nanoparticles embedded inside the nano-engineered crystal structure. It simultaneously tackles high TDS, heavy metal, and microbial contamination in a single unit.
Start-up developing Technology: NanoPearl – Deau Technologies Pvt.Ltd, Founder : Dr.Prerna Tomke

WIN sponsored category award winner– NBEC’20 (National Bio Entrepreneurship Competition, on behalf of Department of Biotechnology, Government of India).

Water Recycling plant to convert Water discharged from STP to Potable levels
img11 School of Environmental Science at IIT Kharagpur has set up a sewage treatment plant to treat sewage from the campus. With WIN Foundation support, a project is being undertaken to convert the output of sewage treatment plant right up to potable level water, by removal of Organic matter, Suspended solids, Nitrogen, Pathogens, Personal care, Pharmaceutical residues, through a multi-stage process which will pilot alternate low-cost technologies. At present, the project team is carrying out detailed performance analysis and also studying the viability of employing this technology in a village-level pilot plant.

This project is lead by Dr. Makarand M Ghangrekar, Head of School of Environmental Science and Engineering, and Professor, Civil Engineering.

Robotic device for cleaning septic tanks and sewer lines
img12 Need: Human cleaning of septic tanks and sewer lines, a highly perilous and undignified activity, causes several deaths every year. Though made illegal, an estimated 8,00,000 workers continue to work in the same dangerous manner, due to lack of better equipment and for lack of other alternative work, exposing them to toxic gases and filth.

Alcheme is developing HomeSEP, a robotic solution for cleaning septic tanks and sewer lines, by homogenizing, breaking, and then sucking out the sludge. The cost-effective and easy-to-use product aims to enable the sanitary workers to provide these critical services in a dignified and healthy way, without manual scavenging.

Start-up developing Technology: Alcheme
Founders: Prof. Prabhu Rajagopal Professor, IIT Madras, and Mr. Divanshu Kumar
WIN sponsored category award winner– NBEC’19 (National Bio Entrepreneurship Competition, on behalf of Department of Biotechnology, Government of India.)

Smart Retrofit Toilet Kit To Transform Existing Toilet Into Disabled Friendly Toilet
img13 Need: More than 55 lakhs physically challenged (in-movement) and 1.5cr osteoarthritis patients in India go through a painful experience while using a toilet.

Specially designed wall-mounted foldable commode attachment, providing height adjustment through motorized and non-motorized versions, make every toilet easily usable by disabled and osteoarthritis patients, thus increasing toilet usage with better hygiene. This also allows the disabled to use toilets on their own, with greater dignity, for both men and women.

Start-up developing Technology – Oston Technology, Founders: Mr.Kumar Kalika and Mr.Sayar Singh (Supported under WIN Innovative market validation program, through its community Partner: MHT)

Maternal and Child Health / Nutrition / Med devices - Innovations

Mother and Child health face major challenges of:
  1. Lack of medical diagnostics and care facilities in remote areas or urban slums, coupled with lack of doctors, and
  2. Poor nutrition practices and habits among communities.
Remote diagnostic and care: importance for the community
Easy to use and field usable diagnostic tools, along with training of field health workers, to use them to screen population in remote areas for common diseases, ailments, conditions.

Similarly, field usable medical care or therapeutic devices, used by trained health workers, can improve medical care in such areas.

Linking these devices and health workers through smartphones to telemedicine applications or social media platforms, with linkage to doctors, can greatly improve remote diagnostics and care. This also vastly increases the value addition of the field health workers, and creates a career path based on continuous learning.

TouchHb - Non-invasive hemoglobin measurement device
img14 TouchHb, developed by Biosense Technologies Pvt. Ltd., detects anemia without a needle poke, by identifying the presence of pallor in the conjunctiva. The easy-to-operate device enables field health workers to screen a large number of people in remote areas or slums.

Biosense Technologies Pvt. Ltd; with the help of WIN Foundation, partnered with Sevak Foundation. Through this, over 30,000 women and children in remote areas of Gujarat have so far been tested for hemoglobin and blood sugar, right in their villages.

Founder: Dr. Abhishek Sen, MBBS (Mumbai University), M.Tech.(Bio-medical engineering) from IIT Bombay. Biosense was acquired by Tulip Diagnostics in 2019.

Multispectral camera for timely detection of Cervical cancer
img15 Cervical cancer, with 1,20,000 cases per year, has a mortality rate in excess of 50% in the country. Current early detection requires the pap smear test, followed with conventional biopsy or colposcopy guided biopsy, requiring time and access to labs and doctors, limiting its availability for remote population

Cervical, developed by Sascan Meditech Pvt.Ltd, enables screening and early detection of cervical cancers and biopsy guidance, using disruptive multimodal imaging technology. Health Workers can be trained to operate the portable and easy-to-use Cerviscan device, and thus enable mass screening in remote areas.

Founder and CEO : Dr. Subhash Narayan
WIN sponsored category award winner– NBEC’20 (National Bio Entrepreneurship Competition, on behalf of Department of Biotechnology, Government of India).

Neowarm Self Heating Blanket for Pre-term Babies
img16 Parisodhana has innovated an Air activated Self-heating blanket for transporting pre-term babies from remote areas to hospitals in a safe manner. No electricity or hot water or any external heat source is required. It controls the ambient temperature for the baby at the required level for up to 8 hours and thus prevents hypothermia, which causes the death of around 1 million preterm babies every year.

With WIN Foundation support, the self-heating blanket has been tested in Gujarat, Telangana, and Maharashtra, with over 200 trials. Encouraging results and feedback from medical practitioners, in turn, has resulted in support by others to fund more trials.
Founders: Dr. Satyanarayan Kuchibatla and Dr. Ajay Karakoti

User's Voice
Alimelu, HoD, Neonatology, Niloufer Hospital, Hyderabad

I have been associated with Parisodhana for almost the last 3 years and we have done research on Neowarm. This is a very good simple device to keep the babies warm, with a lot of application possibilities, especially in the winter season. Even the radiant warmer is not keeping them warm enough for them and they start getting colder. If the baby gets hypothermic i.e cold, it does not use the glucose or the milk that the baby takes in properly as it is diverted to maintain the body temperature rather than giving heat. This device gives the baby warmth and helps in improving the babies’ weight. I see a lot of potential in the coming winter season we look forward to lot more babies being saved with this simple device.

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