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Contraption Jugaad…. a buzzword in the Indian corporate world!! 4 tyres, wooden cart, a radiator, a few springs, an old jeep clutch and voila!! A poor, illiterate farmer creates an ingenious, innovative vehicle. A clever solution born out of trouble and a resource deprived environment!! India has had some of the best brains in the world and our ability to think out of the box is second to none, our jugaad innovations being a testimony to this fact. India’s ability to make technology affordable is one such contribution to the world.

From conceptualizing one of the greatest inventions known to humans: the zero to the sophisticated sewage system of Indus Valley Civilization, from Mitticool, the clay fridge developed in the aftermath of the 2001 Gujarat earthquake to ISRO launching 104 satellites by a single rocket, from the Jaipur Foot, which has allowed poor Indians access to good quality, affordable prosthetics to TATA Nano, the world’s cheapest car… we have done it all.

But what is it really about innovation which makes it indispensable? Well, as we all realize the world is changing, quicker than ever before. The top economies of the world are driven by innovation, and we Indians cannot afford to fall behind. If we don't come up with cutting edge products there will be stagnation. Without a doubt, innovation is a means of creating sustainable and cost effective solutions.

Highlighting the importance of innovation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said “Innovation is the need of the hour, for every society and every era.”

We live in the era of “Start up India”. India today, is on a path to growth with a substantial thrust toward science, technology, and innovation. The new India has a lot going for it with monumental progress in recent years. The government has realized the roots of the basic problems and is making appropriate reforms. The way forward is near and now. The government has launched several initiatives such as Make in India, Skill India and Digital India to provide the right platform.

However, Indians face a myriad of challenges ranging from health to sanitation and from transportation to the environment. While Moon-shot ideas like drones, self-drive cars, and domestic robots can wait for now, we have to first innovate in such a way that the downtrodden are empowered to be more productive. It needn’t be expensive or larger-than-life initiative. Big or small we must re-invent, challenge and rethink.

But why is it that a country which taught the world the concept of jugaad lagged when it came to claiming it. It is indeed sad that a country which has been an incubator of frugal innovation and where with 17% of the world’s brains, we only have 2.8% of the world’s research output coming out. What is really surprising is the fact that in spite of the large pool of scientists, India has not had a Nobel Prize winner in science after independence , no one has won the Wolf Prize or the Millennium Technology Prize. These absences tell a story.

With at least half our population under 25 years of age, we are a young, productive, dynamic population ready to take on and transform the world. We students are prospective heirs of the nation, the pillars on which beautiful edifices will be built. As a result we have a very significant role to play in the modern Indian society. However, years of uncreative education and rote learning will have to be reversed. What we need is a well formed mind, shaped by original thinking and not a well filled mind. In order to train this young talent pool, the Government of India has recently set up the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), along with the Self Employment and Talent Utilisation (SETU) scheme administered by Niti Aayog to facilitate schools in order to nurture the first layer of innovation. After all, new and offbeat ideas have to emerge bottom up rather than only top down. You see “Genius has less to do with the size of your mind than how open it is.” The road to progress will depend on our ability to unlock the creative potential of millions of young Indians.

The time is now and clear. Innovation has to be channelled, encouraged and protected. And this is what the New India is promising us. Time has come we stop replicating cheaper form of products already innovated and do things others have never done before. Let us no longer be a nation of followers and become pioneers.

PM Modi has rightly realized the potential of his countrymen when he says “Each of us has a natural instinct to rise like a flame. Let’s nurture that instinct.” The New India is poised to become the innovation capital of the world. Both challenges and hope lie ahead for India. Together let us embrace a new vision to build something the world does not yet know, in a way previously unexplored and prove ourselves to the world. As rightly pointed out by John S Herrington, “There are no dreams too large, no innovation unimaginable and no frontiers beyond our reach.”

Seher Taneja
Springdales School , Dhaula Kuan