Stories of inventors and their inventions: Uddhab Bharali and the growing phenomenon of frugal innovation

This article was written by the IP Team of InnoEnergy

We all read stories about the innovators of today and how their products or services make a difference. In this series of publications, we shed light on a side that often remains in the dark and unknown to the public: their patented inventions and the impact they have had on other innovators across society. We did the research and summarised our findings.

A fridge made entirely of clay that keeps fruits and vegetables fresh for days using no electricity, a way to recharge your cell phone battery with the help of a cycle, and even creating water out of air with the help of a moisture - absorbing billboard, these are just a few of the innovations in the world of ‘Frugal innovation’. 

Frugal innovation is the leveraging of existing resources and assets that are widely available to create design intensive and low-cost solutions to high-tech problems. In short – doing more with scarce resources, fewer complications and low costs. It is referred to by many names, including ‘frugal engineering’, ‘inclusive innovation’ or just plain ‘Jugaad’ (Hindi). One such frugal inventor is the ‘Jugaad man’ of India, Uddhab Bharali.

A close up of a carDescription automatically generatedHailing from Assam, in India, Uddhab Kumar Bharali has successfully come up with more than 140 innovative solutions to problems faced by people in their everyday lives, mostly those living in rural India. He was born in Lakhimpur, Assam and grew notorious for asking too many questions in all his classes. Unfortunately, stricken by poverty and unable to afford it anymore, he had to drop out of college in 1987. It even reached a point when he, along with his family, would have had to vacate their family home. To avoid this, Uddhab, who was then 23 years old, worked on and built a polythene-making machine with a market value of around Rs.4,00,000, which he sold for Rs 67,000. 

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In 2005, the National Innovation Foundation which is located in Ahmedabad, India, recognised Uddhab as a grassroots innovator and in 2006, his design for a ‘pomegranate de-seeding machine’ was recognised as the first of its kind across the world. This machine helps with the separation of the outer skin of the fruit from the inner thin membrane without any damage to the seeds, operating at a speed that deseeded 55 kg of pomegranates per hour. He has two pending patents that can be found on public databases currently – ‘Pomegranate de seeder and method of de seeding’ and ‘Pomegranate aril extractor and method of extraction’.

Among his many accolades, Uddhab has recieved the ‘President’s Grassroots Innovation Award’ in 2009, the ‘Shristi Samman Award’ in 2007 and won an engineering design contest organized by NASA Tech - ‘Create the Future Design Contest’, in the year 2012 and 2013. He also won the ‘Rashtriya Ekta Samman, in 2013. He uses the money he makes to help house underprivileged kids, providing them with food, amenities, and training them in technology. Even with so much done already, he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. 

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The authors of the publications have used publicly available information only and no private information was handed to them by the innovators or third parties.


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