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Harsh Mariwala, Bain's Amit Chandra want to foster India's innovation system

Marico Innovation Foundation along with ATE Chandra Foundation and Harsh Mariwala led the nation-wide contest 'Innovate2Beat COVID' to help scale up innovations and solutions to combat the challenges posed by COVID-19

Sonal Khetarpal | May 27, 2020 | Updated 01:05 IST
Harsh Mariwala, Bain's Amit Chandra want to foster India's innovation system
Harsh Mariwala, Chairman of Marico

COVID-19 brought several problems to the fore, answers to many are not readily available. But several start-ups innovated and modified their businesses to deliver cost-effective and scalable solutions to solve some of those problems, all within three weeks. Marico Innovation Foundation along with ATE Chandra Foundation and Harsh Mariwala led the nation-wide contest 'Innovate2Beat COVID' to help scale up innovations and solutions to combat the challenges posed by COVID-19.

Behind the reason for the contest, Amit Chandra, Vice-Chairperson, Marico Innovation Foundation, and Chairman, Bain Capital India, said, "We wanted to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in the country to address the shortage of PPEs and ventilators. Alongside, there were two other things. One is most of this demand was met by overseas suppliers and there was an opportunity to encourage domestic entrepreneurship. Third is innovation where we wanted to see if we can get a much better product or at a lesser price." He adds, all the winners address these concerns in different ways.

Take a look at the three winners of this contest:

1. The Gurgoan-based carry solutions company CREA Worldwide improvised its system to solve the problem of dehydration for the COVID frontline workers due to the commonly used PPE kits. They made breathable PPE kit using non-laminated fabrics which makes their coveralls comfortable to wear, and can be used for up to 12 hours even in summer heat. Long usage also means less expenditure incurred by hospitals and a massive reduction in the waste going to landfills.

2. Bangalore-based nanotechnology firm Log 9 Materials Scientific created a disinfection chamber called CoronaOven using UV lights to sanitise surfaces from viruses in just ten minutes. The microwave-sized compact box (33-litre) can disinfect 40 masks per hour, allowing hospitals and houses to disinfect and reuse masks, gloves and other protective equipments. It can also be used to disinfect groceries, delivery packers and bags. Log 9 has already sold more than 300 CoronaOvens.

3. Low-cost sanitary pads company Saral Design innovated its patented sanitary pad machine to manufacture three-ply surgical masks to protect consumers against the COVID-19 virus. The firm has already produced 10 lakh masks. They are now looking to ramp up production through their decentralised manufacturing capabilities in 20 locations across Tier II & III cities in India

What is interesting is they won from the 1,500 applications that the Foundation received in the 20-day period from March 29 to April 18.

Marico Innovation Foundation along with ATE Chandra Foundation and Harsh Mariwala in his personal capacity offered a total grant of Rs 2.5 crore, of which Rs 1.57 crore has been offered to selected winners mentioned above in the PPE category.

Harsh Mariwala, Founder of Marico Innovation Foundation and Chairman of Marico, exclusively told Business Today, "We don't want to just donate money but want to be actively involved. Depending on the need of these firms, we will play an active role in helping them scale up." He said, they are currently exploring if they can support Saral Designs at their other locations too. Currently, Saral has received the support for one machine in Navi Mumbai. Also, if Marico through its vast network can help in branding and sales and distribution of their masks.

He adds, "The phenomenal response of 1,500 applications in a span of three weeks has shown us the ability of people in India to innovate in an adversity. It has also made us realise the lack of platforms in the country that can fire people's imagination and can encourage them to come up with entrepreneurial solutions."

They are now evaluating applications for the second category - ventilators.

The fund is to enable the start-ups to disburse upwards of 3.5 lakh masks, 50,000 PPE kits and 4,500 sterilisation units within the next 2-3 months.

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