My Claim to Fame

It all started with me watching 3 Idiots today. And BTW, this has nothing to do with the CB – VC/RH/AK clash on credits, though I wonder if CB would be happy just by seeing his name on the opening credits or wants something more (read money). Back to the point. As the movie was coming to a close Farhan and Raju reached a village in Manali Ladakh, which was brimming with rural innovations: scooter operated flour mill, bicycle operated sheep shaver etc. I couldn’t help but beam at my own little connection with the movie (I too plan to demand my name in the rolling credits. I’ll do that at the end of the post maybe).

So what’s my connection? Well…I was the one who ‘discovered’ the inventor of the Bicycle Operated Horse Shaver (it can work on camels and sheep as well). You can read about all the rural innovations featured in the movie here. Let me begin with how it all began.

It was 2004 and I was in the 2nd year of my MBA at Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar. National Innovation Foundation (NIF) had chosen me to do my summers with them. I was to work out of their Jaipur office. And in case you don’t know, NIF was set up by Department of Science and Technology in February 2000 at Ahmedabad to achieve its goals essentially through a non-government spirit and by drawing upon the HoneyBee network and its collaborating partners (text taken from the NIF website).

My job involved market survey of some rural innovations and one of them included the Bicycle Operated Horse Shaver. I had to find the business viability of the innovation and see if it had a market. For that I had to travel to Delhi, UP and Uttaranchal among other places.

On 26th April 2004, I visited some of the tonga drivers at Old Delhi Railway Station in the evening. The drivers (Dilip, Dilshad, Shyam and Raj) said that they had come across various models of the Horse Shaver. These included the ones run by hand (wherein one of the shavers turns a handle by hand), motor operated and hand shearers. They mentioned that they had not come across the Bicycle Operated Horse Shaver in Delhi. I inquired about the addresses of the horse shavers and they mentioned areas like Turkman Gate, Sadar Bazaar, ISBT, Old Delhi Railway Stations and New Delhi Railway Stations. They also mentioned that horse driven carriages could be found at Silampur, Shahadra and Loni. I carried out market survey for the other products around the Old Delhi-Jama Masjid area before calling it a day.

The next morning (27th April, 2004), I met some tonga drivers. They directed me to Sadar Bazaar where the horse shavers visit regularly. After some inquiry at the stable in Sadar Bazaar, I found a couple of horse shavers (Nandkishore & Chand). Nandkishore mentioned that it’s been 6 years since he first started using the Handle Operated Horse Shaver (driven by turning a handle).

They mentioned that apart from horses, they used their shearers on camels, sheep and dogs. The army regularly took them to their establishments for horse shaving. According to them, the same head could be used for shaving all kinds of animals.

Then I visited Turkman Gate and after talking to some tonga drivers, I met a couple of horse shavers (Jumme & Prakash). Both said the same thing as Nandkishore and Chand. All the 4 horse shavers said that they had never seen a Bicycle Operated Horse Shaver. I conducted a market survey for the other products at the places I visited.

On 28th April, 2004, I left Delhi for Pilibhit via Bareilly. After reaching Pilibhit, I called up Mr. Madendrapal Gangwar (the local collaborator) who came to meet me and told me that he would be taking me to the nearby village of Khamaria Pul to meet the innovator of the Bicycle Operated Horse Shaver, Mr. Kabir Admed.

The next day, I and Mr. Madendrapal Gangwar left for Khamaria Pul at around 9 am. After reaching the village and Mr. Kabir Ahmed’s house, we came to know that he had left for Pilibhit town in the morning and would be back by 1pm. Then we visited the nearby town of Nawabganj and inquired from the local tonga drivers regarding the horse shavers. They directed us to a couple of horse shavers (Salim & Riyasat) at the Bypass Road. They both had the bicycle operated horse shavers. Salim was a resident of village Richola (Nahari Makan) and said that he had bought the unit 5 months back. The unit according to him was made at Meerut. Riyasat had bought his unit 6 months back and he too was a resident of village Richola (Nahari Puliya). One interesting thing that came forth was this that the horse shaver does not take another person along with him for shaving horses. The bicycle is pedaled by the horse owner while the horse shaver shears the hair. And incidentally, both had never heard of Kabir Ahmed.

Then we came back to Khamaria Pul from Nawabganj and found Mr. Kabir Ahmed fixing a horse shoe. Mr. Kabir Ahmed is a 4th standard dropout and earlier used to run a grocery shop before turning to the profession of horse shaving. He had been doing it for the past 10 years. He has a son (5 years) and 3 daughters. His mother stayed with him. According to him, he hit upon the idea of Bicycle Operated Horse Shaver by hit and trial. Mr Kamalludin (a cement dealer in Khamaria Pul) was with Mr. Kabir Ahmed when we met him. Mr Ahmed charged Rs 30 for each horse and it took him around 45 minutes to shave a horse using the bicycle operated unit (though in the NIF video he said it took him around 15-20 minutes). He said that some of the parts were bought from Meerut. Mr. Kabir Ahmed said that he made the bicycle operated horse shaver 10 years back (though in the NIF video he said that he made it around 4 years back). Mr Kabir Ahmed signed a declaration stating that he was the first one to make the Bicycle Operated Horse Shaver 10 year ago. I conducted a market survey for all the other products in Pilibhit town after returning from Khamaria Pul.

I had serious doubts about Kabir Ahmed’s claim of being the innovator of the shaver as he was contradicting himself during our conversation. NIF had found him during their Shodhyatra (or innovation scouting) some time back and he was even awarded by the foundation. NIF’s acknowledged that Kabir Ahmed was indeed the innovator. So I went out to dig a little deeper.

I left for Meerut the next morning (via Bareilly-Moradabad) and reached there at 6:30 pm. After inquiring about horse shavers from the hotel people, I was directed to a nearby shop specializing in making horse shoes. The shopkeeper directed me to Mr Idris in Tarapuri. I visited Tarapuri in the evening but Mr Idris was in Delhi and was to return to Meerut at night. I told Mr. Idris’ brother, Shahid that I would return the next day.

The next day (i.e. 1st May, 04) I went to meet Mr Idris and found him. He along with his brother ran a Tea and a Pan shop. Mr Md. Idris also made horse shavers. He has been making the shearers (handle operated, bicycle operated, motor operated etc.) for the past 3-4 years. He has 20 years experience of horse shaving. He supplied the shearers to the army (Hissar. Saharanpur, Hempur & Baboogarh stud farms). He also visited the army’s stud farms and shaved the horses.

According to Mr. Idris, the bottom shaft of the head is procured from the market while he moulds the cast iron cover and made the cutters himself. I bought a shearer head from Mr Idris at a cost of Rs.550.

My search ended by finding Md Idris which I reported to NIF. NIF was quick to declare Kabir Ahmed a fraud and went on to update their database mentioning Idris as the innovator of the Bicycle Operated Horse Shaver. Kabir Ahmed’s name was struck off from the list and in came Md. Idris. In fact Kabir Ahmed's name still figures here as the innovator of the horse shaver (do a ctrl+F and search for Kabir Ahmed).

Now what am I trying to say here? No! I am not saying that Kabir Ahmed was a fraud or Md. Idris was the real Mc Coy. What I am trying to say is the basic system and framework of finding the real innovator of rural inventions is flawed. Among other methods that NIF uses to scout for innovations is through regional collaborators. NIF takes help of all the regional collaborators and other network members for identifying such local geniuses from all over the country. The more innovators that these collaborators scout, the more money they make and there lies the flaw. Bogus innovators are created to get awards and money.

In my case, I stopped at Md. Idris, but I do not guarantee that he really is the innovator. If I had more time, I might have dug up another individual and NIF would have once again updated their database. My suggestion to NIF would be take money out of the system and all would be well, but how many collaborators can you find in this country who would be so selfless.

And now that I have written such a long post, I demand my name in the rolling credits of 3 Idiots.

Copyright (c) Pigtale 2005-2010. Images copyright respective holders.

3 Reactions:

Jayaa Jain said...

A bicycle shaver for a horse...thats first for me (I am yet to see the movie)....and my friend took so much pains to rsearch for it.......that was the much for your ordeal with NIF....

Jayaa Jain said...

A bicycle shaver for a horse...thats first for me (I am yet to see the movie)....and my friend took so much pains to rsearch for it.......that was the much for your ordeal with NIF....

Pigtale said...

@jaya: Dont even remind me of the "awesome" time I had at NIF. Had trouble explaining my folks, the work I following horses around North India, locating a shaver.

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Best Web Hosting