S. RAJAGOPALAN

India,

S. Rajagopal's understanding of science and business enables him to rescue useful and profitable ideas from India's laboratories and then help small entrepreneurs to develop and market these ideas.

This profile below was prepared when S. Rajagopalan was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1993.

Fellow Sketch

S. Rajagopalan has been using principles of science and business to ensure that useful and profitable ideas from India’s research laboratories reach and impact communities in need. He founded Technology Informatics Design Endeavour (TIDE) to provide the missing, yet critical, link between inventors who have not realized the market value of their products with entrepreneurs eager for new products and opportunities.

Towards this, Rajagopalan focused his energy on creating a young, dynamic and entrepreneurial team, constantly alert and scanning the academic environment for new and innovative ideas. Emphasising the discovery of new innovations, making them market ready, and taking them to the hands of the entrepreneur, TIDE worked on 54 innovations in a period of 14 years, and were able to successfully pass on ten of these ideas to entrepreneurs. These innovations primarily focused on renewable energy, microenterprise and waste management. By ensuring that usable technology like energy efficient stoves, dryers and kilns are used by a range of small and medium entrepreneurs in their professions, TIDE’s work in the areas of energy conservation and renewable energy has resulted in an annual saving of 30,000 tons of firewood and around 45000 tons of CO2 emissions. Additionally, TIDE has worked closely with entrepreneurs and communities to create a momentum for the use of rainwater harvesting, and technology for composting and solid waste management in urban areas. 

Towards building a strong culture of entrepreneurship development, Rajagopalan ensured that empowering small entrepreneurs was a critical part of the organisation’s core values. Today, TIDE entrepreneurs have had a total turnover of 7 crores, having earned profits about 1 crore through distributing and using TIDE’s technology. 

Having built the foundation for TIDE, Rajagopalan found his successor in Svati Bhogle, also an Ashoka Fellow, in 2004. By 2007, Rajagopalan had stepped down from his position as CEO of TIDE, and moved almost completely into academia. Today, he is a professor at the International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore (IIITB) where he teaches courses on Geographic Information Sensing (GIS) and remote sensing, as well as course on economics and development for masters students. He also founded and heads the IIITB Innovation Centre, which has become a hub for ICT research, innovation and enterprise in Bangalore. Founded in 2009, the Centre has incubated a range of startups addressing education, health, gaming and community participation through information technology, like TutorVista, Learning Labs, and Mapunity, another Ashoka Fellow organisation.  

*This profile was updated in January 2014. Read on for the Election Profile

INTRODUCTION

S. Rajagopal's understanding of science and business enables him to rescue useful and profitable ideas from India's laboratories and then help small entrepreneurs to develop and market these ideas.




THE NEW IDEA

Presently, thousands of potential product ideas remain unused because both laboratories and small entrepreneurs lack the resources and skills to implement them. Potential entrepreneurs fail to see the opportunity to develop ideas into marketable products. Rajagopal provides the missing and crucial link between the inventors who have not realized the market value of their work and the small entrepreneurs who are eager for new products to promote.

Rajagopal's organization, staffed by young entrepreneurs and business professionals, begins the process by examining unused prototypes and product ideas and analyzing their potential marketability. Once they determine that a product has promise, they undertake further research, develop, and test it. Rajagopal then introduces these potential products to small entrepreneurs and, together, they develop a profitable marketing strategy. Rajagopal's service is helping these small entrepreneurs to invigorate the Indian economy.




THE PROBLEM

India invests a great deal in its laboratories, but much of the research that they produce never results in actual products or services. Large industries can absorb the cost of product research and development, and eventually, product marketing. However, small entrepreneurs and mid­size firms are missing two essential elements for the success of new products: resources and management staff.

As a result, many innovative and potentially successful product ideas are being under­utilized and largely ignored. In 1990-1991, for example, 500 patent applications for new products were filed, but only 200 of the products were ever marketed on a significant scale.




THE STRATEGY

Rajagopal recruits a multi­disciplinary team of young professionals ­ engineers, scientists, economic analysts, and marketing agents ­ to identify new products appropriate for the small entrepreneur. The team evaluates a number of promising ideas from the laboratories located near India's high­tech city of Bangalore. Afterward, Rajagopal proceeds to develop and test the most promising of the products.

The small entrepreneurs who benefit from the services pay a modest membership fee, but this does not fully cover the cost of product development and testing. Therefore, Rajagopal seeks start­up funds from various financial institutions.




THE PERSON

Rajagopal was raised in a village in Tamil Nadu state, and graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi and the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore. His skills in product development and marketing were sharpened during his tenure as Chief Executive of the State Council for Science and Technology. Rajagopal is giving up this prestigious position in order to devote full attention to his goal of effectively combining the fields of science and business for the benefit of both small entrepreneurs and Indian industry.