Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship. The act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth,” is how management guru Peter Drucker has defined innovation.
Take the case of Dharamveer Singh Kamboj, a rickshaw puller from Delhi. In 1987, Kamboj met with an accident which meant that he had to go back to his village and spend several days recuperating. He decided not to go back and concentrate on farming.
Innovation – The key to Success
An inquisitive nature and a knack of innovation has always been Kamboj’s forte. He was the first farmer in his area to grow hybrid tomatoes and keep a record of his produce. In 1990, he developed a battery-operated spraying machine from an old tape-recorder motor. Insects are a nuisance to farmers and to catch them he tried various methods including adhesive tapes. He also experimented with various crop growing patters, built a tool that could be used to plough fields and went into mushroom cultivation.
Kamboj, like any other innovator has a mind which identifies problems around him and tries to find a solution to it using ingenious ways. At a railway station in Saharanpur, he saw a sweeper on cleaning duty and his mind worked towards creating a machine that would make the cleaning process easier. In about a month, Kamboj had developed a machine that was built out of an old auto engine and different other components like chains, sockets and a dustbin to make a machine for that purpose. The machine worked on a scientific principle that dust settles down when sprayed with water and helped ease the work of many cleaners. He took a loan of Rs 8,000 to develop the machine against the wishes of his family.
Kamboj had developed an interest in plants and herbs as a child. He used to help his mother collect herbs to make colours for Holi. In his childhood, a holy man visited his village and from him he learnt a lot about herbs and then their benefits. His knowledge in this area further increased in the days he used to ferry passengers who used to trade in herbs.
In December 2004 he got the opportunity to visit various processing units of aloe vera, amla and other products at Rajasthan with a group of farmers through the Department of Agriculture, Government of Haryana. He realized the potential of such processing units and that it was a lucrative business idea but the high cost of the machines at these plants was a deterrent. But Kamboj had learnt a lot about the processes and started working on a machine that would be simpler and more cost effective. By April 2006, he had built a prototype of a machine which could extract Aloe Vera juice. He further improved the machine so that it would be able to process a wide range of products.
The multi-purpose processing machine can process various herbs, fruits and seeds. It has a cylindrical container made of stainless steel with a lid at the top to feed in raw materials and an outlet at the bottom to collect the processed material. The machine is unique because it can process a variety of products without causing any damage to the seed of the vegetable or fruit. It is also portable and inexpensive compared to existing machines.
Kamboj has sold several models of his machine across various states in India and also exported it. He has given employment to people, mostly women who sell the various products processed by the machine. In 2014, Kamboj had an annual turnover of Rs 40 lakh. For a man who had hardly enough money to send his daughter to school at one point, he had come a long way.
Recognition as an Innovator
In 2009, the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) awarded him for innovation in agro-based food processing machinery. In 2014 he received an invitation from President Pranab Mukherjee to be a guest at the Rashtrapati Bhavan for 20 days along with 5 other innovators who had made significant contributions in their area. Kamboj’s story proves that innovation is not about expensive instruments and hi-tech labs, but sheer imagination and ingenuity.