Three years ago, Encore's Vinay Deshpande created a groundbreaking piece of technology called Mobilis. A mobile, low-cost computer, the Mobilis was available for just Rs 12,000 and perfectly suited the rural businessman or poor student who wanted to go online - but without paying a huge price.
Deshpande's simple innovation has the potential to change the lives of thousands of Indians. And in monetary terms, he can help the Indian economy too. Research shows that a one per cent increase in the number of Internet users can boost GDP growth by 4.3 per cent.
It's this kind of innovation and engineering that I believe is the need of the hour. It is what I call Gandhian Engineering, where the basic philosophy is all about "getting more from less for more and more people of the world." Today, 4 billion people live on less than $ 2 a day. Gandhian Engineering will try and improve the lives of all those people by getting greater productivity for less cost for more people.
When it came to products and services, 'high price - high performance' was reserved for the rich. 'Low price - low performance' was, of course, for the resource-poor. The challenge is to change this price-performance envelope to say that we will build 'low price - high performance' for the resource poor. A good example of Gandhian engineering is Tata's one lakh car, the Nano, which will allow millions of people to carry their families with safety and dignity under all weather conditions
Other Indian examples of 'Gandhian Engineering' abound - whether it is the international quality hepatitis-B vaccine at one tenth of the international price or a superabsorbing one-rupee diaper that a housemaid can afford. A phone call at the cost of a postcard is not a dream any more for millions, who can afford a mobile today. And then there are Aravind Eye Care's ultra low cost cataract operations benefiting lakhs of patients but done with a quality that matches the best in UK.
Gandhian Engineering also seems to be an answer to all the grand challenges we face today.
Take the global economic meltdown, for example. Here extreme efficiency, war on waste and value maximization is the solution. And that equals to getting 'more from less for more'.
Or take climate change. The answer is again getting more (performance) from less (carbon dioxide emissions) so that we can save the planet for more (generations).
Our future will depend on Gandhian Engineering - and India can surely show the way to the rest of the world by making 'more from less for more' the mantra for the 21st century.
Dr Mashelkar is the President of the Global Research Alliance and the former Director-General for the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.