Sunday, January 25, 2009

Japanese two wheelers taking india by storm

Tora means tiger in Japanese. In 1941, during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese pilots used it as a code word to indicate that complete surprise had been achieved. Now, almost half-a-century later, it might well be brought out of the closet and used again. Just that this time, Indian two-wheeler companies seem to be the dozy targets.
Put another way: The recent ouster of Bajaj Auto, the country’s second largest two-wheeler maker by sales, from the second spot by Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India (HMSI), may just hint at a Japanese offensive. In November last year, for the first time, HMSI surpassed Bajaj Auto sales by volume in the domestic market. The Japanese two-wheeler firm repeated the same feat in the ensuing month as well. In December, HMSI sold 87,164 two-wheelers against Bajaj Auto’s 69,419 units. “The gap is narrowing and the competition level is much higher now,” points out HS Goindi, president (marketing), TVS Motor Company. “The Japanese have been at it for a long time and no one noticed. So, one fine morning, the crossover happened and people were caught napping.” Even TVS wasn’t spared. In December last year, the Chennai-based two-wheeler firm sold 72,355 units — a 13% slide over the corresponding period the previous year. Further, during the April-December period in 2008, all Indian two-wheeler companies, excluding Hero Honda Motors, posted negative growth figures over the corresponding period the previous year. In comparison, their Japanese counterparts, such as HMSI, Suzuki Motorcycle India and India Yamaha Motor, have all done relatively well and managed to garner decent growth figures. So, what worked for the Japanese? To be sure, one of the major contributors to growth for both HMSI and Suzuki continues to be the gearless scooter segment where HMSI is the market leader, with more than 50% marketshare. In December last year, scooters made up around 64% of HMSI’s total sales volume. Atul Gupta, VP, sales & marketing, Suzuki Motorcycle India, points out that this segment has been more or less insulated against the slowdown and has grown considerably year on year. “People usually purchase a scooter with cash. Hence, this segment escaped being butchered by the credit squeeze,” explains Gupta. But industry experts also point out that the future belongs to cutting edge technology. Case in point: India Yamaha Motor’s latest 150cc offerings, the FZ16 and the R15 are arguably the best in their segment as far as product quality and design are concerned. These are the bikes that have single-handedly brought the focus back on Yamaha after the Japanese firm’s incredible lean patch here. But they also come at a cost. The R15 sells for around Rs 1 lakh, almost double the price of an ordinary 150cc motorcycle. Says Sanjay Tripathi, division head (product planning), India Yamaha Motor: “It’s similar to cell phones. The technology that you see in high-end phones finally percolates down after some time. In the case of two-wheelers it’s the same story. Our 150cc bikes borrow technology that is born on the race track, and with time the cost will also come down.” So, does this suggest that Indian two-wheeler makers are low on technology? S Sridhar, CEO (two-wheelers), Bajaj Auto, strongly opposes the thought. “In Bajaj, technology is for daily life. We have a strong R&D focus. We are jointly developing bikes with KTM but even our own boys are good at innovation,” he declares.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Water: plenty amidst scarcity at an Andhra village

The Hindu, M.J. PRABU, Aug 21, 2008

The monsoon came late over the semi-arid regions of central India this year. While several farming villages suffered from drought, Kothapally village in Ranga Reddy district of Andhra Pradesh had water in its wells for drinking and irrigation. The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Patancheru, Andhra Pradesh, and a consortium of partners including international, national, governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) empowered the people of Kothapally to cope with drought for more than nine years through community watersheds.

Plenty of water
“Thanks to ICRISAT, water shortage in our village is a thing of the past,” says Mohammed Azam, farmer in Kothapally. “We have enough water, but the villages that did not pick up the innovations continue to suffer.” “The productivity in Kothapally has increased immensely due to the water saving systems and also because of ICRISAT’s improved crop varieties, integrated pest management, and the judicious application of fertilizers.”

“I was one of the first farmers to adopt these ideas and today I can send my five grandchildren to good schools in town,” says Azam.Big benefits - Mr. T. Janaiah, another Kothapally farmer, emphasizes: “I have benefited incredibly. Ten years ago our groundwater level was about 300 feet deep and today it is at about 60 feet thanks to the water saving facilities that we built together with our partners from ICRISAT. Even with a late monsoon we have sufficient drinking and irrigation water.”The community watershed at Kothapally has become a model replicated in many other countries such as China, Thailand, and Vietnam, and now in East and Central Africa.Improve production. According to Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, the use of community watersheds as an entry point for agricultural and rural development, has resulted in many interventions to improve agricultural productivity and livelihoods of poor farmers. Dr. S.P. Wani, principal scientist on watersheds, says, “Once we found solutions for immediate problems, the farmers became our ambassadors for implementing these interventions.”Check dams

The people of Kothapally have embraced many new technologies. The construction of check dams were based on the community needs and executed by the villagers themselves.
The introduction of improved varieties and hybrid crops, integrated pest management, the restoration of wastelands together with a continuously growing groundwater level, resulted in significantly higher yields and greater income for the poor. Women farmers play a key role in utilizing new technologies. Several women’s self-help groups were trained in vermicomposting.
They in turn trained others in neighbouring villages. Mrs. B Lakshmi, a woman farmer, received the Jamsetji Tata National Virtual Academy fellowship for Rural Prosperity in 2007 for training peers in vermicomposting.

According to Dr. Wani, the consortium’s success in Kothapally led to its replication in other Indian states. The state government took the lead in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, while in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jharkhand, the Sir Dorabjee Tata Trust and the Sir Ratan Tata Trust funded the spread of the program. In select watersheds in Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan, the Confederation of Indian Industry supported the projects. The idea also spread to other parts of Asia .
Potential solution

The Asian Development Bank supported watershed projects in these countries. A team of researchers from East and Central Africa (ECA) visited Kothapally and identified the watershed experience as a potential solution to many of the challenges their region faced. For further information and visit to Kothapally village readers can contact Dr. Suhas P. Wani, Principal Scientist and Regional Theme Co-ordinator, ICRISAT, Patancheru, Andhra Pradesh-502-324, email:, phone: 040-3071-3466 and 3071-3071(extn) 2466.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bullet Santi - Motorcycle Driven Multi Purpose Farm Machine

Bullet-loving farmers set up biker club
Times of India, Vijaysinh Parmar, 13 Aug 2008,

AHMEDABAD: When Mansukh Jagani, farmer from Amreli district invented 'Bullet Santi' in early '90s, he didn't know he was sparking a revolution of sorts. Bullet Santi is basically a motorcycle-driven multipurpose farm machine. His innovation inspired many others to follow suit and has led to formation of a club in Gujarat called Technology Commons. The club will comprise innovator and those who improvize the technology. They will critically analyze and improve on each other's models. Such an initiative is being taken for the first time in the country and the institution behind it is National Innovation Foundation. "In May, we organized a meeting of innovators in Rajkot and the idea of setting up this club emerged," said Anil Gupta, executive vice-chairman of NIF and faculty member of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A ). There would be no restrictions on club members learning from each other, but if a company wants to use their technology , it would have to get a licence, he added. Licensing would require consent from the lead innovator and all those who made improvements. Jagani fabricated an attachment so that a farm machine could be powered by an Enfield Bullet motorcycle. The innovation was patented by Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network (GIAN) in US as well as India. "The idea was to have the flexibility of using a motorcycle for farming. Several fabricators in Saurashtra and Kutch found this a very attractive idea,'' says Riya Sinha, who has done a case study on motorcycle-based ploughing machines. She is president of SRISTI Innovations and senior advisor of newsletter 'Honey Bee' that documents grassroots innovations. There are at least 50 motorcycle-driven farm machine fabricators in Saurashtra alone, and more than 8,000 farmers using such machines.
SETTING STANDARDS Technology Commons will bring in standardization in grassroots innovations which is the best thing that could happen, saysProfessor Gupta. "It will make innovations competitive and cost-effective . And, offer affordable solutions to the expanding market. It raises the interesting possibility of combining customization (so necessary for farm machinery) with standardization," he added. NIF encourages people to imitate and build on each other's designs. The only precondition is that each innovator making derivative changes will put the improvements in the Technology Commons database.

Eco Friendly Hybrid Bikes

Times of India, Ahmedabad, Aug 22, 2008
Anand man creates eco-friendly hybrid bikes
In this age of skyrocketing fuel costs and pollution, an eco-friendly, multi-fuel bike sounds like the dream vehicle. That's what Paresh Budh of Anand has come up with. The 40-year-old, who used to work for a multinational, has now devoted himself full-time to develop hybrid bikes. Budh is an invitee to 'Inventors of India' workshop being organized by IIM-A. His bike can run on petrol, diesel, gas or bio-gas. It will neither create air nor noise pollution and will be air-conditioned! This is, amazingly, because it will be covered. Budh has been working in the field of fuel efficiency for 20 years. A diploma holder in automobile engineering, he is presently burning the midnight oil fine-tuning 'Motoscoot'. "My idea was to develop a bike that's multi-fuel and cost-effective. My bike prototype ranges from 180cc to 250cc and can accelerate to 60 kmph in 7.2 seconds. It has an aerodynamic shape in front, four-speed manual gear (and gearless variant for women) and three safety belts," an excited Budh adds. In 1998, he made a fuel-efficiency kit which gave him 110-km average for petrol in a 110cc bike. Currently, he's experimenting on a kit that can give 1,000 km average for Rs 200 of fuel. Budh has applied for a patent in India, but is frustrated that no one has supported him so far. "People have not recognized my work. In fact, they joke about it. That's why I'm particularly happy that my innovation has been selected for this prestigious workshop which Dr Abdul Kalam is expected to attend. I will show him my work and he will understand it better, being a scientist," he says.