Spark the Rise Round 2 Winners

Posted By: Abby Hein|Dated: January 16, 2012

A student from Chandigarh, a businessman from Delhi, and an energy environmentalist from Uttarakhand all came to Mumbai. No, this isn’t the start of a joke. This is exactly what happened in early December when we—the Rise Team—hosted the Round 2 Spark the Rise winners at our offices in Mumbai.

The Avani Project

The AVANI project: piles of dried pine needles wait to be transported to the gassifier

Of the 8 winners present, 6 were from different cities in India – talk about diversity! And their projects and personalities were just as wide-ranging. During the two-day gathering, I met innovators and entrepreneurs working in energy, automotive engineering, rural development, and much more.

Watching the Round 2 winners interact with each other and learning more about their projects confirmed my belief that big things can come in small, simple packages.

Did you ever think that electricity could be powered by a pine needle? I didn’t! Himalayan pine needles are about 25cm long and very slender. Yet, a few kilos worth of these tiny needles, collected from 1-2 hectares of land, hold the potential to provide electricity for 50 people and cooking charcoal for 5 people.

Are you wondering how something so small can produce so much?

Once these needles are put into a gassifier system, 15% of the needle is burned while the other 85% is brought to a scorching temperature of 800 degrees Celsius. At this temperature the needle converts to gas. Once this gas is filtered, it can be used to drive an alternator that generates electricity. The waste from the part of the needle that is burned can be converted into charcoal bricks for use in the kitchen.  Amazing, huh?

This is the work our Project Champion, Rajnish Jain, and his organization, AVANI, are doing right now in Uttarakhand.

And what about a bike helmet? It seems simple enough to me – plunk it on and go. Yet many of India’s two-wheel drivers still don’t wear them, even in places where they are mandatory. This is a big problem:the World Health Organization estimates that by 2020 in India alone, over 500,000 deaths a year will be caused by road accidents. Many of these deaths will be caused by brain trauma – the leading cause of morbidity, mortality, disability, and socioeconomic loss in India.

Preventing many of these deaths by the use of helmets can decrease road trauma mortality by nearly two-thirds, according to a 2006 edition of the Indian Journal of Surgery. So how do we ensure more people wear bike helmets? Well before the engine is started!

Round 2 winner Harshit Bora is working on an intelligent bike helmet – one that won’t allow your bike to start unless you are wearing it. It’s a bold idea that could save many lives, and it all began with something as simple as a helmet.

I’ve often thought of inventors as crazy guys with frazzled white hair blowing up concoctions in their labs or engineers up all night calculating new algorithms. However, having the Round 2 winners present their work in Mumbai made me realize that even simple things can change the world in a very big way. We shouldn’t stop looking for a way to land on Mars, but our Spark the Rise winners taught me that we shouldn’t overlook the things we use today in the hunt to solve tomorrow’s problems, either! Did you ever think a pine needle could power your home?

About the Author

Abby Hein

Abby has been working on the Rise Team for over a year now and has seen the inception and realization of Spark the Rise. Originally from Denver, Colorado, Abby misses the mountains but loves the hustle and bustle of Mumbai. She graduated from Brown University with a BA in International Relations in 2010.

The views expressed above are those of the author, and not necessarily representative of the views of the Mahindra Group.

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  • Sujoy


  • Priyanka Bansal

    Very nice. Its amazing to read this. 

  • Rohit

    Innovative & Creative

  • Bharat Bhushan

    intersting……………………….n very creative which India needs…………

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