Non-Obvious Innovation, Non-Obvious Location S14 Ep13

Building Solutions for Basic Needs in India

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Take a look in an unexpected direction and discover non-obvious innovation.  One entrepreneur is building solutions to meet basic needs in rural and urban slums of India.  Hasit Ganatra is founder of ReMaterials.  His company designs and produces the ModRoof, roofing for the developing world.  ReMaterials solves a serious problem in a non-obvious location.

Non-Obvious Innovation

Microchips to Roofing

Hasit could have made a comfortable living in L.A.   He held an Engineering degree from the University of Southern California.  He worked in microchip design. But far from the tech hub, inspiration sprung from a non-obvious location.  A trip to the vegetable market in India with his mother sparked the idea for his first startup.

His second startup is a non-obvious innovation in roofing.  Hasit’s scope and vision for Re-Materials is far-reaching. His roofing solves issues of leaks, excessive heat, toxicity, and roof deterioration.  Beyond that, Hasit and his team are designing solar panels to attach to the roofing. The solar panels will provide power for lighting. Lighting is a major need throughout the developing world.  Meeting this basic need allows a better life and future to an underserved population.

Seeing Things in a Different Light

What drove Hasit to leave L.A. for the non-obvious location of rural and slum areas of India?  In his words: “Always wanting to solve real problems on the ground.  Be in the action.”  Seeing the problems of India’s rural and urban poor communities, Hasit bypassed a high tech career.

Hasit credits C.K. Prahalad’s The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid with helping to see things in a different light.  Prahalad’s book was an inspiration to my wife and me as well, prompting us to invest in developing countries. The book dispels the myth that rural and low-income communities are not a starting point for investment.  What we consider a non-obvious location for investment may soon become obvious to many.

Hasit’s for-profit business model combines social impact and profit.  ReMaterials produces the ModRoof using biodegradable, recycled materials.  Hasit states, “Our goal was not to be cheapest in market, but the best in the market.”  For customers who cannot afford the outright expense, microfinancing is available.

Advice on Non-Obvious Innovation in a Non-Obvious Location

  • You have to be passionate about living and working in the non-obvious location.
    • There are going to be issues.
    • You can’t give up in these situations.
  • Test the waters.
    • Experience the location on a trial basis (i.e., internship).
    • This will help you determine if you’re willing to give your life to it.
  • Once you  get involved, it will require 100% commitment.
    • It’s no longer a hobby.

Learn more about ReMaterials and how Hasit is making an impact in India.  Contact Hasit through the website re-materials.com.

Five Minutes to New Ideas

Could offering an unfinished product increase the value of your product? There are companies successful in offering such products. Some advantages to this model allow companies to

  1. reduce risks by minimizing inventory and
  2. charge a premium for the pleasure of assembling the product.
It’s a fine line. If assembling the product is too easy, it feels like cheating. If it’s too complex, the consumer sees no value in the supposed convenience. The right balance gives the customer the satisfying feeling of “I did this.”

Consider the possibility of creating an on-demand service for your product.

The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.


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