Even among those social workers who help the underprivileged, 23-year-old mechanical engineering graduate Krishna Thiruvengadam (native of Madurai) is an outlier. Currently based in a village in Maharashtra, he not only works towards the upliftment of the poor, but also teaches them to be innovators. Together, they’ve now conceptualised and invented several interesting machines including a pedal-powered washing machine.
Currently pursuing his 13-month-long SBI Youth for India fellowship, Krishna speaks to DC at length about what made him choose this field, about interesting innovations he has done, and on his future ambitions. “Since childhood, I have always aspired to make a social impact. But I did not know how. When I got an opportunity to work at National Innovation Foundation — India (DST- Government of India) as an R&D intern on grassroots technologies, I realised that with design, I could impact lives,” starts Krishna.
Speaking about how the fellowship program happened, he says, “After my graduation, I was looking for opportunities to work in social innovation and design firms. This is when I came across the SBI Youth for India fellowship. I opted for it readily to pursue my dreams.” After being placed in a rural village in Maharashtra called Lobhi, the SRM University alumnus initially found it very hard to acclimatise to the conditions. “Not knowing Hindi and Marathi were major hurdles for me. Yet, I wanted to take up this challenge and my efforts.”
Once he got familiar with the locals, he initially wanted to utilise his engineering expertise in developing technological solutions for rural communities. But, he soon realised that such ideas would be sustainable only if the people could generate ideas and implement them, rather than an outsider doing it — “Rural communities tend to be more creative and come up with jugaad (unorthodox/innovative) ideas owing to their limited monetary and material resources. I also learnt that children can come up with amazing simple ideas to solve complex issues. However, they lacked building skills. Hence, I wanted to fill this gap someday.”
Sharing with us the projects he has undertaken so far, he says, “As my aim is to enable rural kids and youth to develop appropriate technologies using local resources, I started with two approaches: multi-sensory learning and project based learning. I wanted to link both these approaches. Through this, I showed them how to build scale models of cars, hydraulic lift and jack, extractor machine (JCB). We’ve now taken giant strides as the kids have come up with ideas like motorised shoes to move around, safe jaggery producing unit and a pedal powered washing machine.”
Apart from his fellowship commitment, he’s developing a water conveyance device to reduce drudgery for women in rural areas and is developing a rural innovation studio (d-Hive). On a concluding note, Krishna hopes that he becomes a social entrepreneur soon. “My future aspiration is to pursue my masters in product design and start a social entrepreneurship initiative for developing products with a social impact,” he bids adieu....