R.A. Mashelkar: Breakthrough designs for ultra-low-cost products

Recorded atNovember 02, 2009
EventTEDIndia 2009
Duration (min:sec)19:19
Video TypeTED Stage Talk
Words per minute201.28 very fast
Readability (FK)63.57 very easy
SpeakerR.A. Mashelkar

Official TED page for this talk


Engineer RA Mashelkar shares three stories of ultra-low-cost design from India that use bottom-up rethinking, and some clever engineering, to bring expensive products (cars, prosthetics) into the realm of the possible for everyone.

Text Highlight (experimental)
100:15 The big residual
200:17 is always value for money.
300:19 All the time we are trying to get value for money.
400:22 What we don't look for
500:24 is value for many,
600:26 while we are generating value for money.
700:29 Do we care about those four billion people
800:31 whose income levels are less than two dollars a day,
900:33 the so-called bottom of the pyramid?
1000:36 What are the challenges in getting value for money
1100:39 as well as value for many?
1200:41 We have described here
1300:43 in terms of the performance
1400:45 and the price.
1500:47 If you have money, of course, you can get the value.
1600:50 You can get a Mercedes
1700:52 for a very high price,
1800:54 very high performance.
1900:56 But if you don't have money, what happens?
2000:59 Well, you are to ride a bicycle,
2101:01 carrying your own weight and also some other weight,
2201:04 so that you can earn the bread for the day.
2301:07 Well, poor do not remain poor;
2401:09 they become lower-middle-class.
2501:11 And if they do so,
2601:13 then, of course, the conditions improve,
2701:15 and they start riding on scooters.
2801:18 But the challenge is, again, they don't get much value,
2901:21 because they can't afford anything more than the scooter.
3001:25 The issue is, at that price,
3101:27 can you give them some extra value?
3201:30 A super value,
3301:32 in terms of their ability to ride in a car,
3401:34 to get that dignity, to get that safety,
3501:37 looks practically impossible, isn't it.
3601:40 Now, this is something
3701:42 that we see on Indian streets
3801:44 all the time.
3901:46 But many people see the same thing
4001:48 and think things differently,
4101:51 and one of them is here, Ratan Tata.
4201:56 The great thing about our leaders
4301:58 is that, should they not only have passion in their belly,
4402:02 which practically all of them have,
4502:04 they're also very innovative.
4602:06 An innovator is one who does not know it cannot be done.
4702:09 They believe that things can be done.
4802:11 But great leaders like Ratan
4902:13 have compassion.
5002:15 And what you said, Lakshmi, is absolutely true:
5102:17 it's not just Ratan Tata,
5202:19 it's the house of Tatas over time.
5302:21 Let me confirm what she said.
5402:23 Yes, I went barefoot
5502:26 until I was 12.
5602:28 I struggled to [unclear] day
5702:30 was a huge issue.
5802:32 And when I finished my SSC, the eleventh standard,
5902:35 I stood eleventh among 125,000 students.
6002:38 But I was about to leave the school,
6102:40 because my poor mother couldn't afford schooling.
6202:42 And it was [unclear] Tata Trust, which gave me six rupees per month,
6302:45 almost a dollar per month for six years.
6402:48 That's how I'm standing before you.
6502:50 So that is the House of Tata.
6602:52 (Applause)
6702:55 Innovation, compassion and passion.
6802:57 They combine all that.
6902:59 And it was that compassion which bothered them,
7003:02 because when he saw -- in fact, he told me about eight or nine years ago
7103:05 how he was driving his own car --
7203:08 he drives his own car by the way --
7303:11 and he saw in the rain,
7403:13 a family like the one that I showed to you
7503:15 getting drenched with an infant.
7603:17 And then he said, "Well, I must give them a car that they can afford,
7703:20 one lakh car, $2,000 car."
7803:23 Of course, as soon as you say something like this
7903:25 people say it is impossible,
8003:27 and that's what was said by Suzuki.
8103:29 He said, oh, probably he is going to build a three-wheeler
8203:32 with stepney.
8303:34 And you can see the cartoon here.
8403:36 Well they didn't build that. They built a proper car. Nano.
8503:40 And mind you, I'm six feet half an inch,
8603:42 Ratan is taller than me,
8703:44 and we have ample space in the front
8803:47 and ample space in the back in this particular car.
8903:50 And incredible car.
9003:52 And of course, nothing succeeds like success;
9103:55 the cynics then turned around,
9203:58 and one after the other
9304:00 they also started saying, "Yes, we also want to make a car in the Nano Segment.
9404:03 We'll manufacture a car in the Nano Segment."
9504:06 How did this great story unfold,
9604:09 the making of Nano?
9704:11 Let me tell you a bit about it.
9804:13 For example, how we started:
9904:16 Ratan just began with a five-engineer team,
10004:19 young people in their mid-twenties.
10104:22 And he said,
10204:24 "Well, I won't define the vehicle for you,
10304:26 but I will define the cost for you.
10404:28 It is one lakh, 100,000 rupees,
10504:30 and you are to make it within that."
10604:32 And he told them,
10704:34 "Question the unquestionable.
10804:36 Stretch the envelope."
10904:38 And at a point in time,
11004:40 he got so engrossed in the whole challenge,
11104:42 that he himself became a member of the team.
11204:44 Can you believe it?
11304:46 I still am told about this story
11404:48 of that single wiper design in which he participated.
11504:51 Until midnight, he'd be thinking.
11604:53 Early morning he'll be coming back with sort of solutions.
11704:56 But who was the team leader?
11804:58 The team leader was Girish Wagh,
11905:00 a 34 year-old boy in [unclear].
12005:02 And the Nano team average age
12105:04 was just 27 years.
12205:06 And they did innovation in design and beyond.
12305:10 Broke many norms of the standard conventions for the first time.
12405:13 For example, that a two-cylinder gas engine
12505:16 was used in a car with a single balancer shaft.
12605:19 Adhesives were replacing the rivets.
12705:22 There was a co-creation, a huge co-creation,
12805:25 with vendors and suppliers.
12905:27 All ideas on board were welcome.
13005:29 100 vendors were co-located adjacent to the plant,
13105:32 and innovative business models for automobile dealerships were developed.
13205:35 Imagine that a fellow
13305:37 who sells cloth, for example, will be selling Nano.
13405:40 I mean, it was incredible innovation.
13505:43 Seeking solutions for non-auto sectors.
13605:46 It was an open innovation,
13705:48 ideas from all over were welcome.
13805:50 The mechanism of helicopters seats and windows was used, by the way,
13905:53 as well as a dashboard
14005:55 that was inspired by two-wheelers.
14105:57 The fuel lines and lamps
14205:59 were as in two-wheelers.
14306:02 And the crux of the matter was, however,
14406:04 getting more from less.
14506:07 All the time, you have been given an envelope.
14606:09 You can't cross that envelope,
14706:11 which is 100,000 rupees, 2,000 dollars.
14806:14 And therefore, each component
14906:16 had to have a dual functionality.
15006:19 And the seat riser, for example,
15106:21 serving as a mounting for the seat
15206:23 as well as a structural part
15306:25 of the functional rigidity.
15406:27 Half the number of parts
15506:29 are contained in Nano
15606:31 in comparison to a typical passenger car.
15706:34 The length is smaller by eight percent by the way.
15806:36 But the current entry-level cars
15906:38 in comparison to that is eight percent less,
16006:40 but 21 percent more inside space.
16106:45 And what happened
16206:47 was that -- more from less --
16306:49 you can see how much more for how much less.
16406:52 When the Model T was launched --
16506:54 and this is, by the way, all the figures
16606:56 that are adjusted to 2007 dollar prices --
16706:59 Model T was 19,700 by Ford.
16807:02 Volkswagon was 11,333.
16907:05 And British Motor was around 11,000.
17007:08 And Nano was, bang, 2,000 dollars.
17107:12 This is why
17207:14 you started
17307:16 actually a new paradigm shift,
17407:19 where the same people
17507:22 who could not dream of sitting in a car,
17607:24 who were carrying their entire family in a scooter,
17707:26 started dreaming of being in a car.
17807:29 And those dreams are getting fulfilled.
17907:32 This is a photograph
18007:34 of a house and a driver and a car
18107:36 near my own home.
18207:38 The driver's name is Naran.
18307:40 He has bought his own Nano.
18407:42 And you can see, there is a physical space
18507:44 that has been created for him,
18607:46 parking that car, along with the owner's car,
18707:49 but more importantly, they've created
18807:52 a space in their mind that
18907:54 "Yes, my chauffeur is going to come in his own car and park it."
19007:57 And that's why I call it a transformational innovation.
19108:01 It is not just technological,
19208:04 it is social innovation that we talk about.
19308:07 And that is where, ladies and gentlemen,
19408:10 this famous theme
19508:12 of getting more from less for more
19608:15 becomes important.
19708:17 I remember talking about this for the first time in Australia,
19808:20 about one and a half years ago,
19908:22 when their academy honored me with a fellowship.
20008:25 And unbelievably, in 40 years,
20108:27 I was the first Indian to be honored.
20208:29 And the title of my talk
20308:31 was therefore "Indian innovation
20408:33 from Gandhi to Gandhian engineering."
20508:36 And I titled this more from less for more and more people
20608:39 as Gandhian engineering.
20708:41 And Gandhian engineering, in my judgment,
20808:43 is the one which is going to take the world forward,
20908:46 is going to make a difference,
21008:48 not just for a few, but for everyone.
21108:50 Let me move from mobility in a car to individual mobility
21208:53 for those unfortunates
21308:55 who have lost their legs.
21408:57 Here is an American citizen and his son
21509:00 having an artificial foot.
21609:02 What is its price? 20,000 dollars.
21709:05 And of course, these feet are so designed
21809:08 that they can walk only on
21909:11 such perfect pavement or roads.
22009:13 Unfortunately, that's not the case in India.
22109:16 You can see him walk barefoot
22209:18 on an awkward land, sometimes in a marshy land,
22309:20 and so on and so forth.
22409:22 More importantly,
22509:24 they not only walk far to work,
22609:26 and not only do they cycle to work,
22709:28 but they cycle for work, as you can see here.
22809:31 And they climb up for their work.
22909:34 You have to design an artificial foot for such conditions.
23009:37 A challenge, of course.
23109:39 Four billion people, their incomes are less then two dollars a day.
23209:42 And if you talk about a 20,000-dollar shoe,
23309:44 you're talking about 10,000 days of income.
23409:47 You just don't have it.
23509:49 And therefore, you ought to look at alternatives.
23609:51 And that is how Jaipur Foot was created in India.
23709:54 It had a revolutionary prosthetic fitment and delivery system,
23809:58 a quick molding and modular components,
23910:01 enabling custom-made, on-the-spot limb fitments.
24010:05 You could feel it actually in an hour, by the way,
24110:07 whereas the equivalent other feet
24210:09 took something like a day, as so on.
24310:11 Outer socket made by using heated high-density polyethylene pipes,
24410:15 rather than using heated sheets.
24510:18 And unique high-ankle design and human-like looks,
24610:21 [unclear] and functions.
24710:23 And I like to show how it looks
24810:25 and how it works.
24910:33 (Music)
25010:37 See, he jumps. You can see what stress it must have.
25110:40 (Text: ... any person with a below the knee limb could do this.
25210:42 ... above the limb, yes, it would be difficult ...
25310:45 "Did it hurt?"
25410:47 "No ... not at all."
25510:58 ... he can run a kilometer in four minutes and 30 seconds ...)
25611:00 One kilometer in four minutes and 30 seconds.
25711:02 (Applause)
25811:15 So that's what it is all about.
25911:17 And therefore Time took notice
26011:19 of this 28-dollar foot, basically.
26111:21 (Applause)
26211:24 An incredible story.
26311:27 Let's move on to something else.
26411:29 I've been talking about getting more from less for more.
26511:31 Let's move to health.
26611:33 We've talked about mobility and the rest of it, let's talk about health.
26711:36 What's happening in the area of health?
26811:38 You know, you have new diseases that require new drugs.
26911:41 And if you look at the drug development 10 years ago and now,
27011:43 what has happened?
27111:45 10 years ago, it used to cost about a quarter billion.
27211:47 Today it costs 1.5 billion dollars.
27311:51 Time taken for moving a molecule to marketplace,
27411:54 after all the human and animal testing,
27511:57 was 10 years, now it is 15 years.
27612:00 Are you getting more drugs because you are spending more time and more money?
27712:03 No, I'm sorry.
27812:05 We used to have 40, now they have come down to 30.
27912:08 So actually we are getting less from more
28012:10 for less and less people.
28112:12 Why less and less people? Because it is so expensive,
28212:14 so very few will be able to basically afford that.
28312:18 Let us just take an example.
28412:20 Psoriasis is very dreadful
28512:22 disease of the skin.
28612:24 The cost of treatment, 20,000 dollars.
28712:26 1,000-dollar antibody injections under the skin, by the way,
28812:29 and 20 of them.
28912:31 Time for development -- it took around 10 years
29012:33 and 700 million dollars.
29112:35 Let's start in the spirit
29212:37 of more from less and more for more
29312:39 and start putting some targets.
29412:42 For example, we don't want 20,000 dollars; we don't have it.
29512:45 Can we do it [for] 100 dollars?
29612:47 Time for development, not 10 years.
29712:49 We are in a hurry. Five years.
29812:51 Cost of development -- 300 million dollars.
29912:53 Sorry. I can't spend more than 10 million dollars.
30012:55 Looks absolutely audacious.
30112:57 Looks absolutely ridiculous.
30212:59 You know something? This has been achieved in India.
30313:02 These targets have been achieved in India.
30413:04 And how they have been achieved ...
30513:06 Sir Francis Bacon once said,
30613:08 "When you wish to achieve results
30713:10 that have not been achieved before,
30813:12 it is an unwise fancy to think
30913:14 that they can be achieved by using methods
31013:16 that have been used before."
31113:18 And therefore, the standard process,
31213:20 where you develop a molecule, put it into mice, into men,
31313:22 are not yielding those results --
31413:24 the billions of dollars that have been spent.
31513:26 The Indian cleverness
31613:28 was using its traditional knowledge,
31713:31 however, scientifically validating it
31813:33 and making that journey from men to mice to men,
31913:36 not molecule to mice to men, you know.
32013:38 And that is how this difference has come.
32113:40 And you can see this blending
32213:42 of traditional medicine, modern medicine, modern science.
32313:44 I launched a big program
32413:46 [unclear] CSIR about nine years ago.
32513:49 He is giving us not just for Psoriasis,
32613:51 for cancer and a whole range of things, changing the whole paradigm.
32713:54 And you can see this Indian Psoriasis breakthrough
32813:56 obtained by this reverse form of [unclear]
32913:58 by doing things differently.
33014:00 You can see before treatment and after treatment.
33114:03 This is really getting more from less for more and more people,
33214:06 because these are all affordable treatments now.
33314:09 Let me just remind you
33414:12 of what Mahatma Gandhi had said.
33514:14 He had said, "Earth provides enough
33614:17 to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed."
33714:20 So the message he was giving us
33814:22 was you must get more from less and less and less
33914:25 so that you can share it for more and more people,
34014:27 not only the current generation,
34114:29 but the future generations.
34214:31 And he also said, "I would prize every invention of science
34314:34 made for the benefit for all."
34414:36 So he was giving you the message that you must have it for more and more people,
34514:39 not just a few people.
34614:41 And therefore, ladies and gentlemen,
34714:43 this is the theme, getting more
34814:45 from less for more.
34914:47 And mind you,
35014:49 it is not getting just a little more for just a little less.
35114:52 It's not about low cost.
35214:54 It's about ultra-low cost.
35314:56 You cannot say it's a mere treatment 10,000 dollars,
35414:58 but because you are poor I'll give it for 9,000.
35515:01 Sorry, it doesn't work. You have to give it for 100 dollars, 200 dollars.
35615:04 Is it possible? It has been made possible, by the way,
35715:07 for certain other different reasons.
35815:10 So you are not talking about low cost, you are talking about ultra-low cost.
35915:13 You are not talking about affordability,
36015:15 you are talking about extreme affordability.
36115:17 Because of the four billion people whose income is under two dollars a day.
36215:21 You're not talking exclusive innovation.
36315:24 You're talking about inclusive innovation.
36415:27 And therefore, you're not talking about incremental innovation,
36515:29 you're talking about disruptive innovation.
36615:31 The ideas have to be such
36715:33 that you think in completely different terms.
36815:36 And I would also add,
36915:38 it is not only getting more from less for more
37015:40 by more and more people, the whole world working for it.
37115:43 I was very touched when I saw a breakthrough the other day.
37215:46 You know, incubators for infants, for example.
37315:48 They're not available in Africa.
37415:50 They're not available in Indian villages.
37515:52 And infants die.
37615:54 And incubator costs 2,000 dollars.
37715:57 And there's a 25-dollar incubator
37815:59 giving that performance that had been created.
37916:01 And by whom?
38016:03 By young students from Standford University
38116:06 on an extreme affordability project that they had, basically.
38216:09 Their heart is in the right place, like Ratan Tata.
38316:12 It's not just innovation, compassion and passion --
38416:15 compassion in the heart and passion in the belly.
38516:17 That's the new world that we want to create.
38616:20 And that is why the message is that of Gandhian engineering.
38716:22 Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to end before time.
38816:25 I was also afraid of those 18 minutes.
38916:27 I've still one and a half to go.
39016:29 The message, the final message, is this:
39116:32 India gave a great gift to the world.
39216:35 What was that?
39316:37 [In the] 20th century, we gave Gandhi to the world.
39416:40 The 21st century gift,
39516:42 which is very, very important for the whole world,
39616:44 whether it is global economic meltdown,
39716:46 whether it is climate change --
39816:48 any problem that you talk about
39916:50 is gaining more from less for more and more --
40016:52 not only the current generations,
40116:54 for the future generations.
40216:56 And that can come only from Gandhian engineering.
40316:58 So ladies and gentlemen, I'm very happy to announce,
40417:01 this gift of the 21st century
40517:03 to the world from India,
40617:05 Gandhian engineering.
40717:07 (Applause)
40817:15 Lakshmi Pratury: Thank you, Dr. Mashelkar. (R.A. Mashelkar: Thank you very much.)
40917:18 LP: A quick question for you.
41017:20 Now, when you were a young boy in this school,
41117:23 what were your thoughts, like what did you think you could become?
41217:26 What do you think that drove you?
41317:28 Was there a vision you had? What is it that drove you?
41417:31 RAM: I'll tell you a story that drove me, that transformed my life.
41517:34 I remember, I went to a poor school,
41617:37 because my mother could not gather the 21 rupees,
41717:40 that half a dollar that was required
41817:42 within the stipulated time.
41917:44 It was [unclear] high school.
42017:47 But it was a poor school with rich teachers, honestly.
42117:50 And one of them was [unclear] who taught us physics.
42217:53 One day he took us out into the sun
42317:55 and tried to show us how to find
42417:57 the focal length of a convex lens.
42518:00 The lens was here. The piece of paper was there. He moved it up and down.
42618:03 And there was a bright spot up there.
42718:06 And then he said, "This is the focal length."
42818:08 But then he held it for a little while, Lakshmi.
42918:11 And then the paper burned.
43018:13 When the paper burned, for some reason he turned to me,
43118:15 and he said, "Mashelkar, like this,
43218:18 if you do not diffuse your energies,
43318:20 if you focus your energies,
43418:22 you can achieve anything in the world."
43518:25 That gave me a great message: focus and you can achieve.
43618:28 I said, "Whoa, science is so wonderful,
43718:30 I have to become a scientist."
43818:32 But more importantly, focus and you can achieve.
43918:35 And that message, very frankly,
44018:37 is valuable for society today.
44118:39 What does that focal length do?
44218:42 It has parallel lines, which are sun rays.
44318:45 And the property of parallel lines
44418:47 is that they never meet.
44518:49 What does that convex lens do?
44618:51 It makes them meet.
44718:53 This is convex lens leadership.
44818:55 You know what today's leadership is doing? Concave length.
44918:58 They divide them farther.
45019:01 So I learned the lesson
45119:03 of convex lens leadership from that.
45219:05 And when I was at National Chemical Laboratory [unclear].
45319:08 When I was at Council of Scientific Industry Research --
45419:10 40 laboratories -- when two laboratories were not talking to each other,
45519:12 I would [unclear].
45619:15 And currently I'm president of Global Research Alliance,
45719:17 60,000 scientists in nine counties, right from India to the U.S.
45819:20 I'm trying to build a global team,
45919:23 which will look at the global grand challenges that the world is facing.
46019:26 That was the lesson. That was the inspirational moment.
46119:28 LP: Thank you very much. (RAM: Thank you.)
46219:31 (Applause)