Friday, May 9, 2008

Day 1 of the Dinamalar Agri-Expo

Day 1 at the Dinamalar Agro Expo 2008. With 75 000 to 100 000 people expected to pass through the show in the next 4 days, it is a good opportunity to promote L-RAMP and its activities to both potential innovators and entrepreneurs. We have our booth set-up with standard promotional materials, we're also sharing booth space with successful L-RAMP innovators-turned-entrepreneurs who are marketing their own products. Today's product is 'Nemate Gro' – an organic fertilizer derived from the Neem plant, which promotes plant growth while also protecting against pests and disease. Our front display table has bags of fertilizer, which happen to closely resemble bags of dirt, sitting alongside L-RAMP pamphlets showing the sculpting of a clay pot (presumably meant to symbolize the creation of a new product). One attendee, trying to logically connect the items on display asked 'So L-RAMP, what do you guys do? Make pots using that dirt?' Yep, there is still some ways to go in promoting L-RAMP and its services within the local population. We may also need to re-think the front of our brochures.

The highlight of the day has been watching the amount of interest generated by Nemate Gro. It's been a long climb for the innovator Mr. R. Augustine. He started developing the product in 2006 and completed the initial product development and pilot scale tests on his own. L-RAMP met Mr. Augustine in 2007 and, at that point in time, helped with the final product development and large-scale product testing. The product is now starting the commercialization stage. It is currently sold via direct scales, Samruddhi and some other local stores. Mr. Augustine is now looking for large-scale distributors to expand the product reach.

Mr. Augustine is a good example of an innovator who is succeeding in making the transition to become an entrepreneur but, as mentioned in Devynani's post, not all innovators have the
interest or aptitude in making this leap. Business incubation requires a very different skill set from innovation incubation. Through my work at L-RAMP, I've had the opportunity to meet individuals who are passionate about innovating and want to create real value and benefit to others through their products, but given the choice that's where their involvement would stop. Ideally, they would like to find someone else to take their product to the market. For this reason, it is important for L-RAMP to not just find and support innovators, but to also learn how to find people at the other end of the journey, entrepreneurs interested taking these products through to the market, and to facilitate technology transfer between innovator and entrepreneur.

We've been discussing different avenues for identifying potential entrepreneurs and linking innovation to entrepreneur. At the next agri fair we plan to showcase product briefs on innovations ready for tech transfer to see how much interest that generates. One never knows.

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