Anil Kumar Gupta

The epitome of bootstrapping innovation

An Indian scholar, professor, and Padma Shri Awardee Anil Gupta has a flair for finding innovators. Gupta has served as a professor at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad for 36 years while being the Executive vice chair at the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) till 2018 and now serves on the governing board. He founded the Honey Bee Network, SRISTI, GIAN, and NIF.

The multiple award winner started with a Bachelor’s Degree (Hons) in Agriculture and then went on to complete his Masters in Sciences (Biochemical genetics) from Haryana Agricultural University in 1974. In 1986, he also earned a Ph.D. in Management from Kurukshetra University. When the career jumpstarted, throughout his professional career Gupta was known for crafting innovative courses for students at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. One of his most popular courses included shodhyatra, under which he took management students to different parts of the Himalayas mountains to learn from local communities and study their knowledge systems. The widely popular course was derived from his larger concept of walking through the length and breadth of the country, interacting with farmers, traditional knowledge holders, grassroots innovators, innovative students, etc., which he named shodhyatra (meaning ‘research walk’).

Living on his principles, Gupta spent every summer and winter for more than twenty years walking across India. A group of innovators, farmers, artisans, mechanics, students walked approximately 6000 km across India in order to learn from grassroots teachers as a part of Shodhyatra.

He is the pioneer in the field of grassroots innovations in which he has reached out to the volunteers and communities to document, valorise and disseminate people’s knowledge across India. The platform is built upon the knowledge systems of people by linking innovation, investment, and enterprise through GIAN’s golden triangle.

With a mission of Sustainable growth for developing countries, he demonstrates the importance of economically unaided people’s knowledge. Aims to develop grassroots knowledge and an innovation-based approach to poverty alleviation by recognizing, respecting, and rewarding creative individuals and communities. He believes in Unfolding the creative potential of individuals, institutions, and societies through frugal, flexible, and friendly empathetic innovations.

With an idea to reach out to innovators in a remote village, and help them with the scientific validation, and value addition, Gupta founded Honey Bee Network, with a goal to link technology youth with the problems of MSME and informal sector to address social unmet needs. HBN helped build many open-access databases like techpedia.in, gian.org/patent.php, sristi.org/ wsa, and grid.undp.org.in, etc. The primary focus of HBN platforms has always been the recognition and respect for grassroots inventors. Through this opportunity, people tried and solved different problems in their own way. In the process, The Honey Bee Network became a network of oddballs. This year, through GIAN, the Network started recognising innovations for and from grassroots globally.

After reviewing 2500 ideas from 87 countries with special support from the UNDP Acc Lab network, HBNCRIIA awards were given to innovators from eight countries. GIAN has been partnering with UNDP to spread the philosophy of HBN through 90 UNDP ACC labs in 113 countries, essentially pursuing g2G (grassroots to global model).

Besides being an innovator in his field, Gupta has been a coordinator of SRISTI (Society for Research and Initiative for Sustainable technologies and Institution) and Gujarat Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network (GIAN) and a speaker of TED India in November 2009. To move his idea globally, Gupta has also written a book on Grassroots Innovation which received the Tata lit live award for the best business book of the year,2016. The book is a compilation of his empirical research, carried out through the Shodhyatras.

Together with his position in many governmental and corporate bodies Gupta has also been an advisor on issues pertaining to the environment and is a Visiting Faculty in IIM Ahmedabad, NIPER-Ahmedabad, AcSIR & IIT Bombay. The independent thinker, activist for the cause of creative communities, and individuals at the grassroots, he is committed to making this world a more inclusive place not just for humans but also non-human sentient beings. His vision is to set up Global GIAN to support frugal grassroots innovations globally and cross-pollinate ideas cross-culturally to make the world, more creative, collaborative, and compassionate. Volunteers are welcome to join his pursuit of converting the poor, perceived as sink of aid and assistance into a Source of ideas.

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