By T.K. Tamby
Grass roots innovation works on the realisation that people on the lower rung of the economic pyramid are not necessarily society’s least knowledgeable or innovative segment.
Often, numerous innovative products and processes are created at the base of the pyramid due to necessity brought about by economic challenges.
Renowned propagators of grass roots innovation like Professor Anil K. Gupta have pointed out that recognising ideas from this source and transforming them into full-fledged solutions would create compounding benefits including the rise in grass roots entrepreneurs, earnings and spending power. This in turn powers the economic growth of the group.
Grass roots innovation is part of the Innovation Agency of Malaysia’s (AIM, or Agensi Inovasi Malaysia) multi-pronged approach to creating an eco-system that promotes and capitalises on innovative findings. Early this year, AIM launched its GIGIH programme in an effort to reach out to enterprising and innovative talent at the grass roots level.
This incentive-driven programme, which sourced for innovative ideas used to increase household income from the Malaysian public, drew an overwhelming 2,700 responses, said AIM executive vice-president Eddie Razak (pic).
GIGIH is more than a wealth creation programme that encourages Malaysians to be more enterprising in raising their standard of living, said Eddie. “It is an initiative that recognises the grass roots community as a vast reservoir for ideas and solutions that can be tapped for economic growth.
“Recognition is a powerful (motivational) tool, followed by reward. Individuals who are recognised and rewarded for their efforts are more often than not, willing to share their ideas, which will ultimately benefit the whole economy.”
Of the 2,700 entries received, 500 were identified as having the potential for replication and 50 eventually selected as ready for replication, he said. The innovators for the 50 entries, which were published by AIM, each received a cash price of RM10,000 and a certificate of recognition.
“These entrepreneurs not only shared their ideas but also agreed to mentor those who want to replicate their business; as long as the other person is not competing in the same market.”
The promotion of such activities will spur economic growth at the grass roots level as well as encourage the propagators of these ideas to move up the value chain and expand their businesses to include new services and products, he said. Some entrepreneurs have even gone into supplying raw materials for their products to those replicating their businesses, he added.
Citing another example, he said: “A handicraft entrepreneur has expanded her business to conducting classes for tourists who are interested in hands-on experience in local craft work.”
According to Eddie, GIGIH offers a more viable and affordable method of replicating successful small businesses, compared to the conventional franchises.
The 50 selected innovative ideas that were published range from services to the production of food and crafts, and home-based manufacturing. Businesses include online burger packaging, the supply of sauce for fried noodles, online bakery, the sale and publishing of e-books, mobile spa, street photography services, mobile karaoke and home-based manufacturing of dentures.
Empowering ambassadors with skills and methodologies
Encouraged by the highly positive response for its inaugural GIGIH programme, AIM has launched a second phase to source for more innovative ideas used to increase household income. The closing date for entry submission is December 31.
The GIGIH programme works with another AIM’s initiative called Genovasi Innovation Ambassadors, which uses agents within the community as catalysts in pushing for grass roots innovation.
“These ambassadors are equipped with skills and methodologies before they are sent to the ground where they are to work towards transforming rural economies by increasing the quality of life through entrepreneurial activities,” said Eddie.
The Genovasi Innovation Ambassadors also help improve the delivery of services at ministries, government departments and agencies, and local council offices, he added.