After Lighting Rural Houses from Rickshaws, Invention by Suprio Das Reaches MIT $100K Semifinals

Zimba doser is a device that automatically treats water from handpumps, enabling governments and organizations to provide safe water to communities at a lower cost as compared to other technologies. Led by Kolkata-based Suprio Das, a self-proclaimed ‘Independent Inventor’, the Zimba team is one of the 30 semi-finalists in Life Science, Product & Emerging Market Tracks in the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition. The final would be held on May 15th.

Zimba DOSER
Zimba Doser

Now in its 22nd year, the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition is a leading-edge forum for students and researchers in the MIT community to act on their talent, ideas and energy to launch tomorrow’s leading firms. A year-long educational experience, the MIT $100K brings together a network of resources (feedback from top VCs and entrepreneurs, media exposure, mentorship, educational guidance, networking and more than $350K in cash and prizes) to help participants through the new venture construction process.

Suprio has been working on this Zimba doser since 2010 and was aided by a team of four international students at Berkley and MIT.

Previous studies indicate that chlorine treatment at community water sources is the most cost-effective water intervention and has high user acceptance. In our initial design interviews, safe water experts told us an automatic chlorine dispenser would be an ‘incredibly useful tool’. Two years later, we have a simple design that succeeded in pilot trials with handpumps in Bangladeshi slums. Currently, there are no other in-line chlorinators on the market that can achieve the same consistency of dosing for handpumps as Zimba for the same price.”, mentions Suprio Das on his submission page for the MIT competition.

Suprio Das, a BIT Mesra alumnus (class of 1981) and former senior manager with the Nicco Corporation Limited, a well-known cable manufacturing group, quit his lucrative job in 2002 to invent low-cost technologies for the poor.

His first innovation was in 2006. Christened Firefly, it was a unique battery that fitted on the wheels of a cycle-rickshaw (called a cycle-van in the video below), that could be charged while the rickshaw puller went about his daily job. At the end of the day, he came back home with light and energy, quite literally, to his household. The charged battery could be attached to an ingenious LED light that would illuminate a room. The invention cut down the recurring cost of kerosene for lamps in the destitute households that had no electricity. “Six hours of light with four hours of pedalling. My invention will reduce capital cost by 50% even when compared to solar power”, Das had told Mumbai Mirror in a 2008 interview.

Here is a video showing Firefly in action:

Firefly won Das an invitation to the International Development Design Summit, 2008 at MIT. The summit focused on inventors around the world who came up with low cost solutions for big problems.

In 2010, he visited MIT for a second time, for a month, as a guest lecturer and Resident Designer at MIT for the Design class at D-lab, a program at MIT that fosters the development of appropriate technologies and sustainable solutions within the framework of international development.

Suprio Das with a handpump fitted with Zimba doser, his water chlorination invention
Suprio Das with a handpump fitted with Zimba doser

Throughout the years, Das also worked on generating electricity from a hand pump, and a hand powered cell phone charger and, a wheel-cum-pulley attached with a mobile battery charger charged the cellphones of Sunderbans residents without any electricity when the cyclone Aila struck in 2009.

In 2011, Zimba was installed in a small village near Gobardanga, Bengal. It was installed in five slums of Dhaka this January. So far, 3,500 slum dwellers of Bangladesh have used it. In May 2012, Das will choose a few villages in North 24 Parganas to install the instrument with the help of a local NGO. Approximately, 6,000 more villagers are expected to be benefitted by the project.

Inspired by Thomas Edison and James Watt, Suprio Das wants to make good use of his engineering knowledge to help fellow rural countrymen. In his own words on his D-Lab page, “I also realized that I would not make myself rich overnight, but the personal satisfaction of working in this field far outweighs the limitations that come with it.”

Have you come across other such novel inventors?

[Image credit 1/2]

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