Anil Gupta is one of the founders of the grassroots movement, which is a design movement that makes use of the designs that come out of a necessity and are made from what people have at their disposal. He has helped hundreds of people take their designs to the international market. Grassroots is the description of this area of design, Honey bee network is the organization that Anil Gupta created in order to increase the number of poor creators that are recognized internationally and able to gain a broader market fort their designs.
One of the designs that he has helped to develop is the clay non-stick pan designed by Mansukhbhai Prajapati. A regular steel or metal pans is coated in a Teflon non-stick coating. After some time and use the Teflon coating begins to peal off and dissolve into the food you are eating. This can have harmful effects to your body and in some cases can cause cancer. For this grassroots design the designer has taken the traditional clay cooking pan and coated it in a nonstick paint that due the capillaries in the clay does not peal off or dissolve. This idea is not only cheaper, the metal pan costs between 10-15 dollars where as the clay cost a mere $2, but it is also safer.
This design mentality of using the ideas that are most simple and that apply directly to the people that need them is incredibly important in places like India and Pakistan where so many people live in areas where they cannot always get to a shop that will sell them the thing that they need. Where Anil Gupta comes in is he takes the designers idea and the designer to a global market, so that the designer has the opportunity to share his design with the world and in turn have more opportunities to design more things. One of Anil Gupta’s key principles is that just because someone in economically poor does not mean they are poor in the mind.
In India they had what is called a caste system, this is where you are born into a family of a certain rank and you cannot move out of this situation until you die. Although this system is no longer formally in place in India, the mentality behind it is still there. Anil Gupta aims to change society’s view of the poor and the down trodden by encouraging the innovators and creators. It is so often thought that these people who are incredibly poor have no worth in a society, that they are the arms, legs and body of a society but not the brain. Though his tireless efforts of giving these people a voice and an identity he is slowly changing the outlook of society.
The beauty of this product is not necessarily in its aesthetic but in the way it’s useful. It is nothing that it doesn’t need to be, it is 100% useful. So many designs in the Western culture are so focused on trying to be beautiful that they lose their usefulness. I think that the true beauty of an object is in its use. The beauty of the pan is not only its physical beauty but also the beauty of the grassroots ideology. The way that this way of designing helps not only the people in need but also the way that society views them. Most other ways of helping disadvantaged people is to design something for them at a ‘better’ price, it is often incredibly disengaged with the people it is designing for. Where as this design processes is merely finding the people that are in the situation of poverty have seen the problem and solved it and shining a light on what they have done.
In the beginning of the Honey bee project Anil would search the Indian country side on foot for people who had created ingenious solutions to their every day problems. The Honey bee network aims at collecting the ideas from the local people and sharing the ideas with the world. They are also creating a database of the knowledge of the grassroots solutions. Once Anil or his colleagues have met with one of the designers, they aim to ‘cross pollinate’ the designs, informing others of the ideas and creation, all the while not taking away from the original source.
This project is remarkable because of its aim to change not only the people in need, but also to change the way these people are viewed. I think far too often we think that people who are poor are less intelligent that the rest of us. That because they have not had the educational opportunities as those who are wealthier have had their input into society is invalid. The project’s message is that the poor are not a group that is there to drain the society of its resources but to add to them and be a source of knowledge. It is also remarkable in the way that it enables the designers to have more opportunities to design more useful and innovative designs.
This design and design movement is a representation of how resourceful the Indian culture is. The movement isn’t really doing anything new it’s just showing the world and the rest of India how innovative its people really are. Although they did have a caste system, they are slowly breaking out of that way of thinking. With the help of this design movement they are beginning to have the mind set of working for a better life and that they have the power to change their circumstances. The design of the pan is an excellent example of the ancient craftsmanship meeting with modern technology. Where the clay base is made by Mansukhbhai Prajapati who was taught by his father the art of pottery, the whole thing is coated in a non-stick paint that is a modern invention.
The impact of this design on the designer is huge, he is now able to support him self and his family. The impact of the movement is bigger. Having an organization that is not only there, like many NGOs, to help the people in a short term sense, giving the people food, water etc but to help in the long term. This organization empowers the people, it helps them to be able to provide for themselves by doing the things that they are good at. It is not merely teaching someone a new skill, but it is taking someone who excels at something and allowing him or her to do make the most of this.