As soon as a problem is identified, it is half-solved. Problems lead to ideas, ideas lead to solutions, and solutions lead to entrepreneurs. Vaibhav Tidke a PhD scholar at the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Mumbai came up with the concept of Science for Society (S4S) in 2008. S4S develops electricity-free technology accessible to farmers and industries to solve India’s agricultural problems.
Tidke started S4S when he was just 21 years old. Tidke said, “Own thoughts and inspiration from range of scientists and technologists like Prof JB Joshi, Prof GD Yadav, Prof BN Thorat from ICT gave birth to S4S. Currently, India loses about 60 million tonnes of perishable food items because of ill-equipped storage options. If distributed, this amount is enough to give a kilogram of free food to every Indian household every day.”Tidke shared his eight year S4S journey with PaGaLGuY.
After the 2008 Singapore Mondialogo Engineering Awards, Tidke worked on ideas that could save the wastage of perishable raw materials at a minimal cost for farmers. He started with Rs Four lakh, out of which he earned Rs Two lakh by teaching in Aurangabad and Jalna for a year and the remaining came from funding. Today, the company’s products and technologies are effective for farmers and industries. The successful results came after 10 versions of trial and error. S4S started as a non-governmental organisation in 2010 but changed into a private company in 2013. Its key expertise are post-harvest technologies which include food processing equipment, solar dryers, and energy dryers for farmers and industries. Tidke told PaGaLGuY, “The first three years were the testing period. It was all about getting the first customer, entering the market, understanding the dynamics of the industry and requirements of the customers. Only from the last two to three years we have been generating profits.”
He continued, “We do have competition in the market. But we are the only company that is spread across all dimensions of the ecosystem. We help farmers to write bankable proposals, make farmers work with CAs, and link them to sell their processed product to private companies.”
As of January 2016, S4S has spread across 22 states in India and six countries including Kenya, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Cambodia. The company runs a Students Research Programme to empower students between the ages of 18-19. Tidke hopes to empower undergraduate students by giving them an opportunity to publish their own research papers and ideas. The programme trains students to enhance and develop the skills of research and entrepreneurship. Their training programme runs for almost over two years, after which if they have substantial ideas, they directly work with scientists at S4S. When Tidke started at the university level, he was engrossed in the technological details of the products. He said, “Efforts should be made to take out the technology from the university, modify and manufacture it in a way which is commercial and useful for the customer.”
Tidke added, “One important thing that I learned in the past years is, an engineer when turning into an entrepreneur cannot be 100% technical, he/she has to look after manufacturing, human resources, finance, networking etc. as well.”