Shruti, a Class 2 student in a Kanpur government school with few desks and chairs, no longer has to sit on the floor, her back bent as she pores over her books. Her lightweight schoolbag, with a detachable table attached to it, has helped ease the burden of school – and backaches at just seven.
Shruti is not alone. Like her, thousands of children across the country going to schools that lack basic infrastructure have benefited from DESKIT, an innovative project developed by an Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur graduate. A brainchild of innovator Eshan Sadasivan, the bag, weighing one kg, is helping students write comfortably and maintain proper body posture.
The Rs 400 bag has a detachable plywood study table with foldable legs made of mild steel (MS) tubes, weighing only 680 grams. The table is attached to the front flap of the bag, which is made of high quality waterproof fabric, to avoid contact with the student’s back, Sadasivan explained. Giving details of how DESKIT was born, the 27-year-old said, “While pursuing my postgraduation in product designing from IIT-Kanpur, I taught students of government schools in the nearby areas and saw that they don’t have access to basic study infrastructure, both in school and home.”
Recalling how happy Shruti and other children were when they were presented with the bag, he said the lack of desks at schools and tables at homes had a major negative effect on the children’s health. “They suffered from back pain at a tender age and were losing interest in their studies. Also it was resulting in poor handwriting. Being a product designer, I thought I could come up with a product to address this issue. And that is how the DESKIT was born,” Sadasivan told PTI.
“Today, around 17,000 students are using these bags in more than 10 states,” he claimed. A newer version with an LED lamp for studying at night could be ready soon, he added. The kits are manufactured by his start-up PROSOC Innovators Pvt Ltd, which was set up in 2015.
“PROSOC is the abbreviated form of Products for Society,” the founder, who is currently pursuing PhD on social entrepreneurship from IIT-Kanpur, said. Though the impact and response of the project has been good, it was difficult to establish partnerships with different communities like NGOs and corporates when it started, he said.
“But things are slowly picking up. We have collaborated with the Telangana government and are in talks with other state governments like Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Besides, several companies are implementing the DESKIT project under their CSR activities,” Sadasivan said.
The start-up has got a Rs 20 lakh grant from the Central government under the PRISM (Promoting Innovations in Individuals, Startups and MSMEs) and NIDHI (National Initiative for Developing and Harnessing Innovations) Prayas schemes. It has also received funds from the Scotland Government for its innovation. Besides education, the company is also working in the agricultural and livelihood sectors.
“The idea is to come up with more innovative products in different domains so that we can help and empower more people at the bottom of the pyramid across sectors,” the IITian said, adding that there is little breakthrough in hardware product innovation in the education sector in India. “Once we bring more innovation into this ecosystem, there are chances that children will get more motivated to go to school,” he said.