The inventor amidst us

Creativity and innovation consists largely of rearranging what is known to find out what isn't, and that is what a regular pharmaceutical professional in Andheri does everyday. He notices flaws with equipment that people use daily and unlike most others, he spends his time and resources finding a solution

Mahesh Atale, a resident of the western suburbs, is a regular 43 year-old with a 9 to 5 job at an Ayurvedic pharmaceutical company. It's when he returns home to Andheri that things begin to get a little irregular -- Atale transforms into a social worker, an innovator and an inspiration for many.

Every evening at 5.30, Atale, who is also a national level gymnast, a Mallakhamb practitioner and diving coach, can be found at a gym in Vile Parle, training 25 children residing in nearby slums, for free. And, as if that's not enough, Atale returns home to work on what he says is his biggest passion.

At 8 pm, you'll find him thinking, researching and designing innovative products. Five years, 25 ideas and two nearly-finished innovations are what Atale has to show for his passion. That and a Rs 25,000  award given to him at the India Innovation Initiative National Fair held on November 18, organised by Agilent Technologies, Department of Science and Technology and the Confederation of Indian Industries.

Atale created an easy stretcher handler that keeps a stretcher parallel to the ground, irrespective of where it's being carried -- over a staircase, into a van, or on any incline.

"A few months ago a lady passed away on the eight floor of my building and the lift wasn't working when her body was brought home from the hospital. It became very difficult for people to carry her on a regular stretcher," says Atale. 

This led Atale to look closely at the design of stretchers. He saw the existing design, made note of the problems and came up with a design for a handler that could be attached to a stretcher to keep it straight at all times.

"After studying the basic design of stretchers, I realised how difficult it is to carry stretchers upstairs and how inconvenient it would be for patients to be at an angle while they are being carried up or down stairs. Further, what if the people carrying the stretcher are of varying heights?" explains Atale.

Atale bought the raw materials required for his handler and began visiting metal fabricators in Goregaon East. "I got them to make one part at a time. At times I would have to go back to have minor alterations made. They would sometimes get the measurements wrong, and, at other times, the part wouldn't go well with the design," he says.

After four months, it finally came together. "I have shown the design and the first product to doctors, who said it is extremely useful, especially since any stretcher can be attached to the handler," Atale says. But he admits that he needs to put in a lot more work and money before the final product can hit the market.

Atale is also keen to develop his other 25 innovation designs. "I have really useful designs like the Scabulance, an ambulance on two wheels that in a crammed city like Mumbai would be very useful, but I can't afford to design it," he says.

Atale believes that Indians have talent and ideas, but like him, they lack the resources to implement them. He hopes that the government funds innovators to give them an incentive to do good work.

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