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|November 11, 2002|
The Rediff Profile/Dr Shaam P Sundar
M D Riti meets Shaam Sundar in Bangalore recently
If he spends a sleepless night because of uncomfortably hot weather, he does not just curse the temperature and move into an air-conditioned hotel room. Instead, he invents an effective and inexpensive air-conditioner that even a middle-class Indian can afford.
Or if his packed lunch turns rancid, again because of the heat, he does not just throw it away and eat at a dhaba instead. He quickly designs and fabricates a small tabletop refrigerator that can keep an executive's meal cool and crisp.
Meet Dr Shaam P Sundar, an inventor by profession, who now lives in Princeton, USA, but visits India every two or three months. He was in Bangalore recently looking for enterprising manufacturers in India to make one or two of his patented inventions, which he thinks would be especially suitable for India. The first is an air-conditioned canopy that can be placed over a double bed, which he has named Kool Komfort. The second is a small portable tabletop refrigerator cum heater, which he says can be easily manufactured and sold at a price of less than Rs 1000 apiece, which executives can keep on their desks to keep their lunch cold or even heated.
The bed air-conditioner, he says, can be manufactured at a cost of about Rs 7,000 apiece and sold for even Rs 9,000 apiece. It will consume only 250 watts of electricity, where a regular room air-conditioner consumes 1500 watts or more. It has a modular design for easy assembly, provides for circulation of outside atmospheric air inside the canopy and guarantees years of trouble free service.
It will be made of styrofoam board, each board 2 inches thick and four inches wide. The air-conditioner itself will weight just 20 kilograms and will consume just two kWh of power on an average night of eight hours of sleep. This is the extent of detail to which Sundar goes, taking care to build a perfectly working prototype of all his inventions, before he attempts to get manufacturers interested in them.
Dr Sundar was born in Periyapatna village near Mysore. He migrated to the US in the 1960s, and taught engineering in Ohio State University for two decades before he quit the teaching profession to become a full-time inventor. He now heads his own firm, Inventions Oasis Inc, in Princeton. He lives with his wife in Princeton as his two grown-up children live away from home.
Many of his simple inventions, like a bulb saver, and a socket that conserves energy, are being made and sold in the US for less than 10 dollars! Another product is the electronic ovulation monitor, a microprocessor-based thermometer-like device that tells a woman whether she is about to ovulate or whether a viable egg is already present in her body at any given time. The design of this last product has been patented, but it is yet to be converted into a product for sale.
An electronic ice cube called U B Cool, again being made and sold by an American company, is a small gadget that becomes as cold as ice in a few moments, and is meant to help athletes, and even women with hormone trouble, to cool off. "I invented that when I came across women who complained of hot flushes," he explains. "It is chemical-free and easy to operate." Many of these gadgets use a basic microchip, which cools and heats rapidly. This is a technology originally developed by the National Aeronautical Space Agency.
Just about any problem can set Dr Sundar's inventor's mind ticking. For example, on his recent visit to Bangalore, he stayed for a few days with his brother, a professor in an agricultural university here, and saw what a backbreaking job harvesting sugarcane was. He promptly came up with a scheme whereby a single person can harvest eight acres of sugarcane all alone, without bending over even once. His concept for this invention involves a diesel engine, and the gizmo he envisages should not cost more than Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000 apiece.
"An inventor is often like a starving artist," says Dr Sundar. "I am able to support my family and myself on my past savings, the royalties I get from products based on my inventions, and the sale of some of my patents. The US is an ideal place for inventors, because the federal government helps to bring inventors and manufacturers together frequently."
When he quit academics almost a decade ago, he thought that he too might become a millionaire, like some of the men who had made millions by manufacturing and selling his original designs. But this has still not happened. "That's okay by me, because I am comfortably off, and I wake up every morning simply loving my life, because I am doing what I like best, that is, inventing something new almost every day."
Image: Rahil Shaikh
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