Creative twins of Kashmir: Innovating future
Post by on Saturday, October 9, 2021
Twin brothers from SoyanWandewelgamKokernag area of south Kashmir’s Anantnag district have made 36 innovations since 2008 and recently they received Gold medal in 6th Istanbul International Invention for ISIF’21 in Turkey.
In an interview with Rising Kashmir's Specail Correspondent Irfan Yattoo talks about the journey of the creative brothers and the struggle they faced over the past years.
26-year-old, Refaz Ahmad Wani and Ishfaq Ahmad named their innovation club as the Twin brothers’ Innovation Club in their village. Popularly known as the Right brothers of Anantnag town, they have completed their B.tech degree from Punjab Technical University.
Refaz, who has completed his bachelor’s in Automation and Robotic engineering at PTU Punjab, told Rising Kashmir that both of them were inclined towards innovations and technology since their childhood. They began their journey when they were studying in just 5th standard in a local village school, he said.
“In our village, there was some work going on, when we saw an earth removing vehicle (locally known as JCB) in our village and after some time, we developed the same device and shocked everyone in our locality.
After getting popular in the area, in 2010, Prof. GM Bhat from Kashmir University took both of us to participate in the INSPIRE program and he appreciated us. He introduced us to the ‘Ghan Cell’ of varsity, where we were encouraged and boosted my confidence. They also provided some financial aid, at that time”, Refaz said.
“Following that we provided 36 innovations to National Innovation Foundation (NIF) in Ahmadabad and all were selected for national level and for 15 we got awarded,” he said.
Refaz said in 2011, NIF invited them to an All India Ignite Competition which was held at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmadabad. Both of them were awarded for their innovations by former Indian President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.
After completing their 10th examination in flying colors from local higher secondary, due to financial situation at home, they decided to pursue their higher education in Arts subjects.
“This decision was changed once we received an award from Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam who gave us the unique name ‘Creative twins of India’. He asked us to pursue a higher education science stream and stated that ‘You will get good benefit from it,” he said adding that it was a turning point in our lives.
It was followed by another award by Pratibha Patil in 2012, Pranab Mukherjee in 2013, and RA Mashelkar in 2014. So far apart from national awards, we have two foreign awards from Canada which we received in 2012 and this year we got an award from Turkey for our creative innovations, he said.
Recalling his memories, Refaz said it was the most unique experience in life. After returning back from the Ahmadabad conference both of us pursued further studies in Government Higher Secondary School Chenni Himmat, Jammu. Our father was also working as labor in Jammu, he said.
After completing our studies in Jammu, we got admission in Punjab Technical University under college Gulzar Group of Institutions, where we were further inclined towards our dreams.
“Even during the school or college days, we didn’t stop our innovations. Presently we have noted down more than 500 innovation ideas and only practical work is left on them because there are multiple reasons behind it,” he said.
Refaz said there is no financial support from the local administration and if they would have helped us on time, we would have generated employment opportunities for dozens.
“If we are innovating only one idea and later, we will commercialize it. It can generate good employment in the region. Presently there is no loan sanctioned for innovations in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
Earlier, these twin brothers had constructed a store on the roof in their 2-level home and converted it into a small science laboratory. This year the family constructed a new house and they have constructed a concrete laboratory.
“There are slogans of start-up India, but there is no incubation centre which can provide us advance funds. Due to financial crunch our dreams have remained restricted to our minds only,” he said.
We have bagged the first position three times at National Intuition of Technology (NIT) Srinagar.
“There are people who will speak in front of the media that they will help the innovators but in reality, no one comes forward. Even though we have received awards at National and International levels, we have never been conferred by our own government or administration,” he said.
Refaz said there are always hard times for us . On Sep 21 this year, we represented India and bagged the Gold Medal in Turkey, for one of our ideas but unfortunately, we could not receive it personally due to a financial crunch.
“Even they asked us to pay 50 percent of the ticket expenses but we could not. We belong to a poor family and cannot afford air tickets to Istanbul,” he said while tears rolled from his cheeks.
He said the present government at the centre is supporting the young entrepreneurs but no one is ready to mentor us here in Jammu and Kashmir.
“Life of innovation is full of struggles in Kashmir. The government is taking a step back to support the new entrepreneurs and at the same money lapses each year,” Refaz said.
He said some of their accepted inventions that got patented by the NIF in Ahmedabad, including Innovations, Apple Cacher (multi-Fruit ladder), Spade and Hoe, Automatic food serving vessel, Engine parts washing cum drying machine, Heat conserving utensil, Injection breaker, Water tap charger, Foldable water bottle, Cow urine collection device, Apple grading device, Walnut collation device, and other inventions.
Refaz is Gold Medalist at Turkey ISIF 2021 and four-time Presidential awardee. He is also the founder and CEO of Wani Agro Tools Plant under startup recognition no DIPP 77750 which is incubated at Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiyana for manufacturing agriculture innovation spade and hoe. The company of Refaz is recognized by Start-Up India.
While his brother Ishfaq Ahmad Wani is CEO of Agro Tech Plant and has manufactured an Automatic Apple catcher (Multi Fruit ladder) under registration number 11693/KMR OF 2021. It is also recognized by Start-Up India under certificate number DIPP78067.
Interestingly, out of 36 innovations, they have received patents for more than 9 innovations and patent grants for one innovation, and for the rest application numbers have been generated. It takes at least 5 years to get a patent certificate in India, he said.
Ishfaq Ahmad Wani, who has also pursued B.Tech said last year they have applied in one of the incubation centers where more than 18,000 applications were received for the same.
“Out of 18000 applications, 50 were selected for the second phase and both of us were among the 16 incubates who got the grant under that incubation center. We are working for them under separate two companies,” he said.
Wani said if the funds will be released fully, more than 10 persons can get employment opportunities.
“Not a single bureaucrat or political leader had ever appreciated our talent. We have not received a single penny from them but have preferred to live with dignity in a small house,” he said.
He said they are not behind the jobs or any financial assistance but they want a platform where they shape their unshared ideas and innovation and serve their society.
“We have worked on 25 innovations practically and a total of 36 have been registered at the national level and even for some we have also received a patent grant from the Government of India,” he said.
Wani said there are some innovations that need some experiments and good financial support and presently they have stopped working on them.
“We initially developed spade and hoe, which is used in apple orchards across the region. The cost of the product is very less as compared to labor charges, it is highly beneficial to the growers,” he said, adding that it also got first prize in IIT Hyderabad for its unique components.
“We also received our first order for the product from Himachal Pradesh, but could not manufacture them following the financial crunch,” he said, adding that they cannot even send them a sample piece.
The two brothers have also completed successfully training in Agri-entrepreneur training from Punjab Technical University and most of the innovations are related to the agriculture sector.
“We focused on Agriculture because in India, there is good demand for Agriculture tools as more than 70 percent of the population depend on this economy and secondly its products have good market value,” he said.
In 2008, we developed our first innovation and before that, we were mostly busy making clay pots and solving small problems. We received our first prize in 2009 from Dr. DK Pandey, Scientist from Vihan Prasad from the Central Government.
Regarding future plans, Refaz said they want to serve their parents who supported them always despite their poverty and worked hard in providing them a good education. When there was no one, they boosted our morale and confidence always and supported us,” he said.
“Both of us are working on a dream project of space pen and it was accepted by NIF too. For which we have completed 3 experiments successfully and for the 4th experiment, we need magnetic spray and that is not provided by anyone. Even regarding that we had also spoken to former president APJ Abdul Kalam but he died after some time,” he said.
Refaz said they are waiting for the day when our space pen will be used by astronauts.
He said they want to pursue higher studies but due to a financial crunch we are unable to take our dreams forward.
“We want to commercialize our ideas, we even received some orders and signed some deals also but cannot manufacture it due to financial problems,” he said.
“We are waiting for the day, when we see our innovation practically,” says Reyaz adding that there are struggles everywhere and they want to overcome those and move forward.