Forty-year-old Mohammad Rafiq Ahanger of Adelash Magam in district Anantnag is not only an innovator but also an entrepreneur. Marketing his own innovations, as well as, of other innovators, Ahanger believes that innovations are worth nothing if they are not commercialised and made available for the use of common people.
Son of a blacksmith, Ahanger was interested in making toys of iron and steel right from his childhood. As he had iron and steel available in abundance, he started experimenting and making innovative things from his early age.
Belonging to a lower middle class family, to make ends meet for his family, Ahanger did many manual jobs before settling on his ancestral profession of blacksmith at his father's shop. His father's shop proved a laboratory for Ahanger's experiments and he innovated many a things from there.
"I studied up to 10th standard at Government High School, Sirgofara, but could not go for further studies due to family compulsions. I have six sisters and a younger brother, and my father was not in a position to carry on that entire burden alone. Therefore, I started working from early age," says Ahanger. In 1995, he established a workship, where he was making iron gates and other iron made structures for shops, schools and households, and side by side kept alive his passion for innovation.
Ahanger's thirst for innovation was known from his school days. Hailing from a far flung area where scarcity of electricity is nothing new, having scarce means of income he was unable to hire a gen set for his workshop, which made Rafiq to invent a machine that would give up to 40 watts of electricity supply by pressing it continuously, it was his first innovation by which he became known in his village. In just few days of time his innovation was highlighted in Islamic University of Science and Technology, Awntipora, where from he got recognition as an innovator and was asked to approach GAIN cell of Kashmir University, where from he got technical and financial support for his other innovations.
"It was impossible without the support of my family, as you know having the entire family burden on my shoulders it was not possible for me to divert from usual work and go for innovation but due to family support I not only innovated one thing but many things," says Ahanger. "There was no guide or mentor when I did my first innovation but later on KU's GAIN Cell and National Innovation Foundation provided me all sorts of help, from financial support to modification of my innovation," adds Ahanger.
Rafiq has many innovations to his credit, which include: 'an implement for digging' – it is a tool used for taking out loosen earth from a pit. NIF has already filed a patent right for this on his name; ergonomic spade; safety jacket for walnut harvesting; automatic sieve; modified iron sheet cutter; automatic sickle and improved clothing iron. On March 4, 2017, Ahanger received National Innovation Foundation award for the JK state. The award was given by President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, in a function at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi.
In an urge to make his innovations marketable, this award winning innovator has established a company under the name of 'Rafiq Innovations Private Limited', where he not only sells his own innovations but also products of other innovators with royalty of 5% for each sell. Ahanger says main aim of his company is to innovate and customise the products that can support the small and medium scale industries. He is determined to develop his own well-established manufacturing cell and a research and development centre with the support of NIF.
"It was not possible to establish without the support of NIF. They provided me financial assistance under the 'NIF Incubation and Entrepreneurship Council' scheme, which includes establishing the unit and marketing the product to its end users," Ahanger says, adding, "Initially the technologies were not accepted by farmers because of its incomplete features but then I worked hard on it by adding more features into it, after that I not only sold products here in Kashmir but outside as well. With NIF's help, I am sending my products to many other states now."
In his unit, Ahanger has hired local workers for mass production of technologies like multipurpose tool, innovative spade and other technologies which he has bought from others are walnut cracker machine, walnut peeling machine and Fitness cum Relaxation Chair, for which he has exclusive copy right. In the beginning there was no income for him but after some time his earnings has started increasing and now he is not only selling in Kashmir but the demand is from outside states as well, and all its marketing of products is carried on by NIF and the raw material, which he buys for making these products are from iron dealers, he has also put in place many machines for making these product and the one machine which he is about to hire costs him up to Rs 2 lakh.
"Every new idea is an innovation, whether that is in science and technology or in trade, both leads us to entrepreneurship. What our youngsters have to do is to think out of box, which will prove to be beneficial for a path towards entrepreneurship and self-reliance rather than going on traditional job route," says Ahanger.
Mohammad Rafiq Ahanger, 40, a serial innovator email@example.com