Innovating in adversity – 2

They say necessity is the mother of invention. So when the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lock-down in India on March 24, 2020, as a preventive measure for the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, work at all services and factories were suspended. For India’s migrant labor workforce, it was best to return home. The sight of mass migration of workers at the New Delhi – National Capital Region (NCR) border caught the world’s eye. For industrial designer, Paul Sandip, the movement got him wondering how the government and the medical practitioners would handle such a chaotic situation where they needed to check so many people in such a small time.

Being a strong practitioner of incremental innovation, Paul focuses on every small detail that can be changed to improve life. What Paul has invented is called the NOVEL: low cost IR Thermal Scanner (patent pending). “The objective of this invention is to speed up the process of segregation of people with fever, and without fever, in large numbers for example: at airports, malls, railway stations, markets, offices, schools, colleges and other public places,” he says. His manufacturer is ready to mass produce NOVEL. However, “We would definitely require the government’s permission to open the facility for testing and mass production. We will also require permission for the government to allow the manufacturer’s electronic component / PCB supplier to start their operations as well,” he says.  The company is open to take bulk orders of up to a capacity of few lakh units of NOVEL. (

Reading up on the current techniques of taking temperature, Paul found that there is a common scanner where every time you check the person’s temperature, you have to read the temperature, and then decide whether this person has to be let go or checked further. “That’s how I devised this design which actually speeds up the process of indication. It is not a thermometer, it is an instant fever indicator,” says Paul. So Paul’s invention is a fever indicator which can be used in a larger crowd to check and segregate people quickly.

Priced at Rs5,000 per unit, NOVEL caters to a genuine need. “The product aims to bridge the gap between medical and surveillance personnel, and can also be used in future to detect illness amongst masses at various places like airports, malls, railway stations, markets, offices, schools, colleges and other public places,” says Paul. The low cost thermal scanner can also be used by non-medical practitioners.

Paul did not plan on being an inventor one day. His journey has been a random, unplanned one. While studying for his electrical engineering degree at Nagpur University, Paul worked as a sub-editor and cartoonist for Lokmat newspaper. One of the qualities of a cartoonist is that they observe details of everyday life. So while in his final year of engineering, leaving the newspaper offices early morning after his night shift, he would see the newspaper vendors sorting out the papers for distribution. Noticing the difficulty they had sorting the newspapers, the first thing he invented was a newspaper launcher. Though it was designed as a product to help society, it was an imaginary product. This got him the Tecknodeon award in 2001. (Teknodeon is a college festival at Kavikulguru Institute of Technology & Science, Nagpur, which provides an opportunity to showcase both technical expertise and latent artistic talent amongst technocrats.) “It is then that I got to know that design was a profession,” he says. Since then there has been no turning back. He has designed and delivered more than 300 products over 121 categories for various companies.

Paul works in a frugal and independent manner. He doesn’t have a team reporting directly to him.  Depending on the requirement of the client, the core idea and the creative engineering are developed by Paul. He then quickly formulates a team of experts in various domains who help with the development of the product. “Since I work in 121 product categories, I really can’t have one expert working under me in all the projects. That’s why I have to be working in this manner, as sometimes I am designing a ceiling fan, a toothbrush, or a writing instrument. I really don’t know what I will design next,” he says. “I like to work in isolation and see the opportunity in every adverse situation. The joy comes only after the product is accepted widely.

Some of the products designed by Paul include the angular multi-plug, bulb holder, and a utility drawer or a “dry storage” pedestal for a Whirlpool refrigerator. The design of the angular multi-plug was created to solve a nagging problem of loose two-pin plugs, which would fall off while in use, causing discomfort to users. The plugs fell off due to gravity as the regular multi-plugs used to be flat at the bottom and overall cuboid in shape. A very smart and simple idea solved the problem. The bottom face was tilted at an angle to improve convenience while plugging in. The angle stopped loose plugs from falling down.

The scope for the NOVEL low cost thermal scanner is much more than just the current coronavirus pandemic. Paul expects people to feel a certain amount of fear factor after the lock-down is lifted and people start mingling again. For example, imagine going to the movie theatre. In your mind you will wonder whether the person next to you is safe or ill. Paul hopes that this device, like any other metal detector, will also become a norm and every person entering a closed environment, such as public places like movie halls, will be checked by a thermal detector. So that one is ensured that the person sitting next to him / her is not having a high temperature. (High temperature is an indicator of illness and not necessarily coronavirus.) “Frankly I imagined a scenario and tried to cater to a situation for that,” he says.

Of course, the first time he created something was a different feeling. He doesn’t get that feeling any more. Now Paul feels responsible for creating things.