In Honor of Diwali, 10 Recent Indian Contributions to Global Society

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If you use iCal, you may have seen the holiday Diwali pop up. And this may or may not mean anything to you. Here at Helpshift, because we have roots in India, it means quite a lot. Our founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Abinash Tripathy, started Helpshift in Pune, India back in 2012, and we still have our largest office there today, supported by our Headquarters in San Francisco.

Diwali is the Indian “Festival of Light,” honoring new beginnings and the triumph of light over darkness. This joyful holiday is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists. Over the course of several days, homes and communities are cleaned and decorated with lanterns, candles, diyas (small oil lamps) and rangoli (a specific design). Fireworks and feasts follow.

Diwali is a time of new beginnings and fresh starts. But like Western New Year, it’s also a time to reflect back. In the spirit of Diwali, we thought we’d use this auspicious time to “shine a light” on some of the most prominent accomplishments Indians have made to global society over the last ye

  1. India clocked in again as the fastest growing major economy in the world, with a 7.3 percent growth rate for 2018-2019 and a projected 7.6 percent growth rate for 2019-2020. Contrast this with China, which, according to the Asian Development Outlook, is experiencing economic deceleration.

  2. Scientists at the Institute for Stem Cell Science and Regenerative Medicine, Bangalore have invented a gel that farmers can apply to their skin to protect against harmful pesticides, insecticides and fungicides. The gel, called poly-Oxime, breaks down toxic chemicals and prevents them from getting into the skin and organs.

  3. Nanotechnologists at the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar successfully developed a material that’s one nanometer thick — 100,000 times thinner than a sheet of paper. There are plenty of potential uses for this new material, called “nanosheets,” including storing energy and absorbing UV radiation. Derived from boron, nanosheets could even help the world discover how to generate energy in a greener way.

  4. The world’s first-ever conversion of a diesel train locomotive to electric is a giant step in India’s goal of powering green, clean railways — potentially a model for the world.

  5. Female athletes across India broke records in 2018. Hima Das of Assam became the first Indian sprinter to win an International gold medal. Swapna Barman of West Bengal became the first-ever Indian athlete to win a gold medal for Heptathlon in the Asian Games. And cricket player Mithali Raj is the only player to have captained two World Cup finals.

  6. Indian scientists at the National Brain Research Centre at Manesar determined the cellular mechanisms that allow Zika to cause microcephaly in babies. And at the Regional Centre for Biotechnology, Faridabad, other scientists identified a key protein at work in dengue fever and Japanese Encephalitis. These advances will help in developing targeted drugs to better protect world populations.

  7. Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science have discovered how memory deficit develops in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease by identifying a specific biomarker. This discovery is the first step in developing an early diagnosis method for dementia patients.

  8. Saathi, an Indian company, has figured out how to convert banana fiber into 100 percent biodegradable and compostable sanitary pads. They degrade 1,200 times faster than conventional pads and do not require incineration — a major boon for CO2 reduction.

  9. RupeeCoin, another Indian tech company, is investing in the “unbanked” — poor populations who don’t use bank accounts and are therefore deprived of credit scores that can help them access critical services like peer-to-peer lending. The company processes various data points through AI to help generate a credit score — such as geolocation, behavior, websites, social media profiles and more.

  10. And, of course, there’s Sundar Pichai. Google’s CEO is originally from Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. Over the past years he’s headed up innovative projects that have had global impact, from Google Chrome to Google Drive.

    In May 2019, Pichai penned an opinion piece for the New York Times on why Privacy Should Not Be a Luxury Good. In it, he broke down how technology companies can use data to offer better experiences without compromising citizen privacy. In this age of data, when public sentiment toggles between wanting higher technology functionality and stronger privacy mechanisms, the voices of leaders like Pichai are important.

Many pundits are optimistic that India will continue to make major contributions on the global stage, even as it grapples with difficult domestic challenges. And with just these ten examples above, you can see the progress being made.

India as a country grapples with vast economic and class inequality, but is also home to a diverse array of cultures and languages (there are 22 considered mainstream). India is also the “world’s biggest solutions provider,” according to the World Economic Forum, with a $160B IT service industry. 

May our world be as colorful, shimmering and magical as the lights of Diwali! 

Published October 25, 2019
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