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MR. FIX-IT

Dr. Sadeg Faris believes in solving problems, be it getting rid of mosquitoes or tackling water crisis, by using local technology and people



Dr. Sadeg Faris has a solution to every problem — Photos: K. Murali Kumar

AFTER A long wait for Dr. Sadeg Faris, the innovator from Malaysia, he breezes in, dynamic and full of joie de vivre, zest for life, and what have you. A gaggle of people collect around him. One of them wants to know if Dr. Faris has a solution for Bangalore's mosquito menace. "What kind of mosquitoes?" Dr. Faris asks. "Big ones," the man says. "Big, fat ones." Dr. Faris tells him to send across a sample. All in dead earnest, of course. The man promises to do so, saying he will send across the mosquitoes in a plastic bag. Dr. Faris suggests they can be eaten if they really are as big and juicy as the man is making them out to be. "Solutions to problems," he jokes. And that is what brings Dr. Sadeg Faris to India.

The solutions often seem really simple. In Bangalore, Dr. Faris shows how a sheet of aluminium foil can be used to turn motors, which can later drive a car or turn a table fan. Inventions such as these have added up to Dr. Faris' formidable claim of 200 issued patents, and 200 still pending.

The innovator founded a company called Reveo in the U.S. in the early 1990s, developing products at the "frontiers of science and technology" and turning them into products "for the benefit of humanity". Following a meeting with then Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed, he shifted base to Malaysia and set up InventQjaya to create new technologies in that country and become competitive in global markets. InventQjaya will soon have five spin-out companies, each using technology for very diverse purposes. Mfree, uses fuel cells for rural electrification, for instance, eVijaya is an electric vehicle project, and IQHarvest is a solar water-harvesting model.

His operations have now been expanded to Bangalore, a city Dr. Faris says he picked because of the "people, weather, and technology". India was chosen since Dr. Faris thinks his team of innovators can meet the country's needs for "power, water, and fresher air".

In Bangalore, Reveo is looking to solve problems of electric power generation, water desalination, and whatever else might crop up through a technology lab, in inexpensive ways. His companies are keen on maintaining a "brain gain" policy, using local scientists and innovators rather than importing talent.

Dr. Faris says the company's business model is unique. He calls his philosophy, "globalisation by localisation". Developing countries are very suspicious of the word globalisation, he says, but his idea of globalisation is to bring technology to local people and then export it to the rest of the world. The solutions are intended to be cheap and easily accessible to people since the driving aim is not profit for profit's sake, but to "solve problems for humanity". Of course, its not charity either. Dr. Faris says he wants to make a difference to people by making inventions that serve them — in healthcare, power, water, and other critical areas. Once people's needs are met, they pay you happily and order more business. The driving line, "Serve first, make money later" is what makes his business model unique, says Dr. Faris.

His mission to "solve problems of humanity" stems from a hard childhood in an orphanage in Libya, where he learnt to fend for himself. As a curious child, he made many small inventions, which later translated into a need to start a larger company that uses local technology to invent solutions. Asked that hackneyed question of who inspires him, Dr. Faris' answer is refreshing enough: "I am my role model," he declares, triumphantly.

Timeless wonders

THERE'S NOTHING more enticing than a beautiful hand belonging to a svelte woman sporting a trendy-to-the-T platinum strap with diamond-studded dial... ala Cindy Crawford and Aishwarya Rai, right! And watches, of late, have certainly gone through a style makeover with major players in the segment making the accessories out to be style statements.

It is evident from brand-conscious people exposing their wrists like never before that watches are a significant part of the growing awareness about international trends. To cater to this upwardly mobile crowd, Longines, from the Swatch Group Pvt Ltd., launches its `evidenza' range.

Drawing inspiration from the 1920s — a time when fashion and design got over those ancient rules with personal accessories becoming more handy, elegant and stylish — the new collection is made from high-quality materials: polished steel or 18K yellow or pink gold. Fitted with a silver/ black dial, the watches have domed, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal to enhance their elegance, besides the tonneau shape dating back to 1911.

The watches are available at all Swatch outlets.

HEMANGINI GUPTA

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