Jaipur, Aug. 2: The Jaipur Foot has helped thousands walk again. Now, it is set to teach some of the world’s sharpest B-brains how to think.
Come November, students of Harvard Business School will get to study the Jaipur Foot as a business model and how low-cost innovation has helped sustain the venture that brings the smile back on the faces of at least 64,000 people every year.
The artificial limbs cost Rs 2,300 to manufacture but are given free to patients, irrespective of their backgrounds.
Professor Srikant Datar, an Arthur Lowes Dickinson Professor of Accounting at Harvard University who would be teaching the model to his students, said it would help the young B-brains learn to take the “point of view of the customer”.
“The Jaipur Foot is a truly inspirational story with important management lessons about innovation, customer-centricity, technology, leadership, and management,” he told The Telegraph.
Insights into these five focus areas, he added, should definitely help business students understand how such a low-cost product could be sustained.
The Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti, which manufactures the Jaipur Foot, was set up in 1975 as a welfare organisation. Named the Jaipur Foot after the city it was conceived in, the artificial limb has made tens of thousands of amputees in the developing world walk again.
The prosthetic, created by orthopaedic surgeon P.C. Sethi and craftsman Ram Chander Sharma, has not been patented because of their belief in the motivation behind the creation — that of helping the poor, not only in India but in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uganda and Bangladesh.
Datar, who studied in St Xavier’s College and IIM Ahmedabad, visited the Jaipur Foot centre in October last year and July and had taken the feedback of hundreds of patients. He would write the final draft of the case study over the next two months and teach it in November to second-year students as part of an elective course on “Design, Thinking and Innovation”.
“It was thrilling to see the smiles on the faces of the patients as they came in, not able to walk, and left on both their feet. It was as much about giving them a new limb as it was about restoring their dignity,” Datar said.
“It would help my students to learn to always take the point of view of the customer and also to believe that with leadership and innovation, anything is possible.” This would be the first time that the Jaipur Foot would be taught as a business model at Harvard.
The B-school has done a number of case studies on eastern India, including the Tata Nano, which focused on the translation of Ratan Tata’s vision of a safe affordable car for the masses.
A study — Tata Motors in Singur: Public Purpose and Private Property — focused on the widespread farmer protests over land acquisition.
The business school has also done a case study on real estate development in Bengal.