Feb 25, 2003
How fares that anti-pollution invention?
What happened to Hydrodrive’s Electronic Catalytic Converter, that original Indian invention by S. Gopalakrishnan of Chennai? It has been proved over and over again --in nearly 7000 installations-- that it can indeed reduce pollution in both diesel and petrol vehicles and also improve fuel economy. The story on this invention that GoodNewsIndia published earlier has evoked world-wide interest. An importer in the Philippines has become a passionate believer and even taken the idea to China. Gopalakrishnan visited both countries and met with eager commercial enquiries. It has been proved on a 10 wheel logger and on a fleet of a Pepsi Cola delivery vans. There are written endorsements with Hydrodrive. China wants to manufacture it under license. Several enquiries have come in from the US as well.
What of India? Unfortunately, it is business as usual. Hydrodrive has arrived in the scene in the middle of a Diesel vs. CNG controversy and the big boys want to sell CNG vehicles as the margins are better there. [They cite the Supreme Court’s directive favouring CNG. Was the Honourable Court presented with the merits of Hydrodrive + Diesel as a superior alternative to CNG? No. Judges can only ‘find’ within the evidence and choices presented to them. Is there a champion out there to move a public interest litigation demanding that Hydrodrive be fairly evaluated?] Delicensing of the petroleum industry finds huge retail networks being set up and no one there is interested in selling ‘less’ of their products, as the usage of Hydrodrive would imply. Since the device also increases the time between oil change, the growing, crowded lubricant industry is disinterested as well. All these may be market forces but Gopalakrishnan’s deepest disappointment has been with the Mashelkar Committee set up to suggest a national fuel policy. Admittedly, most such committees start from a desired conclusion and arrive there with justifications, but Dr. Mashelkar has something of a reputation as a champion of the inventor. Gopalakrishnan did not expect an instant endorsement by him, but he had hoped for a mention and some activism to have the invention independently evaluated. This has not happened.
There are clear indications that India is losing its way in regard to fuel use and pollution control. Vehicles are converting to CNG and LPG with the Ministry of Transport blithely ignoring the legal requirement that every vehicle design must pass a crash test by Vehicle Research and Development Establishment [VRDE]. They murmur that they are helpless because the Supreme Court has spoken. Surely the Hon’ble Court did not decree that safety be ignored?
On Feb 21, the President Mr. A P J Abdul Kalaam was in Chennai. Within 100 metres of the Raj Bhavan, a LPG taxi exploded and the whole area was choked with traffic for most of the day. All these high risk alternatives are being tried out in the name of preventing vehicle pollution. The mainstream media rolls on. No one that matters has yet spoken out that the Hydrodrive Catalytic Converter be at least given a fair evaluation.
Be these as they may. Gopalakrishnan is full of hope. His international patent with World Intellectual Property Organisation [WIPO] in Switzerland has moved to an advanced stage and is likely to be published in about six months. He is confident that claims he makes in the patent will excite world-wide interest. When the publication happens he would need to move quickly and file for his rights country by country. As this would be very prohibitive in costs, he plans to award exclusive rights in each country to an importer willing to buy $10,000 worth of the devise and also agrees to meet the annual maintenance charges for the patent.
It must be said, that as an individual inventor with limited means Gopalakrishnan displays the classic deficiencies inventors are prone to: in areas of promotion and commercial development. He needs a business manager and a marketing wizard to mentor him and guide him along. Many of the stumbling blocks he has faced may have been overcome by a smart MBA. Curiously he has not exerted much in this direction. GoodNewsIndia hopes that right connections will occur.
In the end Hydrodrive may play out in the way of all great Indian successes: recognition abroad first and waves of joy in India later.
You can email S.Gopalakrishnan at