Dipankar: “Wealth is anything that makes life better”

IIT Bombay professor urges engineers to think simply and educators to create enlightened entrepreneurs in visit to MIT

dipankar“Entrepreneurship alone is not good enough for the world.”

That was the message from Professor Dipankar of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay when he spoke at the MIT Media Lab during a December visit to the Tata Center for Technology and Design.

Dipankar, an electrical engineer and founder of TREELabs in Mumbai, India, called on educators to “create enlightened entrepreneurs” while asking “very simple questions which people have failed to ask.”

He illustrated his point with several examples of common household items—the treadmill, ceiling fan, and water pump—which, he says, are shockingly wasteful and inefficient, yet no attempts have been made to re-design them. “We have not been addressing these questions. We think people have figured everything out.”

But in fact, he argued, there is significant room for design innovation in everyday objects that could improve quality of life, reduce energy consumption, and alleviate pollution concerns.

Challenging conventional wisdom was a persistent theme in Professor Dipankar’s lecture. He espoused an engineering philosophy based on simplicity, value, and the elimination of waste, saying, “The best engineering does the most with the least.”

He also proposed alternate definitions of wealth and business to guide young inventors toward effecting positive change in the world community. “Wealth is anything that makes life better, and business is a societal activity to generate wealth. If your business impoverishes society, it cannot be a good business in the long run.”

Dipankar’s lecture came as part of a weeklong visit to Cambridge from IITB Tata Centre faculty.