Philanthropy by design : Low Smoke Chulha – Abhimanyu Kulkarni @ Indialogues

Abhimanyu Kulkarni, Design Head, Philips India on Smokeless chulha
Abhimanyu Kulkarni, Design Head, Philips India on Smokeless chulha

Abhimanyu Kulkarni was born in India and graduated from IDC, IIT Mumbai with a Masters Degree in Industrial Design. Upon graduation, he worked in advertising and furniture industry. He joined Philips Design in Mumbai as a product designer and did a number of global short term assignments before moving to Hong Kong in 2000, where he widened his experiences and capabilities to become senior design manager.

As the Design Director and location manager of Philips Design India, He is responsible for the following client portfolio: Philips Lighting, Philips Lifestyle and Philips Healthcare and Philips Design Consulting. He has also worked with Philips Design’s Hong Kong branch as Senior design manager for global account of Audio Multimedia applications (AMA).

His creative team delivers global as well as regionally specific design solutions operating in both professional and consumer markets. It is through an intimate understanding of the diverse needs and complexities of a customer or consumer driven market that his design team is able to deliver the appropriate level of creative differentiation.

Low smoke chulha – Philips design asked people to design products that is of value to local people

–         Women and children are most affected

–         Equivalent to two packs of cigarette

–         It kills 1mn children, 3 deaths per minute, more than malaria; 6 lakh people die of smoke at home..

–         50% of people cook with biomass in India and china. In Sub-saharan it is almost 90%


Key insights – For any design intervention


–         The design needs to be fit with the existence ecosystem. Utensils, methods, ingredients; when we started going to more countries these became more glaring

–         Minimal dependence on external resources – it has to be all done within the local community

–         Driven by local communities that brings a great ownership


Context of living – a flavor of how we did the deep dive


–         Village called Fultan near Pune; prototyping at khervadi

–         We went and lived in the village –

o       Looked at the way they live, cook, wash etc;

o       Rituals of cooking

o       Location of chulha – which is a very significant

§         In Guatamala, chulha is in the center of the kitchen for people to sit around

§         In Kenya, women kneel over

o       Place

§         Outdoor cooking

§         Indoor modern

o       Co-creation with key stake holders

§         Involved them with co-creation workshop (10)

§         Participants from SHG ARTI (3)

§         Designers involved (3)

o       Concept directions evolved and brainstormed

o       We came out with two forms – Saral and Sampoorna

o       We went with prototypes and installed in six homes, got feedback

o       We had a few more iterations

§         College of engineering did work on comparability of impact

o       Ease of use – transporting, installing

§         We made modular so that it is easy

o       Challenge

§         A crack in the chulha in India is considered bad omen

§         Modular design helped in replacing

–         Key improvements

o       Biomass duct for efficient draft

§         Not only inefficient, more heat, more firewood etc

o       Designed to impact the vessel fast – 11 minutes to boil 1 liter of water, down from 22

o       Men go up and clean the chimney usually.

§         We got a connecter in the chimney to make life easy on cleaning

 –         Why soot in the first place. Can we have a soot collector? We create a jig-jag pattern to collect at the base itself


Deployment process

–         We want to find a way of community taking up the manufacturing, installing and maintaining.

–         Saral costs 800, sampoorna costs 1500

–         Half of the cost is paid by micro finance

–         Local community promotes it

–         We give molds to the entrepreneur

o       Makes, installs,

o       Local community promotes

o       NGOs bring the feedback

 Partners – for study

–         Junglescapes, Bandipur, Karnataka; Mysore Univ

o       Impact study apart from Economic, social and health benefits

o       Bandipur – 40 chulhas

§         Two thirds of biomass is saved

§         We could use Lantana and that added to saving

o       Three trips down to one trip to forest for wood

o       Painting the kitchen is once a year

o       Health benefits of cough and asthma reduced drastically

 We got people from Kenya – Alfan, a mason

–         Within 3 months he produced 60 chulhas

–         Heartening that one can make it and distribute just by the documentation and moulds

–         This has moved to many many countries – Peru, Gautamala,

We have created We encourage people to exchange, interact, training programs etc..-


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