S. Rajagopalan

Ashoka Fellow
Illustration of a person's face depicting a fellow
Fellow since 1994
This description of S. Rajagopalan's work was prepared when S. Rajagopalan was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1994 .


S. Rajagopal's understanding of science and business enables him to rescue useful and profitable ideas from India's laboratories and then help small entrepreneurs to develop and market these ideas.

The New Idea

Presently, thousands of potential product ideas remain unused because both laboratories and small entrepreneurs lack the resources and skills to implement them. Potential entrepreneurs fail to see the opportunity to develop ideas into marketable products. Rajagopal provides the missing and crucial link between the inventors who have not realized the market value of their work and the small entrepreneurs who are eager for new products to promote.Rajagopal's organization, staffed by young entrepreneurs and business professionals, begins the process by examining unused prototypes and product ideas and analyzing their potential marketability. Once they determine that a product has promise, they undertake further research, develop, and test it. Rajagopal then introduces these potential products to small entrepreneurs and, together, they develop a profitable marketing strategy. Rajagopal's service is helping these small entrepreneurs to invigorate the Indian economy.

The Problem

India invests a great deal in its laboratories, but much of the research that they produce never results in actual products or services. Large industries can absorb the cost of product research and development, and eventually, product marketing. However, small entrepreneurs and mid­size firms are missing two essential elements for the success of new products: resources and management staff.As a result, many innovative and potentially successful product ideas are being under­utilized and largely ignored. In 1990-1991, for example, 500 patent applications for new products were filed, but only 200 of the products were ever marketed on a significant scale.

The Strategy

Rajagopal recruits a multi­disciplinary team of young professionals ­ engineers, scientists, economic analysts, and marketing agents ­ to identify new products appropriate for the small entrepreneur. The team evaluates a number of promising ideas from the laboratories located near India's high­tech city of Bangalore. Afterward, Rajagopal proceeds to develop and test the most promising of the products.The small entrepreneurs who benefit from the services pay a modest membership fee, but this does not fully cover the cost of product development and testing. Therefore, Rajagopal seeks start­up funds from various financial institutions.

The Person

Rajagopal was raised in a village in Tamil Nadu state, and graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi and the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore. His skills in product development and marketing were sharpened during his tenure as Chief Executive of the State Council for Science and Technology. Rajagopal is giving up this prestigious position in order to devote full attention to his goal of effectively combining the fields of science and business for the benefit of both small entrepreneurs and Indian industry.