AIDS KILLS, POPULATION
EXPLODES... and yet we are inhibited enough not to reach for the protection that is at
arm's reach. Citadel meets Dilip R. Deshpande who is all set to help people get rid of
their shyness whilst reaching out for a long and healthy life. Ever heard of an
electronics engineer who dabbles with state-of-the-art gizmos and suddenly turns into a
staunch crusader against AIDS? Well, meet Dilip Deshpande who strongly believes that there
is no such thing as `enough awareness'.
idea came about because this mild-mannered teacher-turned-entrepreneur from Bombay, who
enjoys developing new products, was toying around with ideas for free enterprise."And
I thought that abroad there are so many kinds of machines, where you insert the coin and
get the product you want so why not make some here.Suppose a bar of soap cost you Rs.5.75,
you could always insert five, one rupee coins into the machine, but how do you account for
that seventy-five paise? Especially, since we do not have seventy-five paise coins. Since
the pricing should match the packaging of the product, I went back to the drawing
board," he shrugs matter-of-factly.
"When I was discussing this problem with a friend who is a
health officer with the Family Planning Department, it opened up a whole new vista for me.
He suggested that I should develop a vending machine for condoms. I liked the idea because
with condoms, the pricing is no problem. The only problem that I could foresee was that
people normally hesitated because they were embarrassed or felt shy whilst buying them
from medical stores. Even if it is readily available, people don't ask for it. I thought
this could be a very good means for promoting and using condoms," smiles Dilip.
The Health care Authorities appreciated the thought behind the
concept and the machine itself, they envisioned a problem. "They pointed out the
inavailability of electricity. Perhaps in cities like Bombay and Pune, the situation isn't
all that bad, but elsewhere in the country it is definitely worse. They wondered whether I
could develop a machine that didn't run on electricity. Intrigued, I worked on one that
was fully mechanical and isn't a hi-tech product at the same time," he proudly
reveals. "Here packets of condoms are stored in the machine. All you have to do is
insert a rupee into the slot." Dilip Deshpande states confidently.
The prototype was appreciated by the concerned decision-makers in
the Family Planning Association of India (FPAI), who went ahead with the project and put
their money into it. They purchased some machines initially. One machine was installed in
Bombay in '94 and subsequently other branches all over India. Apart from this, an
international organisation in appreciation of their efforts, granted them the much needed
recognition by extending substantial financial aid. "Since then, I've worked out on
ironing a whole lot of chinks in my machine and made a lot of improvements in my original
design to make it more suitable for the environment, management, etc. It has generated a
lot of positive interest," he says of his machines that are installed next to the
panwallas' kiosks in the city. In fact, the entire project has even encouraged them to
approach hotels with a proposition to tie up with contraceptive companies, so that they
can offer them as a part of their complimentary services. And the hospitality industry's
incentive to do so? Simple, Dilip's company, Dynavend Machines Pvt. Ltd., will supply them
with free Condom Vending Machines for their rooms in a bid to promote safe sex. "The
idea is to basically desensitise people and get them to accept the usage of protection,
thus propagating safe sex," he analyses thoughtfully.
As a matter of fact, the canny entrepreneur's plans for the city
of the Peshwas, is no less interesting. Not only are they setting up shop in the city but
during the Pune Festival, they even installed the condom vending machines at strategic
locations like on Fergusson Road, opposite Roopali, apart from the five in the Budhwar
Peth and Raviwar Peth areas; two near Pune railway station, near the S.T. bus-stop; one
near the corporation bus-stop and finally one at Koregaon Park. "True," he
admits with candour, "See, during the Pune Festival, people come from villages all
over the state. And they naturally visit all the night spots. Since we cannot stop the
flesh trade, it makes more sense to promote the concept of safe sex to them. And even
if they are inhibited about visiting a chemist, they wouldn't have qualms about
using this easy-to-operate vending machine which maintains their privacy and at the same
time prevents sexually transmitted diseases," Dilip discloses with a slight smile.
So whilst medicine men around the world are finding a cure for
AIDS, Dilip Deshpande along with the rest of the crusaders, have found a way to prevent
its stranglehold on society.