Building a Better Rat Trap: Technological Innovation, Human Capital and the Irula

28 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2007

See all articles by Siri A. Terjesen

Siri A. Terjesen

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH); American University

Date Written: July 5, 2007


This case follows Sethu Sethunarayanan, Director of the non-profit Center for the Development of Disadvantaged People (CDDP), which is dedicated to the improvement of the Irula tribe in rural villages of southeast India. The Irulas specialize in catching rats, an activity which provides the bulk of their income and food. Following a routine visit to a local village, Sethu recognized an opportunity for a "better rat trap" to aid the Irula rat catchers. With feedback from rat catchers, Sethu developed an innovative new trap. His innovation won the prestigious Global Development Marketplace award from the World Bank which provided the funding necessary to commercialize the new technology. The venture's implementation involved site visits to identify beneficiaries, health checks and treatment, preparatory workshops, factory establishment, factory training, production, women's micro-credit collectives, distribution and project evaluation. The case focuses on the relationship between human capital and technological entrepreneurship, considering the knowledge and skills required to commercialize technology for the rural poor and the positive impact on this greatly disadvantaged population.

Keywords: Human Capital, India, Innovation, Irula, Social Entrepreneurship, Technological Entrepreneurship, World Bank

JEL Classification: L26, O33, N35

Suggested Citation

Terjesen, Siri A., Building a Better Rat Trap: Technological Innovation, Human Capital and the Irula (July 5, 2007). Jena Economic Research Paper No. 2007-031, Available at SSRN: or

Siri A. Terjesen (Contact Author)

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) ( email )

Helleveien 30
Bergen, NO-5045

American University ( email )

4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

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