Camel Bus – Social Innovation for desert transportation

By Somali K Chakrabarti


“Innovation opens up new vistas of knowledge and new dimensions to our imagination to make everyday life more meaningful and richer in depth and content.”

~ Dr APJ Abdul Kalam

While most people know about camel rides in the deserts of Rajasthan, not many would have heard about a bus that it is driven by a camel.

The idea of the camel driven bus was conceived by a school teacher late Radhey Shyam Mishra , as a means of safely transporting students to and from school through the desert.  His friend, Mewaram Jangid, who was a skilled carpenter developed the bus in 1972, which provided an affordable solution for mass transportation in rural desert areas.

Camel Bus, Rajasthan

Seven such buses are still used to transport over 400 students to Bhanwarlal Kala Bal Mandir School in Churu, Rajasthan. According to the school principal, the school has developed a distinct identity because of the Camel bus and other schools in the area have also followed suit. Buses currently used by the school are still based on the same design.

The Camel Bus is a simple, affordable, and efficient local solution social innovation developed by creative individuals for solving a local problem.

The Center of social Innovation, Stanford Business School defines Social Innovation as:

A social innovation is a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than current solutions. The value created accrues primarily to society rather than to private individuals.

Many times, these innovations from the informal sectors of our country remain localized. As such, their potential growth gets constrained, and the benefits are confined to a small section. To overcome this challenge and support the social change agents, volunteers of Honey Bee Network scout, spawn and sustain such frugal innovations at the grassroots level.

This instance of social innovation was spotted by the Honey Bee Network, and it was appreciated in National Innovation Forum, a body which works towards promoting creativity and social innovations at grassroots.

More examples of grassroots innovation are given in the post Frugal Innovation – bringing Grassroots creativity to the Global stage.

In the words of Dr. R.A. Mashelkar, Chairperson, Governing Council National Innovation Foundation, Ahmedabad

“The purpose of innovation is to create a new value for an individual, team, organization or for society at large.” 


References and Image credit:

  1. National Innovation Foundation, Rajasthan Innovates


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56 thoughts on “Camel Bus – Social Innovation for desert transportation

  1. Such an amazing innovation. I have never heard of a camel driving a bus. This is amazing, and amazing to hear that this is sort of a school bus for quite a few students today. Nice to hear that it is getting a bit of recognition too. Who knows, maybe more schools in India might want to use this bit of transportation 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. While I appreciate the creative and innovative element here, the thought of using animals still as a mode of transport in this modern era of technology distresses me beyond words. I also wonder whether camels do have that much horse power and strength of horses or elephants to pull a bus load of people.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have seen these so many times, many years ago in small town we’re originally from during our visits. it was quite common. I’m sure it won’t be there now cause it must have been replaced by Tata magic!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Maniparna. This is a bit off track, but people in many states would not have heard of hand pulled rickshaws that were once common in Kolkata. I felt very bad when I had heard first time of those, but later once or twice I too have ridden a hand rickshaw. Are they still seen?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Geetashree. Jugaad in colloquial term has a negative connotation attached with it due to compromise on safety and sustainability. Frugal innovation on the other hand also makes use of resources at hand to create effective solutions for addressing poblem, without compromising highly on safety. Here’s post I had written on Jugaad.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. सोमाली, उंट वाली बस के बारे में जानकर बहुत अच्छा लगा। शेयर करने के लिए धन्यवाद।

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I like the idea.. this reminds me of the OX driven bus .. during the intiital schooling in our village had to travel miles .. and the cart was the mode of transport..

    Sometimes I envy as I am grwoing oldr and meet young people I feel do do they know the pleasure we had in that little ride going at probably 1KMPH .. 🙂

    My grandpa use to have a Horse but he would not let us use the horse on the cart ..

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Somali, you have touched on a very profound thought “social innovation” and it as an aspect of life which is so vital to us but somehow it gets constantly lost in the game of bigger economy and in the sphere of technology. Everything as regard innovation gets slotted into the bigger economic impact and into the dimension of technology disruption.

    These small and powerful innovation at the grassroots level and the impact these changes have on the lives of people who are struggling and living a hard life with limited resources. In-spite of the might of government and bigger private companies basic aspects of good health services and education services remains a distant dream for many in the urban life not to speak of the life in the rural belt. This is indeed a wonderful example of how small social innovation can have a big impact in the lives and living of people who have limited resources. It is just not about the economy but also the limited branding they have been able to achieve with this unique idea which by itself an innovation in the thinking of the people who are left with little choices.

    The other important aspects which affects the replication and multiplication of such innovation is lack of concerted effort to take it far and wide and make it available to a larger audience, here is where the Honey Bee Network plays a significant role and making such small innovation reach a large section of our society who are living in adversity and looking for solutions that can change their life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Nihar. You’re right that while innovation at the grassroot level may not be advanced in the use of technology but the enormous impact they have on improving the lives of people who have to do with meagre resources cannot be overlooked because a majority of the population of our country still resides in villages. Only when all those people have access to good education, proper health conditions and employment opportunities, real economic development is possible. For that innovation at the grassroot level needs to be spotted and encouraged further, which institutions like National Innovation Forum and networks such as Honey Bee Network are doing.
      Btw thoroughly enjoyed reading your post on Innovation-Managing the internal perspective. Keep writing such useful and informative stuff. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I fully agree Somali with your thought that how can we bring more cost effective and easily accessible solutions to people in our village and the bulk of our manpower resources are residing there and are lacking the wherewithal to make things happen and transform there life which affects the social and economic index of the country. Unless they are part of the mainstream and are productive and meaningfully engaged, we will not grow as a nation and become a developed country.

        Yes in this context as rightly pointed out institutions and organisation both public and private like National Innovation Forum to Honey Bee Network can make huge differences to way we can collective and collaboratively change the society…this can happen if small innovation to bigger innovation both go hand in hand…

        Thanks so much and always enjoy your insightful exchange of ideas.

        Liked by 1 person

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