Serious progress evident on day 3 at the Kumbhathon5

Panels punctuated the morning. Synergy was the word for the afternoon. Health care innovations were the highlight of the evening. The mentoring and hard work is paying off!

The program began in the morning with a yoga session, followed by inspirational words from Dr. Ramesh Raskar, Sandip Shinde and John Werner. Then Scott Knox presented an overview of the “lean canvas” business model. This is a one-page business model that is much simpler to create than a traditional business strategy. It’s modular and can be modified easily. Scott will distribute the template for people to work on.

Several professionals joined the Kumbhathon today: five people from TCS, including Haneman Rao, three from Persistent Systems, Ramakrishna R from Google, and a few prominent local doctors. They helped mentor teams – both individually and on panels.

For the rest of the morning, teams worked together. Each team was called up to meet with a panel or a group of four to six – and sometimes more – expert mentors. Each team had the opportunity to share their vision, why they’re working on the particular solution, the scope of the solution for the Kumbh Mela, the plans for after the Kumbh Mela, and their challenges. The mentors challenged assumptions, made recommendations to save time and money and regarding target markets and business models, made professional connections for some teams, and helped them to focus on what needs to get done now. The progress that had been made since yesterday was quite evident. For one thing, the teams were less shy about sharing their concerns and risk factors. They came to realize that the mentors are here to help, not to grade them.

After lunch, the panels resumed, with a twist. This time, one or two delegates from each of a few different teams were brought together to meet with mentors. The purpose was to find synergies among teams. It will be great to see how some of the teams will find ways to work together. Some examples that are being explored include:

  • Combine all the apps related to the Kumbh Mela into one Kumbh app.

  • Have the Kumbh app share data with the MediTracker app, and have the MediTracker app be a part of the Kumbh app, with an “emergency button.

  • Have the Appadam and Darji apps work together to share business plan ideas, and perhaps to share transportation.

At the end of the afternoon, Sadhaya Dave took the microphone and sang to everyone in the room. What a beautiful voice!

Outside the Kumbhathon, a couple of members of the team working on the housing solutions, including Scott Knox, met with Congresswoman Mrs. Patil Vimal Ramesh and 12 Nashik government leaders. They shared information on both the Honeycomb Village and the Semi-Permanent housing designs. The group talked about the needs for life safety, useful life of both designs, taking into considerations the range of housing needs Nashik government is facing. They explained how much testing, strength, durability, set-up/break-down, storage, and reuse each planned design may need to receive support from the government. They are eager to begin construction.

In the evening, the founders of Winjit invited the Kumbhathon leadership team the company headquarters to share information with an audience of physicians and innovators and a few corporates. Pratik Shah of MIT gave a talk about REDx (Rethinking Engineering Design eXecution) and the Kumbhathon, with a focus on Healthcare. The physicians represented many specialties, including cardiology, dentistry, EMT, gynecology, hematology, ophthalmology, and surgery. They were thoroughly engaged. In fact, they started to make requests for new diagnostic screening tools for tribal areas, for conditions such as: retinal diseases, anemia (70% of females in rural zones are affected), oral health, malnutrition and dehydration, fetus health, and hearing loss. Others present included local officials of Indian Medical Association (IMA), Maharashtra University of Health Sciences, Nashik (MUHS) and community hospitals of Nashik.

While barbequed hors d’oeuvres were prepared and passed on the top floor terrace, Pratik highlighted some of the health-oriented projects that are currently in progress in the Camera Culture Group at the MIT Media Lab. The audience was fascinated to learn about a CAT scan that could fit in a rickshaw, a way to sequence the bacteria in your mouth with imaging biomarkers, a hand-held device that highlights cavities in the mouth, and a visualization tool to measure pulmonary capacity and blood pressure.

The MIT team is interested in solutions to improve health in rural India. The data that they collect at the Kumbh Mela – from an estimated 200 to 500 people per day for a week – will also serve as a healthcare map of Nashik, and the beginning of a healthcare map for all of India. These solutions will empower citizens, and these “smart citizens” will be the basis for smart cities.

The MIT team appealed to the doctors for ways to get involved – from partnerships to hosting events, mentoring to sharing clinical expertise, hosting events to boots on the ground. The REDx effort is enabling early diagnostics through an open platform. Solutions will improve community health, and showcase Nashik as a new hub of innovation. MIT will focus on solutions to help the next five billion people (many of whom are in India), to improve global education, and to stimulate innovation. As John Werner stated, there are several “legs of the stool” or key elements of the ecosystem that are taking shape now in Nashik. Those are innovators, government and experts like the doctors in the room.

A highlight of the evening was when Dr. Pramod Shinde, a surgeon, stood up and provided an impromptu endorsement of the Kumbhathon and the MediTracker project. This is a system that will aggregate ambulances, hospitals and other healthcare providers, and enable someone to get help quickly, based on their geographic coordinates and their symptoms. He noted that the Kumbhathon is a beehive of activity – with lots of young people working hard. He sees that solutions like MediTracker will have broader applications after the Kumbh Mela. He closed by making an appeal for doctors to help with their expertise, data, and money. Also, Hanuman Rao of TCS commented, “We came here and were blown away.” He went on to say that making Nashik citizens into “smart citizens” is cool, and that the energy of the Kumbhathon overall is very attractive to outside corporates like TCS.

Pratik Khandagale, the lead innovator on another project, Epidemic Tracker, told the audience that he had quit his job to work on this full time. The solution is a global platform to track epidemic trends. The intent is to begin interventions – such as immunizations – right away in high-risk areas.

Dr. Ramesh Raskar closed the session by sharing information about Sandip Shinde and how passionate he was about making a difference that he got his employer, TCS, to allow him to start and run the Kumbhathon as his full-time job. After dinner on the terrace, the group dispersed, with promises for visits to the Kumbhathon over the next few days.

Everyone left with aspirational thoughts about how innovation will empower citizens and the city of Nashik. Nashik will launch innovation on a broader scale.

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