High profile visitors raise the level of excitement and purpose

Today there were more corporate visitors to the Kumbhathon. Most of them represented companies in Nashik and Mumbai, and some of the executives were MIT alumni. They sampled the projects at the Kumbhathon, spoke with mentors and the Kumbhathon leadership, and overall were excited to be part of the Kumbhathon. They all want to know how they can participate with their time, money, and expertise.

The presence of the corporates also gave the innovators a greater sense of urgency and purpose. The innovators worked hard to answer questions and to resolve pending issues.

The morning began with a few mentor panels, one team at a time. The teams shared their revised messages and concerns, and the mentors offered last minute advice. Three teams met with the mentors; these either had lingering questions, or had not had enough of a chance to review key assumptions and decisions and open issues with mentors.

In the afternoon, while the innovators continued their work, the leadership team and the corporates were invited to the auditorium.

The main event was Praveen Gedam, the Commissioner of Nashik Municipal Corporation, who spoke about Nashik’s aspirations to be a smart city, and what his office has done to progress in that direction. He acknowledged that the city needs to fix some core infrastructure issues, such as water supply and sanitation. He aims to identify the problems and find solutions from the bottom up.

Some of the solutions that the Commissioner has initiated include: a Geographical Information System (GIS) which is a detailed digital map of the city, a system to track medicine availability, a computerized complaint system, a waste management tracking system, an online tax payment, and a transparent building plan approval process. The city now has an Android app Smart Nashik, and soon they’ll have a new website: http://kumbmhmela2015.maharashtra.gov.in

Dr. Ramesh Raskar made some introductory comments about all the excitement and activity thus far this week in the Kumbhathon. He emphasized that the MIT team’s involvement in Nashik is for the long term. The work of the innovators is not just to create some solutions to help with the Kumbh Mela, but to enable Nashik to be a hub of innovation. The work will be continued year round. It’s about creating a culture of innovation so that everyone contributes ideas and solutions.

Ms. Devayani Farande, a legislator from Nashik also spoke. She congratulated Dr. Raskar and his team for all they are doing. Then, the Commissioner, Dr. Raskar and the Legislator formed a panel. Some of the questions they answered were:

  • How will Nashik satisfy the remaining requirement for the Smart City application: citizen involvement? The Commissioner responded that citizens are involved. Some citizens are indeed involved, but there could be much more.

  • Will the city form public-private partnerships for healthcare? This would reduce the gap in the quality of care. Dr. Raskar said that innovations could help. The Commissioner acknowledged that he understood the concern.

  • What is being done to improve the quality of education? The Commissioner responded that they’re creating a new system to evaluate education. They’re also looking to make schools more children-friendly.

In the late afternoon, a highlight for everyone was when the drone flew above the crowd in the main working room. It was funny to see many people treat it like an animal.

In the evening, Dr. and Mrs. Kanodia of Datamatics Corporation, both MIT alumni, hosted about 50 people from the Kumbhathon to cocktails and dinner. Dr. Kanodia and Dr. Raskar spoke about the Kumbhathon, smart citizens, and the future of innovation in Nashik. One of the open questions is about the vision for the innovation center in Nashik. What is key is that innovation can elevate Nashik as a model city.

Tomorrow we are expecting more corporate visitors, including a few from US-based corporations. The innovators will have opportunities to pitch to them – to appeal for funding,

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