Sharing projects and plans for next steps with the greater Nashik community

John Werner began his morning very early, with a visit to Someshwar, a waterfall about a half hour from Nashik. When he returned, two of the Kumbhathon volunteers took John, Maggie Church and me (Beth Zonis) to Ram Kunde, the main site of the Kumbh Mela. The site was abuzz with people bathing, washing clothes, selling food, getting their hair cut, doing karma kande (ritual to celebrate a recent death), and doing puja (praying to God). Then, we drove to the government-sponsored Kumbh Mela temporary housing area, where we were able to see the pop-up housing that is one of the innovations of the Kumbhathon.

Dr. Lalit Kanodia, Founder and Chairman of Datametrics, MIT alumnus and Member of the Board of the MIT Corporation, opened the Kumbhathon for the day. He is renowned for having invented imaging and scanning. Dr. Kanodia’s advice is to expand the Kumbhathon effort – to not just build but to sell innovations. He pointed out that innovators and entrepreneurs are often different people. “You need to rope in many more forces that can take what you’re doing to its logical conclusion.”

He went on to say, “I think this generation is blessed. We need people like you! I can see the energy here. I have no doubt that all of you will make it happen.” Datametrics currently has 1500 employees in Nashik, and they’d like to grow their presence here. Perhaps some of the talent from the Kumbhathon will make good employees and managers there!

Dr. Kanodia continued: “There’s a huge opportunity to put India on the map in manufacturing. Plus, we need to create one million jobs every month here in India.” So there’s an opportunity and a need.

Dr, Virender Sangwan, Director of the Sruijana Centre for Innovation at L V Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI) in Hyderabad, spoke next. He’s also a Harvard alumnus. LVPEI sees about two million patients per year, mostly for free; no one is denied for surgery or medicine based on ability to pay.

MIT is doing work on “Reengineering the Eye.” Dr Sangwan explained that the LVPEI-MIT collaboration began two years ago, and with a donation from one corporation, the MIT center in Mumbai was started. They have a program to select 20 students to work with LVPEI as fellows. Now these students organize the workshops. There are about 20 new projects that are ongoing. Three or four products are in clinical trial. This year they received applications from 54 cities.

His advice for the innovators in Nashik is to set up time with finance people. Also, if some people from Nashik can visit Hyderabad, they’ll get to see how things work in that innovation ecosystem.

Ramesh pointed out that we need to measure to understand and then to solve a problem.

Next, partners from TCS, Jabil, Tech Mahindra and IBM took the stage. Hanuman Rao: “Learning is bi-directional. I’m fascinated by the energy, passion, drive, enthusiasm and the vision by all of you guys. We’re here both to mentor you and to get inspired by you.” Radhesh Kanumury, Country Lead of IBM’s Global Entrepreneur Program, said that IBM is looking for innovation through startups so they can get involved early on and possibly to bring them in house. This needs to be a year-long process. We need some point-in-time ideas as well. “What fascinates us throughout the process is that the Kumbhathon is a platform that could tap into the innovations of 1.2 million people!”

One Tech Mahindra representative said they’re engaging startups globally and doing co-innovation. They want to support teams. They can also take innovations forward since they have global reach to scale.

Girish Wable of Jabil, a company with 16 billion rupees in revenue, provides design services for a range of products from smart phones to pharmaceutical packaging. Mr. Wable said: “I see that we have energy and passion. I also see people asking ‘what’s in it for others?’ rather than ‘what’s in it for me?’ I can now report that innovation is definitely happening!”

Ramesh Raskar asked how we can scale. Innovators, corporates and other financial houses need to be part of the innovation center, so that some of the ideas take off. Girish Wable commented that in addition to disruptive innovation, it’s important to consider incremental innovation. Ramesh echoed that incremental innovation – such as what Crowd Steering team is doing by measuring crowds with cell phones rather than with video cameras – can have significant ‘incremental’ impact. Radhesh Kanumury of IBM said that they can help by offering access to the Watson API.

Two young women stepped up on stage to tell their stories. Sanchi Paingy, an MBA student at Welingkar School, was so excited to be part of MIT and the Kumbhathon. She has a team of 27 people here on the All Shops Online team. She has everyone learning management skills from her. She said, “I want to be a part of this forever! I have a built a tremendous network here.” The other woman, who is one of the Kumbhathon organizers, joined the Nashik Wikipedia team and is a technical person who learned management skills. “I got so many contacts here. I got to learn many things here. Seven days learning here is like seven months somewhere else.”

Then there was a panel of five professionals who are all involved in a variety of health solutions for rural India. Their dream is a healthy and happy India. One woman from Tata Trust took the stage to introduce them. Dr. Amit Sengupta of the Tata Trust Initiative’s Institute of Medical Sciences, Sujit John, Research Coordinator from the Schizophrenia Research Foundation in Chennai, and Dr. Vandana Parikh, VP of Business Development for A3 Remote Monitoring Technologies (a company associated with IIT Bombay). They’re taking technology and education to rural areas, trying to develop entrepreneurs among local youth.

Ashok Veeraraghavan of the Scalable Health Initiative at Rice University took the stage to talk about the work he’s doing in his lab. The goal is to build devices that will be the personal computers for your health.

Ramesh pointed out that there are three main stages: technology development, deployment, and adoption. One answer is to partner with people who know the users and to work with their behavior. You need passion and patience!

It’s important to get adoption from the bottom up. It’s also challenging to integrate these solutions into the broader health care system. They are skeptical and assume that they’ll have additional work.

Dr. Laura Jana took the stage. She told about her background in pediatrics. She left practice, and for the last few years she has owned a school for young children. She is now Director of Innovation and Public Health at the University of Nebraska. She focuses on the 21st century skills that kids need now:

  • Creativity is the most desired skill in the industry. There are studies that show that if you do something for a reward, it kills creativity.

  • Motivation to do something different – something that no one else has done.

  • Collaboration among a variety of professions and skills.

  • Adaptability: the ability to change what you’re doing, try new things and fail.

  • Failure. Embrace failure so that you can learn from that.

She pointed out that India is a huge opportunity. In the US it can take a long time to innovate. The lack of infrastructure can actually be an opportunity. Also, one of the things that makes Nashik unique is that there’s so much excitement across all the sectors. You have pressures to innovate here, and you have innovations that are applicable across India and around the world. “I like people and their ideas.”

After a brief video break, several local city leaders from Nashik Municipal Corporation took the stage, with Sachin Pachorkar as moderator. They were: Praveen Gedam, the Commissioner, Deependre Singh Kushwah, the Collector, and the Assistant Collector. It was great to have the local government showing so much support for the Kumbhathon!

During lunch, Dr. Kanodia met with the leaders of all the teams, and he provided sage advice to every single one. His insights were very much appreciated.

After lunch, there were presentations by the innovators. We heard from Sampath Reddy, who provided a professional presentation about Pop-up Housing. A prototype of his solution is already in place at the temporary housing area for the Kumbh Mela.

Pratik Shah introduced all the health-oriented teams. Leaders from Medi Tracker, Epidemic Tracker, Right Med, and Health Pavilion shared highlights of the work that they’re doing to expand public health information and enable effective and efficient interventions on a patient-by-patient basis.

Ajay Suman Shukla, Team Leader at LEAD of the Deshpande Foundation, spoke about the Deshpande Foundation. They have a leadership program that may be of interest to Kumbhathon innovators.

Ramesh spoke about the Kumbhathon as a “vessel.” It will continue to serve as a platform after the Kumbh Mela. And he stressed that the solutions are not apps; they are a bridge between digital and physical layers.

After he spoke, he called the non-Indians on the MIT team on stage. Surprise! We were expected to dance to Indian music! It was fun but embarrassing! Perhaps next time we could get an Indian dance lesson first…

In the evening, Dr. and Mrs. Kanodia invited the MIT team to Datametrics for a reception. They gave the team a tour of the facility, and several innovators presented their solutions.

to E&G, a beautiful golf resort for dinner. The setting is set in a green area by the unusually shaped mountain range. The hosts shared information about their work as a club for entrepreneurs, their professional education in entrepreneurship, and their aspirations to establish an innovation center.

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is the last day of the Kumbhathon. We are not looking forward to saying goodbye. Hopefully, we won’t have to, as we will be back to help build up the innovation center in Nashik.

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