Innovating for Billions workshop - Day 4 - January 26, 2016


Celebrating in style

It was fitting that day 4, the middle day of the workshop was a day of celebration with pomp and circumstance. Republic Day honors the date on which the Constitution of India came into force on 26 January 1950, replacing the Government of India Act as the governing document of India. Celebrations take place across India, and most people have the day off from work and school.


Several of us – John Werner, Pashon Murray, Eman Jaradat and myself from MIT, along with Sandip Shinde, Subhash Patil, and Girish Pagare from the Kumbh Foundation – were hosted by Sanjay Mohite, the Superintendent of Police. He sent police cars to escort us from the hotel to his government home. Mr. Mohite, his wife and son greeted us warmly and served us a celebratory breakfast consisting of several plates of local delicacies. Then they gave us a tour of their home. The house was originally built and used by the British Police. It’s a solidly built structure, made of stone. The interior is very comfortable and decorated with plush carpets, paintings and intricately carved wooden furniture.


After breakfast we proceeded to the adjacent field where several groups of uniformed personnel were assembled in formation, ready for the performance. Girish Mahajan, Minister of Water Resources, addressed the crowd. He and Eknath Dawale, Nashik District Commissioner wore celebratory local pagdis (headdresses). Dr. Pravin Gedam, Commissioner of Nashik Municipal Corporation, and the honorable mayor of Nashik were present as well. We were escorted to seats of honor in the front, under cover of a large tent.


Each group of uniformed participants paraded in formation, marching with precise synchronization of their matching khaki pants and white-gloved arms. As they filed past the assembled audience, the announcer stated who they were and what they represented, and the leader raised a sword with a loud and proud exclamation. Following the marching, there were several floats that drove by the crowd. They included a few social activist groups, such as a drive to vote, support for women and children, animal welfare, as well as representatives from police, fire, ambulance, and youth in uniform. One of the most dramatic were Muslim youth on horseback. There were also groups of women and girls in uniform. Very official and impressive.


Water administrators visit with innovators

This afternoon Girish Mahajan, Minister of Water Resources, visited the Nashik Engineering Cluster to meet directly with the innovators. He brought a team of party leaders to meet directly with the innovators working on water challenges. This was a great honor for the organizers as well as for the innovators. And it helped all the innovators to realize how vested the administration is in the success of these projects.


Innovation progress

During the day, innovation teams collaborated and progressed their projects. The focus was on refining the challenge statements from the stakeholder perspective, and specifying what data would be needed to test hypothesis and to provide analysis of value. Then they could proceed to considering possible solutions, with a focus on DIPS (digital interfaces for physical systems) and DAPS (digital applications for physical systems). The point is not to replicate physical systems with technology, but to utilize data and technology to achieve something new.


Teams spent more time on their innovation challenges and some engaged further with additional stakeholders. They collaborated with their assigned mentors from MIT, corporate members and government. And they used poster boards, sticky notes and markers to document how they viewed the challenge. In the afternoon all teams met with panels of mentors that included experts from corporations, MIT and the Kumbh Foundation. Each team got 15 minutes with the mentor panel to share and describe their challenge statement and key stakeholders, explain what data they had and what they needed, preview their initial ideas of solutions, appeal for help in specific areas, and get targeted feedback. At this stage, some were very clear, while others still needed to refine what they were going to address. We spoke with the assigned mentors and discussed what sort of guidance would be most beneficial in each case. The teams continued to work independently before and after the panels, applying mentor guidance to get to the next level with their work.


Win x 5

There are five entities that all stand to gain from the process of developing and implementing innovative DIPS and DAPS solutions to Nashik’s major challenges: the administration and citizens of Nashik, the Kumbh Foundation, individual innovators, corporations, and MIT. The city and its citizens will get problems solved and will enhance the way of life in the city. Innovators will get a major career boost from the opportunity to intern for six months in the new Innovation Center in Nashik. The Kumbh Foundation will strengthen its ties in the city, building a stronger community committed to solving pressing problems. Corporate members will be recognized for the social impact of their efforts, expand on some of the inventions to improve and grow their work in various sectors, use the model to expand their innovation capability across the company, and access a growing pool of talent. Using the world – and Nashik in particular – as our lab will enable MIT to provide even greater opportunities for innovative and impactful research in the Media Lab, use Nashik as a model to forge new strategic relationships with like-minded corporations in order to expand our collective impact worldwide, and generate solutions to major problems worldwide that will affect billions of people.


Beginning the selection process

Toward the end of the afternoon, Professor Ramesh Raskar met with the mentor panelists. We did an initial review of all of the teams, and discussed next steps. We are looking for two things: (1) innovators who will stay for an internship in the Innovation Center in Nashik, and (2) challenges that will be pursued in the next phase. Consideration will be given to solutions that will have a high impact. Most of the challenges that have an MIT scientist as a mentor will move forward. Also, there are individuals who have already displayed unique strengths and who will be asked to participate as interns moving forward.


A new app for all solutions

Ramesh recommended that we create an application to act as an umbrella for all of the solutions that are created in the new innovation center in Nashik. This will be similar to the Kumbh App that was created for the Kumbh Mela. It was a single place for people to access solutions developed by the Kumbhathon innovators, and it was downloaded and used by thousands of people who attended the Kumbh Mela, as well as by the leadership in the city administration. This new app will represent the future of Nashik.


A social evening for MIT scientists and mentors with Nashik business leaders

Throughout our visit in Nashik, the Kumbh Foundation, the Nashik government, and the business community have all received us warmly. This evening we were invited to a dinner party hosted by several leaders of the local business community. We were made to feel much more than just invited guests. We are part of the same team working together on the same goals: to create a better world through technological innovation.