Innovating for Billions workshop - Day 2 - January 24, 2016


Effective bottom-up innovation is about innovating in context. This calls for spending time to frame the problem that you are solving, to map out the various stakeholders, their concerns and what they serve to gain or lose.


Teams that formed yesterday were now charged with really understanding the problems assigned to them. They started by doing some research both online and with mentors who have subject matter expertise. They made wish lists of people and places to visit and data to collect. The goal was to get a holistic perspective of their assigned challenge, and then to begin to narrow it down to something that they could work on as a pilot project.


Field trips made the problems real

Innovators fanned out across the City of Nashik. Groups of students made field trips to a dairy farm, a slum, a hospital, a blood bank, an agricultural university, an ophthalmologist, a pharmacy, an industrial area, a composting site, an upper class neighborhood, and several schools. They interviewed people, went on tours, drank water, tested their assumptions and hypotheses, requested data, and suggested ideas of solutions to create.


Citizen award and address to thousands of youth

Today Professor Ramesh Raskar received a Citizen Award for his work in Nashik. Ramesh gave a keynote at the awards ceremony. At the same time, John Werner presented to 11,000 primary school students who were assembled in colorful formation, with the students wearing the unique colors of their school. In both settings, MIT was recognized as a game changer. Across sectors and age groups, the citizens of Nashik are growing to appreciate our work. They realize that we are here to make a positive difference in their lives.


Challenge and innovator takeaways

When the innovators returned to the Nashik Engineering Cluster, they spent some time with their teams to absorb what they seen and heard. They then corrected some of their assumptions, and mapped out the stakeholders, processes and issues as they understood them. At the end of the day several of them had a chance to spend three minutes each answering questions about where they had gone, how they define the challenge, and what they had learned. Following are some examples.


A team working on an agriculture challenge commented that eggs are wasted, and that packaging and transportation are problems. The team working on a challenge about new street addresses for homes and business had the opportunity to speak with the CTO of Flipkart. They noted that there are multiple streets with the same name. And there are many homes and businesses that don’t have unique addresses. This is a challenge for drivers making deliveries, for example.


The team working on personal security for self help groups (SHGs) noted that there’s no common platform for all SHGs. The administration would like them to be registered and licensed. Although this would require some time and money, there should be a payback for the groups. The team working on crime pointed out that they need to define different types of crime. One of the issues is that because of the stigma, people hesitate to go to the police to report crimes. The team learned that the Nashik police has an online system for filing complaints in multiple languages. The cities of Mumbai and Pune have online databases with fingerprints and photos, but a system like this does not yet exist in Nashik.


A team working on cardiovascular diseases found that there are several causes of cardiovascular disease, including changing lifestyle, environment, and diagnostics. They also learned that patient ages are coming down as low as the 20s. People get health checks only once every two years.


A team working on reducing unnecessary loss of life due to lack of blood visited a blood bank. They learned that there’s a disparity between supply and demand, there’s a shortage during certain periods, people give blood during holidays, and blood has a shelf life. They appealed to everyone in the room to give blood if they can. It could save someone’s life.


The teams assigned to address water issues scheduled visits to a slum, an expensive residential area, and an industrial area. They made some initial observations that would have to be refined. Specifically, they noted that people don’t know how much water they use, and that timing, quantity and availability of water are inconsistent. People are not concerned about water quality.


At the end of the day everyone gathered in the auditorium to regroup with the larger group, share observations and to hear plans for the rest of the week.


Nashik administration committed to innovation success

The leadership of the event – including organizers, Kumbhathon leaders, corporate members, the MIT team, Nashik physicians, and distinguished members of the Nashik administration – were hosted by some local businessmen by the side of the pool at a local country club. Besides the lovely surroundings, good food and drink, and congenial company, the highlights of the evening were the stated commitments of government bureaucrats to collaborate closely with MIT, corporate members and the innovators. Specifically, they offered to do whatever they could to facilitate data collection for teams that needed specialized data for their projects, and also to make themselves available to advise innovators.


It was heartening for all to recognize that the administration fully appreciates the value of the innovation platform that is now entering a new phase in Nashik. This represents an opportunity for Nashik to be a testbed for new technology and to set an example for all of India.