Sparks flew when Professor Ramesh Raskar met Sunil Khandbahale met for the first time at the INK Conference in India in October 2013. They both shared the same vision of leveraging human capital to give back to their mutual home town of Nashik, India. Together, they brought energy, smarts, knowledge of the community and its challenges, and the skills to bring people together and to create a new innovation culture. They launched the Kumbhathon to do just that. And the Kumbh Mela in August/September 2015 provided the first big test. They surpassed expectations.
Hyderabad and Mumbai, then Nashik
In July 2013, Prof. Ramesh Raskar of the MIT Media Lab brought his first team to Hyderabad, India to run a week-long innovation camp or "buildathon." In January 2014 Mumbai, India was the second city where the team ran a buildathon. Inspired through brainstorming about social challenges and how local human capital could solve them, in July 2014 the team ran its first Kumbhathon or buildathon in Ramesh’s hometown of Nashik, India. Thus, the year-round innovation platform was born.
MIT Media Lab researchers work closely with local innovators during buildathons, and many continue to communicate throughout the year -- in order to develop more robust solutions to empower local citizens, especially for eye health, health diagnostics, and pop-up cities. Mentors are MIT scientists, corporate members and business professionals, government officials, academics, and other stakeholders from the community. The strong mentor network is key to the success of the innovators and their solutions.
Since its beginning, the Emerging Worlds initiative has been deployed in Mumbai, Hyderabad and Nashik, all with permanent centers established. Collaborative efforts are also underway in Mexico, Slovakia and Brazil.