INspiration for Bottom-Up Innovation in Nashik

After successes in Hyderabad and Mumbai, Professor Ramesh Raskar was anxious to do something meaningful in his home town of Nashik, India. Inspired through brainstorming about social challenges and how local human capital could solve them, he and his team initiated the first Kumbhathon. This is a series of “buildathons” or camps run with innovators. 

Nashik is the 16th fastest growing city in the world. Plus, in 2015, as the site of the Kumbh Mela, it became the largest city in the world for a one-month period. India is home to 1.3 billion people, a huge percentage of which are new “digital citizens.” India presents an enormous opportunity for innovation-driven development.

KUMBHATHON and Kumbh Mela

Ramesh Raskar and his team from the MIT Media Lab have convened local innovators, corporate executives, government officials and academics to participate in the Kumbhathon "buildathon" events. These week-long events draw upon local innovation talent who understand the context of their city and who develop solutions to solve pressing challenges there.

Over the last couple of years, the Kumbhathon has evolved to become a focal point of new technological ideas that have practical applications in Nashik. MIT Media Lab researchers mentor participants and help make their solutions more robust. Corporate leaders such as TCS have participated and contributed to the enthusiasm and success of the Kumbhathon model and the overall results of the Kumbh Mela.

In the run up to the Kumbh Mela, teams worked with increasing purpose -- to prepare to launch their solutions at the world's largest gathering of humanity, in August and September 2015. By all accounts this Kumbh Mela was a resounding success. There were zero casualties, zero missing cases, and zero disputes. Now, Nashik is increasingly seen as an innovation hub with year-round innovation activities.