Innovating India

For quite sometime Anand suggested and is trying to put all my papers and books that I have written on my website http://www.drishtikon.com. He has already put my last book, ‘Latest trends in Machining’ that is now freely accessible for all working in engineering industry and who is interested to know the latest about machining technology.

I wanted to find out if I can scan my articles published in different journals from its reprints and convert into a format that can be edited, updated, and put into pdf and on website. One day I discussed the problem with my nephew Prakash, who is a student of IT in a private college in Vadodara. He had some solution that I did not know. However, I was surprised to know about the innovations that are coming from our young friends in different colleges.

Young innovators in many a academic institution across India are full of ideas and are also incubating, creating new technology platforms, and coming up with real-world solutions. In most of cases, it is happening as a bunch of enthusiastic and motivated batch mates share a common passion for creating cutting-edge software platforms that can make a difference to mankind.
The India leg of the ‘Imagine Cup’ provides the opportunity and the challenge. This year approximately 12,000 students from over a 1,000 colleges participated for the India leg of the Imagine Cup. The number of innovators is increasing every year. Some of the achievements are as follows:

1.Batch mates Deepak Jagdish, Vasundhara Kantroo, and Avi Mehta, known in group as Team Blue Leaf, are final-year B.Tech students at Dhirubhai Ambani Institute for Information and Communication Technology, Ahmedabad. The trio are making waves for ‘Recog’, their unique innovation, which has won them first prize at a national level competition recently. Recog is a software platform that integrates handwritten notes, textbook pages, newspaper cuttings and other printed media. It identifies the context of the content and tries to find meaning in it. The trio are now going to Seoul to take on innovators from around the globe at the Imagine Cup, world’s premier student technology competition, where more than 1,00,000 students from nearly every country in the world will compete with their innovations.

2.Vaibhav Rastogi, Anand Mohan, Shailendra Sason and Patel Alkesh Maganbhai-the four BTech batchmates from IIIT Allahabad, have created ‘Aabha’ a multilingual document summariser. It’s a software which when given a document, automatically prepares its summary. In their words, ”our system can summarise documents in English, Hindi, Urdu, Gujarati and Telugu. Moreover, the design is so modular and generic that given a few linguistic modules, it will work for most languages”. That’s not all, the foursome have quite a few innovations to their credit. For example, they have created a multilingual chat and conferencing module which facilities multilingual chatting, conferencing, PowerPoint presentation sharing et al.

3.Pranav and Shivanand Thakur from the Army Institute of Technology, Pune and IGNOU Lucknow have created ‘Educational Content Identification and Grabbing System’ (ECIGS). Software that minimises search options on the Net and increases efficiency in finding relevant and useful content.

4.Roshan Sumbaly and his friends from BITS Pilani, Goa created, ‘eduGRID’. It’s aimed at solving the problem of ‘low student: teacher ratio’ in educational institutions. “Gone are the days when a teacher used to give personal attention to every student. Students can use our software to learn themselves. It answers queries in an interactive and conversational fashion (speech as well as text). Indeed it can’t be a ‘replacement’ for a teacher, but yes, it can be a ‘substitute’ when a teacher is not around.”

Many of these youngsters from India are also making a mark globally now. Indian teams have featured twice in the global top three in the last five years of Imagine Cup. In 2003, students from the Vivekanand Education Society’s Institute of Technology, Mumbai, won the second prize globally for their solution Sanjeevani aimed at the healthcare industry.

However, India lacks the ecosystem that exists in countries like US and Israel to nurture innovators. ‘More VC firms must provide seed capital for the good innovators. Some educational institutions such as IITs, IIMs are having the incubation fund for the prospective entrepreneurs.

India will have to go miles and miles to make its presence felt among the developed nations. And the idea of innovations must spread in all sectors of activities of services, manufacturing as well as agriculture.

Ideas come fast and fade off faster, so what’s needed is a place where these innovations can be nurtured and allowed to grow. India needs to set up incubation centres across the country.

CII, big IT companies, banks and even MNCs such as Microsoft are also taking the initiative and providing the incentives and other opportunities to the young innovators.

Remember, all the four groups mentioned in the story are from institutions other than IITs. It gives a hope that India can reach a respectable position in the field of innovations that cam make it compete and win.

It will be interesting to mention a recent survey about innovation- friendliness of India. An Economist Intelligence Unit survey finds that though India’s environment is slightly more conducive for innovation than China’s, over the next five years, the latter may not only narrow this gap, but also surpass India on overall outcomes by spending far more on R&D. The gap is huge: $6 billion last year in India against $136 billion in China.

Can India maintain its lead even with lesser spending in R&D, as the spending does not have a direct relation with the quality of innovations?

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