Today we toured a couple of locations in Mumbai. Our bus took us first to RIIDL a technology business incubator. Located on the Somaiya Vidyavihar University campus, the centre was started as an offshoot of the engineering school. We were introduced to the centre by founder Gaurang Shetty who discussed how the centre evolved out of a desire by students to do more impactful and meaningful projects.
I could really appreciate Gaurang’s effort to create this kind of change, and I think it’s one of the most impressive things about RIIDL. Creating an environment where more real world and authentic tasks are the focus changes the engagement that students feel with their studies. We were introduced to a couple of projects including Square Off, a robotic chess board which definitely has a bit of a wow factor when you see the pieces float across the board.
Visiting from MIT was Suryateja Sharma and he discussed his work on bringing biotech equipment to the masses. One of his recent successes was working to reduce a $3000 diagnostic tool to make it available for $10. It was incredible to hear his passion and ethos to bring this technology to the masses.
After the speakers and demonstrations were done we explored a few of the student projects underway. As we exited the the building there was a bit of a throng in the courtyard below. One of the benefits of a university campus are those impromptu social happenings, and a tug-of-war competition had begun. We watched a couple of rounds and then somehow the Bootcamp Team ended up having a couple of rounds. It was a bit of fun and the crowd were good sports.
After having lunch in the student cafeteria we hopped on the bus and headed to SINE – the Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at IIT Bombay. We were introduced to the program there and also a number of the startups in residence. The spread was quite interesting from waste management through to an electric wheelchair built for India’s rural road system. One of the programs that had been started at SINE that I thought had real importance was an advice service. Quite often I’m startup world there’s a lack of actionable advice. Plenty of people will give you there opinion but there’s rarely anything you can do with that. What you need is some clarity over what to do in order to address problems or shortcomings. Something worthwhile adopting in the Australian context.
I was really impressed by what we’d seen at both locations but also to hear about the efforts by governments and institutions to engage with innovation and entrepreneurship. With such a young population India seems to be keen on developing new opportunities rather than relying on their existing industries.