How Nashik Kumbh mela is leading to tech innovation..

Going back to as early a history as possible. Interesting article in BS on how the Nashik Kumbh mela is leading to tech innovations. It has actually leading to formation of certain startups:

Thanks to initiatives taken by a few like Professor Ramesh Raskar, who heads the camera culture research group and MIT Media Lab in Boston, the quiet city along the river Godavari has for the first time institutionalisedwith the so-called ‘Kumbhathon’, which kickstarted in January last year. The basic objective was to address the various problems faced during the festival, which spans several months, with the use of technology. The initiative included crowd management, patient monitoring, controlling epidemic, and sanitation, besides many other things.

The idea to leverage Kumbh for encouraging local innovation took shape at a time when Raskar was on a private visit to his hometown for Diwali in 2013. While brainstorming with a few friends on what they could do for the city, Sachin Pachorkar, a management professor at a local college, proposed leveraging Kumbh Mela for bringing a culture of innovation to Nashik. The discussion was carried forward and by January they were ready with the first innovation camp, with the help of Raskar, who also brought in some innovators from MIT Lab for support.

“We, together with Dr Raskar, realised cities could not get smarter… citizens could (get smarter) and then make the cities smarter,” says Ashwin Kandoi, co-founder & director of Winjit, a Nashik-based IT services company.

They received around 850 applications from different engineering colleges in and around the area which came up with some 1,000 proposals to solve various challenges. After careful scrutiny, around 200 innovators were selected for the first innovation camp conducted in January 21-24 last year.

Since then, they have organised five camps, or Kumbhathons; and about 10 of the ideas that came up are being implemented during this year’s Kumbh Mela. Many of the ideas that germinated during the Kumbhathons have now given birth to a number of start-ups in the holy city.

For example, one of the ideas that took shape was on controlling with the use of technology the spread of epidemics that are a usual problem at events where huge congregations are involved. The solution proposed by one of the participating teams was to develop epidemic tracker Epimetrics, an app that helps store patients’ data on a central server. The data could then be analysed by experts to see if an epidemic was about to spread, and take necessary steps, such as stocking of medicines and informing hospitals in that area. The authorities could also know where the patients were coming from and the sources of their diseases.

Similarly, the local innovators have developed Meditracker, a fast aid and emergency health care app aiming to supplement emergency rescue operations. When one taps on the emergency button in the app, the nearest ambulance and medical crew find the person on the basis of his or her geographical location.

“The idea is that these should not stop after Kumbh; the innovation culture has to continue. Of the 200 ideas that generated during the Kumbhathons, 10 were taken to the next level on the basis of ease of implementing. These have actually become start-ups,” adds Kandoi, whose company is rendering all tactical support, including providing office space out of his campus, to Kumbhathon volunteers.

Superb stuff.

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