Mi primera experiencia: IIITD part of the First meeting of the Joint Committee on Science and Technology Peru-India

Thanks to the Government of India for approaching IIITD to be part of a four member delegation from India to attend the “First meeting of the Joint Committee on Science and Technology Peru-India” in Lima. It was a 3 day meeting from April 7 – 9, 2014. This was my first trip to Peru and first experience in being part of such a delegation from the Government of India, so, I had a lot of excitement, curiosity and anxiety about the trip. With all my travel hassles (ask me, if you are interested in knowing more about it!), I reached Lima on 6th late evening. The Indian Embassy in Lima extended great hospitality; they took care of us very well, throughout our stay. Four members of the delegation were: Dr. Arabinda Mitra, Head, International Bilateral Cooperation, Department of Science and Technology (DST), Co-Chair for the meeting; Dr. Jagdesh Chander, Advisor, International Bilateral Cooperation, DST, Member Secretary for the meeting; Dr. Vipin Kumar, Director, National Innovation Foundation, Ahmedabad; and myself. This blog is intended only to capture the formal / official part of the visit.

The meeting started bang at 0900hrs on 7th morning in the Lima Business Tower; I felt a lot of enthusiasm from their side in learning from India, sharing their experience with us and finding ways to collaborate. National Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (CONCYTEC), the counterpart for DST, was the host for the meeting and for all activities. We had the President (Co-Chair for the meeting) and the Director for International relationship sharing the dais with Dr. Mitra and Dr. Chander. After the initial welcome remarks, CONCYTEC team and other experts from the Peruvian side presented their topics of priority for collaboration with India, the modes through which the collaboration can be achieved, their national plan for science and technology. It was wonderful to be sitting in a room of 15+ people, all dressed formally (see the pic below, which may surprise you! You can see more pictures here), and listening to very senior officials talking Science and Technology at the country level. After the first session, we had presentations from the Indian delegation; from the presentations made by Dr. Mitra, Dr. Chander, and Dr. Vipin, I learned a lot about Science and Technology work at the national level. I also got a chance to present about “Cybersecurity in India”, it was a different and a learning experience – there was an interpreter / translator sitting in a transparent / enclosed cubicle at the end of the room translating and repeating everything in Spanish. Participants were listening to the Spanish content transmitted by the interpreter using the headphones. I have been part of meetings / conferences where I have used this facility at the receiving end, but this the first time where what I am saying was being translated into another language, and others were listening to it 🙂 During the meetings, the team (including India and Peru members) agreed on the common topics of interest and next steps to follow.

As part of the delegation, I also visited National Institute for Research and Training in Telecommunications (INICTEL); this was literally a royal (figuratively) experience. A couple of faculty had attended the meetings in Lima Business Tower; they were hosting me in the institute, including the Director of the institute. They were really organized and meticulous. They had very good promotional videos of the institute, and a deck of slides that they presented to showcase their work. Here again, there was an interpreter (not the headphone type) who repeated all the content spoken in the room in English for me. The hospitality of the entire team in the institute was amazing (see the pic below. You can see more pictures here); the Director of the institute spent the entire time with me during my visit, showcasing all the labs, products, and faculty. Everybody in the institute showed a lot of expectations from India, I felt very welcoming and needed, both individually and at the national level. I stayed there for about 2 hours and it was very informative.

One of the goals for this meeting / delegation was also to sign a Protocol of Co-operation in Science & Technology for 2014 – 2016 between India and Peru. This was planned in the Ambassador’s house; the current Ambassador is Shri. Manpreet Vohra. About 18+ people were invited for signing event followed by dinner; invitees represented different Ministries in Peru, COCNYTEC, and a few other institutes (including, Ministry of Foreign Affairs). Press release for the signing event was prepared during the day and it was sent out as a Joint Press Release. It went online on the Indian Embassy in Peru in less than few hours after the Protocol was signed. Picture below shows the signing event. This is my first experience being part of such a bilateral event; it was so overwhelming to be standing next to a large Indian Flag and being around such high profile individuals of both the country. There was a celebration after the signing process; we were served delicious Indian food. I was eating some proper vegetarian food for the first time after leaving Delhi on April 6th 🙂 Pictures from the signing event also went on the FB page of the Indian Embassy very soon. Overall, it was a learning, and different experience.

I have tried to capture all the important, interesting, and touchy moments of this visit to Peru. Please visit here for more pics from the visit.

P.S. During this trip, I also read Varun Agarwal’s “How I Braved Anu Aunty & Co-Founded A Million Dollar Company” Stay tuned on this!

Student start-up culture brewing at IIITD! Elated to be involved in some.

It is close to 5 years (in July 2014) since I moved to IIIT Delhi; many of you would have seen me refer to IIITD as a startup, which is gaining momentum as we move forward. The thing I want to highlight through this blog is the new dimension to this gaining momentum – student start-up culture at IIITD. You have seen me blog about “The Art of The Start” by Guy Kawasaki, talk about issues / challenges / fun related to start-ups. I will also co-organize Innovate Delhi Entrepreneurship Academy in collaboration with Stanford Business School in June 2014. My growing interest in technology-based start-ups is quite evident from all of these. There are many attempts in IIITD, but, I am going to highlight the three very exciting student start-ups / attempts that I am part of. If you have any suggestions / feedback, etc., please feel free to send it my way. For now, I am interested in seeing as many sincere attempts as possible, and I am keen on playing the Faculty Advisor role in such cool attempts. Below are the 3 ideas (arranged in no particular order):

Backpack is a gamified learning management system. It is amazing to see how Apoorv Narang and his team have taken the idea about building a system that will improve or enhance learning and student engagements. This idea is a fall out from the course Designing Human Centered Systems (4 credits, taught in Fall 2012) that Apoorv took with me. Apoorv is doing Backpack for 16 credits of BTP 🙂 but, the work that he has put in is far beyond this! During one of my conversations with Apoorv, he said that “I am not thinking of Backpack as a BTP, and that is why I think, it has grown or come-up the way it is.” I am always amazed with students and their unique perspectives and there is so much to learn from them. Currently, Backpack also has Apoorv Singh, and Jayasi Mehar spending  time on it with Gitanshu Sardana developing the Android app for it. There is a Windows Phone app in the works too. During the process of making it big, Prof. Vinayak Naik also got excited about it and he is also spending his valuable time in helping Backpack go beyond IIITD. In Fall 2013, there were 21 courses fully managed on Backpack, and there are 33 courses fully being managed during this Spring 2014 semester. We have about 832 unique users (students, faculty, and some alums), out of which more than half of the users login to the service every day. Apoorv says, “My day is made when I see students in campus having 10+ tabs open in a browser, one IIITD mail, one Facebook and one Backpack.” The Backpack phone Android App has 215 active users with 270 total installs from Play Store. Number of users logging into the system is very much dependent on the activities in the course; on average, we have seen 600 unique users logging into the system every week. Some media / blog coverage: 1776.com

Find A Way: An NGO with the focus on helping other NGOs through technology. This is the first registered Student-Led NGO of IIITD. Students  involved in this NGO are light-hearted, want to see the world around them change a bit in terms of improving the life of challenged (both in terms of physical and monetary) citizens. The main focus is on how technology can help NGOs in the country, in whatever means that they would like to be helped. Some ideas being explored are: creating an infrastructure / framework by which all of them (NGOs) can have a website (and helping them build it too); technology / infrastructure to crowd source funds for activities of NGOs; etc. There are many cool ideas that we are pursuing. To start spreading the word about FAW, we created Find  A Way Card which helps the card bearers to get  discounts in some restaurants in Delhi / NCR; the main intent for this project was to spread the word about our existence. FAW has raised REAL money which was given to help education of 4 students at Child and Women Care Society (CWCS) for a year. The spark in the eyes of FAWers evidently shows that these activities are giving them great pleasure and satisfaction. The traction that FAW has gotten among various stakeholders is amazing; external people interested in helping, students interested in being part of it, etc. Our hope is to make FAW a national name in terms of helping NGOs through technology. There are other interesting projects that FAWers are involved in, stay tuned for more details! Lead students from IIITD (arranged in alphabetical order of last name): Anisha Agrawal, Megha Arora, Kashish Chawla, Anchita Goel, Shashank Gautam, Ananya Harsh, Gurshabad Singh Grover, Rohan Katyal, Apoorv Narang (Yes, it is the same Apoorv Narang from Backpack!), Varnika Singh, Aakriti Tayal. Students from other institutes are also involved in this venture, Gunjan Dewan (JMC), Akash Mishra (Jaypee), Archit Srivastava (NIT). Some media / news coverage: IIITD Homepage News, University Express.

Wizters Most of us are on Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc., the idea that Apoorv Saini had, was to have a social network that is anonymous where users can share anything with people involved in their daily life, nearby areas and their friends. Apoorv has been working on Wizters for the past 2 years. We recently sold the idea to a company and received REAL money. Apoorv is one of the dedicated students of IIITD community, and probably lives Wizters, in the real sense. Wizters is also a BTP by Apoorv.  In total, we have 1856 unique users on Wizters and 330 Universities have their networks here. Wizters was accessed about 12,000 times in the last one year. Other student who has helped Wizters in the past is Utkarsha Bhardwaj. Some media / news coverage: NextBigWhat, StartupFreak, TheTechPanda.

Aren’t these something worth being proud of as a Faculty Advisor? All students who are involved in the above ventures are extremely dedicated, and sincere towards what they are doing. I am extremely thankful and fortunate to have such students work with me and students interested in conquering their Start-up thoughts reaching out to me for inputs / advise.