As I travel back to my alma mater, Indian Institute of Technology Banaras Hindu University (IIT-BHU), I have been thinking of how much the world has changed in the 26 years since I graduated.

During my student days, the ultimate dream was to either go to the US for further studies, pursue an MBA with a leading institute in India, or find a job as soon as you graduate. Today, we are seeing a new breed of students. They want to create something new and build their own billion-dollar company, rather than work for one. At the same time, they are equally passionate about building solutions to solve real world problems, rather than purely focus on profits and capital creation.

While many of my classmates have had great careers, I can’t recall even one person who had these kind of aspirations and dreams when we passed out of college way back in the early 90’s.

The company I work for, Cisco, was founded by two aspiring research assistants in Stanford University a few years before I joined college. Its focus on innovation has seen it become one of the biggest brands in the world in a space of just three decades.

The question I have been grappling with for some time now is how do we foster a similar culture of innovation in our part of the world, and in the process help our most creative young minds? It is this vision of empowering students, that has shaped our Cisco thingQbator program. The program is designed to help students think through real world problems and incubate their design thinking and creative skills to turn their ideas into something real and meaningful.

I am delighted to share that we have test piloted this concept in over five universities and pleaded to get this initiative kick-started in my alma mater. I am humbled and privileged to inaugurate this program and appreciate Cisco’s CSR commitment to support this program.

The first cohort of the thingQbator at IITBHU is underway and I found that the way the participating students are using their makerspace to be quite insightful on grounds up innovation. I met a team which is building a smart dust bin which not only measures fill levels to alert collection agencies but also geo tagged to help users locate them and a rewards mechanism for usage. Another team is building a health connect application which helps patients connect with specialists and caregivers and yet another is building a drone that can create a pollution map of the entire city. In many ways, by connecting their intimate knowledge of the city’s problems with technology at the thingQbator makerspace these young citizens are defining what ‘Smart’ Varanasi means for them.

As I was socialising this program with my classmates, everyone felt it is a good initiative. However, one of my friends asked a tough question: “Would you have gone to the lab and done this program when you were studying with all your competing priorities?”

That got me thinking about the value proposition of this program from students’ standpoint. Is it interesting enough for them? I strongly believe that there will be eager and hungry students who will join the program and see it through. Even if the program can play a small role in helping them become more entrepreneurial, it will have been well worth the investment.

We are living in a world of boundless opportunities for young people who are ready to push the envelope and try out bold and new things. Our role is to create an environment that encourages and facilitates them. With thingQbator, we hope to do just that and be the Bridge to Possible!


Originally Posted at: https://apjc.thecisconetwork.com/site/content/lang/en/id/10038