Every year I go on an annual pilgrimage. My place of worship is the Indian Institute of Technology at Banaras Hindu University (IIT-BHU), my alma matter. This year was special as it marked 2 years of the CiscoThingQbator experiment featuring 5 colleges across India, and an e-summit hosted by my alma mater, IIT BHU. The yearly Kashi Yatra weekend trip not only helps me relax and unwind and helps us find meaning about greater good.

One of the biggest sources of inspiration has been the Cisco thingQbator. The name “thingQbator” is a combination of ‘Internet of Things’ and ‘Incubator’. ThingQbator was started as an internal incubator of IoT ideas coming from Cisco’s engineer community. With the central belief that none of us is smarter than all of us, the aim was to create makerspaces where technology enthusiasts could learn more about digital technologies in a hands-on environment and turn their ideas into working prototypes.

Inspired by the success of our internal makerspaces, we partnered with five universities in India to set up similar incubators in their campuses to help students build digital skills through learning-by-doing. This program is funded by Cisco India CSR initiative. The key objective was to democratize innovation by building spaces and communities in colleges to foster innovation. Most of all, we wanted to challenge young minds to find local solutions to local problems and instill an entrepreneurial spirit amongst students to help steer more of them to think like job creators as opposed to job seekers. The program also facilitates how the most promising ideas/startups can be linked to markets/launchpads to scale their concepts and ideas to the next level

My trip back this year had me beaming with pride as the program has touched over a 1000 students across five colleges Just watching the energy, clarity of thought and communication from the different students as such a young age was such an amazing experience.. The Cisco ThingQbator  has touched over 1000 students across five institutes. The success in my Alma mater has prompted the university to offer us an additional floor to accommodate the growing demand from students. We run this program in close conjunction with the Nasscom Foundation.

To me, though, the biggest achievement is that this has not only created a culture obsessed with innovation, but also one where entrepreneurship is becoming the norm. Students are launching successful companies while in school or college – offering solutions that are addressing local problems and are turning these into successful businesses. One of the participants Kshitij is a Grade 11 student in Kendriya Vidyalaya whose project was featured in National news.

This year we also were pleased to see the Inaugural version of the Entrepreneurial cell (E-Cell) IIT BHU  hosting their event of Startup pitches in the CiscoThingQbator facility. Really enjoyed watching emerging startup pitch their different ideas to the venture capitalists, Alumni and faculty. The personal touch, warmth and energy of the students is so infectious, this coupled with the hospitality of the Director – Dr Pramod Kumar Jain and the faculty made this a memorable experience

Pleased to see the extensive participation of accomplished alumni & Silicon Valley legends like BV Jagadeesh leaning into create this culture of innovation. BV makes his annual trip to Varanasi to conduct this popular 5 day Entrepreneurial course for students. This course help students think through their ideas and turn them into actual products and businesses. It is this form selfless devotion embodied by BV that inspires the next generation to achieve their true potential.

At Cisco, we have always been a big believer in giving back and developing a culture of innovation. I am proud to be part of an initiative that helps make a difference in the world, one step at a time. Look forward too many more amazing innovations from our students & alumni in next year of this program!


As we say at Cisco, there’s a bridge between every real life problem
and its solution– Cisco thingQbator!