Gaurang Shetty is the Chief Innovation Catalyst &CEO, RiiDL (research Innovation Incubation Design Laboratory) at Somaiya Vidyavihar campus in Mumbai. RiiDL is the Innovation centre and the Technology Business Incubator (TBI) of the Somaiya campus (38000 students and 1800 faculty). Curriculum magazine reached out to him in view of RiiDL being one of the 16 facilities which have been given a grant of Rs 5 Cr by the government of Maharashtra to further innovation. RiiDL, set up in 2010 is also a recipient of DST grant.
Please give us a sense of what will change at RiiDL with the Rs 5 cr grant that Maharashtra government has announced for your foundation along with 15 others?
RiiDL will expand the incubation activities with the new grant at Somaiya Ayurvihar campus in Sion Mumbai. The campus which consists of a Medical college & a Hospital, Physiotherapy college, an Engineering and information Technology college, etc. will help students from the campus and nearby colleges to use our incubation facilities.
RiiDL will also drive the project based learning activity which creates a pipeline to our incubation program.
What is this project based learning?
It is an experiential learning program that helps students acquire necessary skill-set by working on tangible projects that provide a practical application for what they’re learning. In fact, it is one of the flagship programs conducted by RiiDL to foster the spirit of innovation on campus.
The student work in teams towards realizing solutions to problems or just exploring the world of technology and teams are lead by experts from RiiDL, as well as mentored by researchers, professors and entrepreneurs from the RiiDL network. In the past, we have had projects like AI based garbage collector, Sketcher (selected for MakerFaire Rome) as well as projects that graduated into acclaimed startups like SquareOff.
Who is this program for?
This program is open to students across various institutes and backgrounds. In case, you have a project idea of your own (including Final Year Projects/Thesis/Research etc), PBL offers you a platform to grow and provides you with the right mentorship and resources to take your project to the next level.
We understand that a lot of students are overwhelmed with the number of options available out there. To help such students, we have curated a list of projects and challenges students can work on.
RiiDL was set up in 2010, can you tell us in last eight years or so, what are some of its milestones or achievements?
Our startup INDRA, jointly incubated with SINE IIT B won the leading Startup 2018 award at Digital Disrupt – The New Normal by All India Management Association &; Bombay Management Association. Product: Water Reuse, Treatment and Purification system.
Our startup Sterifast won the Dental Innovation of the Year, by Indian Dental Divas.Product: Novel Sterilization device for small Dental Instruments.
RiiDL’s project ecomappers won the Best Research project & Process Innovation Award by Reserve Bank of India Governor, Dr.RaghuramRajan, 2014.
RiiDL received an acknowledgement from DDB Mudra Group for creating the first Interactive Staircase. Our startup Infivention’s product Squareoff got more than 30 million + views on social media platforms. The won the Coolest Technology Awards from Digital Trends at CES Consumer Electronics Show, Las Vegas. Also, they successfully delivered products to customers from more than 30+ countries after their crowdfunding activity.
Offee – Offline Education & amp; Entertainment: They won the Maharashtra Startup Week 2018. Product: A content sharing device with custom software for edu& entertainment sector.
Lot of technical educational institutions/universities in the country are setting up incubation centres, from your own experience, what do you think, are such centres a necessity of 21st century? Or conversely an answer to India’s youth employment issue.
Young startup founders are not that experienced. Their businesses demand a certain depth of expertise in areas like technology, marketing and creating value proposition. Here, incubators can assist them in their initial phase of development by providing these various services. In India, it is estimated that there are about 200 startup incubators of which, about 50% are set up in non-metro cities—outside NCR, Bengaluru and Mumbai. According to the industry body Nasscom, there is a 40% year-on-year growth in the number of incubators.
What are some of the precautions and tips that you would recommend to an institution situated in a non-industrial tier 2 or tier 3 location?
Start by building a community and create good mentor network who can help startup founders and then start building projects and showcase it at various exhibitions across the country.
Coming back to Somaiya Vidyavihar, you are an alum of it and now working with its students. In the first place, what prompted you to come back in such a role?
Our trustee, Shri Samir Somaiya gave us the inspiration and guidance to start this initiative. We identified that almost 100+ projects were done in final year in only one college but none of these projects were going out in the market. This was common with most of the colleges across India. We wanted to change this and we started by creating projects which people needed.
If you have to explain in nutshell the contribution of Somaiya Vidyavihar group to youth empowerment, what would you say?
Somaiya Vidyavihar has created an innovation & research ecosystem, which will enhance the intellectual, psychological and social development of India by 2025
With automation, AI and robotics filling the air with both excitement of new job roles and fear of job loss, in your assessment, what is going to happen in this transformation? How should the student community brace the change?
Move fast, learn things (how to make almost anything course @fab academy @RiiDL, how to grow anything @RiiDL ) DIY tutorials on instructables and youtube, etc.
Be a part of active communities (peer to peer learning) eg: facebook developer community, Racing teams, Robotics teams, etc.
Your personal journey has been interesting and adventurous, where do we see you in next five years and also the future plans of the works you are associated with?
We are working to help grassroot innovators and startup founders with exceptional ideas. I want to reach out to at least a half million youngsters and help them accelerate their ideas!!