industrial shodhyatra by engineering students -2011


Industrial shodhyatra: Mapping the creative technological minds

Thousands of students in arts, commerce, science and technology must be planning an engagement with their dreams in the summer of 2011. I hope that I can persuade some of them to take a week or two out if not months to understand the creative spirit in the rural and urban informal sector as well as among the MSME. Some of the industrial clusters have invited students for summer industrial shodhyatra. Technical universities in Gujarat, Punjab and Rajasthan have taken lot of interest in joining hands with, a SRISTI, Honey bee network and GIAN initiative to bring students, faculty and micro and small industries as well as informal enterprises closer. Let me share my expectations about what we can accomplish during the shodhyatras. Shodhyatra is a serious effort to embark upon internal and external journeys. We know the date of beginning and ending of any external journey. But do we know these dates of the inner journey? The journey within is no less important. Each traveler or seeker of authentic knowledge has to determine oneself what questions to ask and how deep to go to seek their answers. The parameters of authenticity in any life journey cannot be different, whether for urban or rural areas. It would not be prudent to trivialize such a quest or a journey.Let us assume that 500 students in groups of 50 each or less want to embark upon a shodhyatra in 10 different clusters. These could be clusters of small scale manufacturers, fabricators, weavers, leather workers, chemical formulators or garment manufacturers. Depending upon each location, the nature and distribution of clusters will vary. A small group ought to contact the units or entrepreneurs in advance and seek their consent for visiting them in group to learn from them and their workers. Homework should be done to know national and international benchmarks whether with respect to energy use or waste production or efficiency or innovations in respective sector or sub-sectors. On the appointed day, students can begin the journey with a humble spirit, deep curiosity and a strong desire to listen and observe. They can go on bicycles or on foot as they prefer. The idea is not to just go from one unit to another but also observe the things on the way. Naturally, the waste disposal in the manner that it is, is bound to attract their attention. They might collect samples of some of the items to take back to their colleges to do research on what can be done with these materials. Industrial ecologists define waste as a material of which a use has not yet been found. Naturally, for the sake of environment and the interest of future generation, finding new innovative uses of waste will obviously help even the current generation. In each unit, students may seek the knowledge about current level of productivity, per unit energy intensity, waste production per lot, any innovation in design of machines, manufacturing process or even layout, the problems being faced, and anything else which entrepreneur wishes to share. Sometimes, a practice of one unit might appear to be innovative for another unit. With the permission of the provider, whether the interesting practice can be shared with others, students can become honeybees and start doing cross-pollination. Problems indentified during the journey can become the subject of the project by the students. They can also do the patent review on those problems and send the copy of the patents to the entrepreneurs for learning. The expired patents have enormous advantage as an open access information pool. Some preliminary review students can do even before embarking on the journey. There are thus four precise outcomes one expects from each journey: [a] the current variation in energy use efficiency among various units, [b] the innovations that have been tried some of which entrepreneurs may share as open source and some may qualify for patent protection, [c] a pool of precise problems waiting to be solved by the students under the guidance of faculty in their final year or various course projects and [d] the policy and institutional bottlenecks being faced by the entrepreneurs as well as the mechanics, farmers, artisans, etc. The energy use efficiency will include opportunities in waste management as well, because waste is nothing but energy not utilized.If hundreds of thousands of students every summer go out into the hinterland, industrial clusters and villages, there is no way the mindset which promotes inertia, mediocrity and inefficiency can survive in India. The time to connect has come. Creativity, collaboration and compassion will follow


Visiting Faculty, IIM Ahmedabad & IIT Bombay and an independent thinker, activist for the cause of creative communities and individuals at grassroots, tech institutions and any other walk of life committed to make this world a more creative, compassionate and collaborative place