the3h - Hum Hain Hindustani
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Student exchange projects with India part of new UK education strategy | The New Indian Express, 06 feb 2021
'We Should Build A Political Demand For High Quality Healthcare For All' | IndiaSpend, 06 feb 2021
Public Private Partnerships: The Panacea for Indian Healthcare Sector | The Economic Times, 06 feb 2021
What can torpedo the budget and economy? | The New Indian Express, 06 feb 2021
Amid pandemic tragedy, an opportunity for change? | The Harvard Gazette, 05 feb 2021
Covid lesson for teachers: How teaching-learning methods evolved during pandemic | The Indian Express, 04 feb 2021
The future of Indian agriculture | Down To Earth, 04 feb 2021
Budget 2021: One-person company to propel entrepreneurship, say experts | Business Standard, 02 feb 2021
Like it or not, future of Indian economy will have to be built on services, not manufacturing | The Print, 23 jan 2021
Rethinking Education in India to Merge Reality on the 'Streets' with Formal Schooling | The Wire, 15 jan 2021
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 29 jan 2021
According to the World Bank's most recent statistics - India's rural population is 66% of the total population (2019); 41% of the total employment is involved in agriculture and farming (2020); Agriculture, forestry, and fishing, value added, contribute 16% to India's GDP (2019). Moreover, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (fao.org) says , 'Agriculture, with its allied sectors, is the largest source of livelihoods in India. 70% of its rural households still depend primarily on agriculture for their livelihood, with 82% of farmers being small and marginal.' Considering these statistics it is evident that India is substantially dependant on agrarian economy. The sector is looking for transition from an inefficient, unorganized and archaic one, that pushes farmers to commit suicide, to more modern with incorporation of technology and scientific methodologies, to make it profitable and sustainable to the agricultural community. The recent protest of the farmers at such a large scale has also brought the need of handling any transformation in the sector with caution and is to be carried out in a peaceful and democratic way by taking into confidence those who are affected the most with any policy change. The need for consultation and understanding is the only way to bring the needed evolution of the agricultural sector and make it thrive. Digitization and varied use of technology is a step that pushes agricultural economy towards this goal. NITI Aayog's report on Artificial Intelligence (AI) says that to maintain annual growth rate of 8-10%, agriculture must grow at 4% or higher. Technologies that can be applied include those on the farming side like sensor-assisted soil assessment, automated monitoring of free-ranging animals on pastures, targeted control of agricultural machinery, use of high quality seeds, optimum and measured use of fertilizers and pesticides, modern farming equipment and methods, scientific approach to agriculture etc, and there are technologies that need to be applied post-production, from farm to the market, like digitization in farm product management, supply chain management, logistics, Mandis and retail selling etc. This will lead to better produce with agri-waste reduction and efficiency in cost optimization. The three most essential elements that would lay the foundation of digitization in agriculture would include - Internet of Things (IoT); Nanotechnology; Digital Education. There are two most important technology related concepts in farming - 'Precision Farming' involves creating new production and management techniques that make intensive and efficient use of data regarding a specific location and crop; 'Smart Farming' or 'Farming 4.0' is the application of information and data technologies for optimising complex farming systems. To implement these concepts at a large scale in India's massive agriculture sector comes up with many challenges that need to be overcome - Digital divide; Lack of farmer literacy; Lack of financial resources particularly in case of small and medium farmers; Interruptions in rural power supply. Even though government and private sector knows the potential of digitization and technological transformation, major challenge is to involve farmers in the process by creating proper awareness and showcasing the benefits of technology-enabled agriculture. Government and private sector have already initiated the various projects in this regard like for example Microsoft has developed an 'AI-Sowing App', in collaboration with International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT), that sends advisory to the farmers regarding the optimal date of seed-sowing; NITI Aayog has partnered with IBM to develop a crop yield prediction model backed by AI to provide real-time data and communicate the required advisory to farmers; 'Blue River' project has designed and integrated computer vision with machine learning technology that will help cultivators to reduce the use of fertilisers and herbicides by spraying only where and when needed. Government projects in digitization include - Kisan Suvidha, Pusa Krishi, Farm-o-pedia App, Crop Insurance Android App, Agri-Market, M-Kisan Application, Shetkari Masik Android App etc. Read on...
Digitisation In Agriculture: A Necessity For India
Author: Urvi Shrivastav
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 17 jan 2021
More and more educators and experts are advocating inclusion of design and creativity focused subjects in the mainstream school level curriculum. In a webinar titled, 'Why Design Education is Important for Odisha', educators and policymakers discussed the value of design education in India and specifically for the state of Odisha. Prof. Pradyumna Vyas, Senior Advisor of Design and Innovation at Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and former Director of National Institute of Design (NID) at Ahmedabad, says, 'We are in the fourth industrial revolution. Everything is merging with the other and as such design education can't be thought of in isolation. While the dependence on technology has been rapidly increasing, we have been losing touch on a human level. But the focus has to be on people. It should be remembered that technology is just an enabler, humanising that tech is design. If the pandemic has shown anything, it is that human beings can't be ignored.' Dr. Amar Patnaik, Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha), says, 'There is a need to mainstream design education and for that, it should be started at the school level. A curriculum should be built to incorporate design education as well. Design should be approached holistically and therefore it needs to be taught at the grassroot level and not during adulthood when it needs to be applied.' Prof. G. V. Sreekumar, former Head of the Industrial Design Centre (IDC) at IIT Bombay, says, 'There is a need to merge design with science, technology and art and looked at as a whole...More than a mere design school, the need is to build a design research center.' Prof. Paresh Choudhury, Founder of Odisha Design Council and former Head of National Institute of Design (NID) in Andhra Pradesh (AP), proposed the need to set up a design school in Odisha. Odisha Design Council (ODC) is a social nonprofit enterprise that intends to spread education, research and development and innovation in the field of design. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 22 dec 2020
Access and affordability, along with innovation and sound regulatory mechanism and government policies, are the essential components of developed and modern healthcare system. India has to pursue consolidated strategies to become a better healthcare system and leverage its R&D human resources to become a design hub for medical devices with a focus on global markets. Pavan Choudary, Chairman and Director General of Medical Technology Association of India (MTaI), in conversation with Viveka Roychowdhury, Editor of Express Pharma and Express Healthcare, explains his views on India's healthcare sector, medical devices and medtech industry, COVID-19 pandemic and post-pandemic challenges, government policies, investments in the sector and the way forward. EXCERPTS FROM THE INTERVIEW - (1) ON HEALTHCARE SYSTEM: • 'Value-based healthcare will bring together all modalities of care delivery to create a well-coordinated 'continuum of care'. It is important for government to devise incentive systems to work for patients by encouraging companies and healthcare systems to deliver quality and better outcomes.' • 'India can take learning from countries like Philippines and Turkey who have over the time strengthened their health care infrastructure, but this has been done by making a conscious effort to increase their healthcare spend. At 1.29% of GDP spent on healthcare, India needs to considerably increase its healthcare budget to at least four per cent of the total GDP; by doing so, we will have started our journey towards last mile healthcare delivery.' • 'Telemedicine is another avenue that the government can facilitate to improve access to healthcare. The sheer size of India's 1.3 billion demographic means that the applications for telemedicine are immense. Telemedicine will also enable India to address its poor doctor-patient ratio of 0.85 which means barely one physician per 1000 people as compared to four physicians per 1000 people in Europe. A 2019 report by McKinsey Global Institute, 'Digital India: Technology to Transform a Connected Nation', states that India can save up to US$ 10 billion by 2025 if telemedicine services could replace 30 to 40% of in-person consultations.' (2) ON MEDTECH, MEDICAL DEVICES, INVESTMENTS & COVID-19: • 'Instead of implementing price caps on medtech products, the government should adopt a mechanism to rationalise trade margins which will achieve the objective of reducing high MRPs as well as allow medtech industry to continue bringing the latest technology in healthcare to India, increase affordable access to quality care and support skilling and training of health care workers.' • 'India also reduced custom duties on a few essential medical devices used in the treatment of COVID-19, however for the rest of the products it did not lighten the load of the 5% cess ad valorem imposed in April earlier this year. This, coupled with the INR depreciating by almost 7-8% in March 2020 against the EUR and the USD, meant a very significant hit for the medical technology industry where more than 80% of the products are imported.' • 'To be ATMANIRBHAR (self-reliant) in medtech, we should also be able to design in India medical devices for the world by utilising India's rich talent in R&D. India is the third largest medtech R&D employer of the world, next to only US and Germany.' • 'We must also be cognizant of the financial challenges that the pandemic has brought. There are some other aspects which the government needs to closely evaluate and consider to reassure the industry, these aspects include creating policies which provide a level playing field to all players, agnostic of their country of origin and a stable regulatory climate for the industry. Addressing these will move the make in India needle, steadily forward. The global companies hope to be eventually and once again, the main movers of this needle.' ATMANIRBHAR BHARAT is the Prime Minister's vision to make India a self-reliant nation. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 18 oct 2020
Small women-run farm collectives became a success story of self-sufficiency during COVID-19 lockdown in Tamil Nadu (India). These informal groups have been facilitated by a grassroots nonprofit 'Women's Collective' that encourages poor women, who neither own land nor are able to lease land on their own, to come together and lease land collectively to grow food. In the IndiaSpend article dated 09 sep 2019, author Shreya Raman states, 'In a country (India) where 73.2% of rural women workers are engaged in agriculture, women own only 12.8% of land holdings.' Sheelu Francis, co-founder of Women's Collective, says, 'We began with five collective farms in 2010, with the intention of helping landless single or widowed women achieve food security. With collective farming, we ensure nutrition and food security for landless women at the household level.' There are now 89 collective farms with a total of 695 members spread across Tamil Nadu. Each collective has 5-10 members. Women's Collective is responsible for training and providing agricultural know-how. Farmers utilize organic farm methods and avoid chemical fertilizers. The size of the plot determines the choice of crops the women farmers will grow. Landlord usually gets 1/3 of the harvest as rent while the members distribute the rest among themselves. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 22 jul 2020
A crisis like COVID-19 pandemic brings challenges and causes disruptions that in turn creates new opportunities and invigorates entrepreneurial activity to search for innovative solutions. Startup companies are a normal progression of this entrepreneurial activity. In the context of India, studies have shown that around 90% of startups fail within the first five years because of various reasons including lack of innovation and guidance. Now Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IIT-K) is partnering with Entrepreneurship First (EF) of UK to support and fund entrepreneurial talent and early-stage startups. EF will help to build co-founder teams, offer mentorship, strengthen the business model and provide pre-seed investment to the startups. IIT-K will provide the business incubator facility as the next step to build a network of expert advisors, access to prototyping facilities and grants. Amitabha Bandyopadhyay, faculty head of IIT-K Incubator, says, 'While India has a huge pool of talented tech-enthusiasts, they are not necessarily knowledgeable about setting up and expanding an enterprise. Industry partnerships can help boost the success rate of early-stage startups in India...The post-COVID-19 world will have a different way of life and technology will become an extension of every process, transaction or interaction.' Esha Tiwary, general manager of Entrepreneur First (India), says, 'Most often, successful enterprises are formed during the times of crisis...The concept of investing in individuals before they have a registered company is in its nascent stage in India as well as across the world. To improve India's startup ecosystem, it is crucial to invest in individuals with unique ideas and early-stage startups.' Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 29 jun 2020
In the recent report, 'Free Universities: Putting the Academic Freedom Index Into Action' by Katrin Kinzelbach (Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg - FAU), Robert Quinn (Scholars at Risk Network), Janika Spannagel (Global Public Policy Institute - GPPi) and Ilyas Saliba (GPPi), that introduced Academic Freedom Index (AFi), India has a low score of 0.352 out of the maximum value of 1. India is in the same category [D Status (0.2-0.4)] as Algeria (0.357), Cameroon (0.361), Palestine/Gaza (0.371), Russia (0.364), Saudi Arabia (0.278), Vietnam (0.379) etc. The top category [A Status (0.8–1.0)] include countries like Uruguay (0.971), Portugal (0.971), Latvia (0.964), Germany (0.960), UK (0.934) etc while the bottom category [E Status (0.0-0.2)] include countries like North Korea (0.011), Eritrea (0.015), Bahrain (0.039), Turkey (.097), United Arab Emirates (0.103), Iran (0.116) etc. India is also one of a handful of countries whose AFi dipped by at least 0.1 points in the five years until 2019. The AFi has eight components. Three are based on factual data and the remaining five are 'expert-coded' - they’re based on the 1810 scholars' assessments 'integrated in a Bayesian measurement model'. The components are - (1) Freedom to research and teach (2) Freedom of academic exchange and dissemination (3) Institutional autonomy (4) Campus integrity (5) Freedom of academic and cultural expression (6) Constitutional protection of academic freedom (7) International legal commitment to academic freedom under the the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (8) Existence of universities. Atanu Biswas, a professor at the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI-Kolkata), says that the report's accompanying 'codebook' doesn't have many details about the technique used to 'integrate' the assessments, called 'Bayesian factor analysis'. Madhusudhan Raman, a postdoctoral fellow at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR-Mumbai), also cautioned against over-interpreting conclusions based on one figure. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 13 jun 2020
India's agriculture should scale up to the next level in terms of empowerment to farmers, enhanced supply chain and logistics networks, advanced technological usage, superior quality of produce and global competitiveness. Recent announcement of reforms by the Finance Minister of India, Nirmala Sitaraman, focusing on amendment in the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act, the Essential Commodities Act, and facilitating contract farming through price and quality assurance, has drawn a positive response from Ashok Gulati, former chairman of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, who termed it as 'A 1991 moment for Indian agriculture.' M. R. Subramani, executive editor of SwarajyaMag, explains the present focus and what more is required for India's agriculture to revolutionalize itself and move into an era of overall success. He points out three areas - (1) Food Stocks: Going beyond fulfilling domestic demand; Food Corporation of India (FCI) show that current foodgrain stocks in the country are nearly three times the mandated operational and reserve storage norms; Indian agriculture should look more closely at consumers' interests, export markets and making optimum use of its human resources; Focus on producing healthy foods like diabetic-friendly varieties etc; Encouraging the production of coarse grains such as ragi, maize, bajra and sorghum will help farmers diversify and getter higher returns. (2) Focus on Inputs: Focus has been on the input side of agriculture such as seeds, pesticides and insecticides only and most subsidies are directed here; Efforts should focus on the output side of agriculture such as marketing and meeting consumer needs; Change in farmer's mindset is needed to think beyond just selling their produce only to meet their next crop's input costs and keeping a portion for personal consumption; To keep next generations engaged in farming new methods and processes are to be introduced for increased productivity and profitability. (3) Minimum Support Price (MSP) System: Indian MSP policy is under the scrutiny of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for distorting markets and is supposedly flawed as it does not reward productivity; Incentivise foodgrain production by rewarding farmers producing more per hectare, and this is necessary particularly when the outlook shifts towards meeting the consumer or export market demand, in addition to staying self-sufficient. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 20 apr 2020
Fake news at the time of crisis like the current COVID-19 pandemic is a double whammy that further adds to confusion and creates panic. Propagation of false and misleading information through social media and other tech platforms has multiplied. It not only exploits the emotional vulnerability of common public but also impedes and hinders the efforts to collectively and scientifically fight the pandemic and minimize its socio-ecomic effects. But an evergrowing group of Indian scientists have come together to create 'Indian Scientists' Response to COVID-19 (ISRC)' that is working to fight false information. It is a pan-India voluntary effort with more than 400 scientists across more than twenty scientific and research institutes in the country. It counts among its volunteers astrophysicists, animal behaviourists, computer scientists, mathematicians, engineers, chemists, biologist, doctors, social scientists and others. The purpose of the group includes analysing all available data and support national, state and local governments for evidence-based action, in addition to verifying and communicating information. There are sub-groups working on - mathematical modelling of disease spread and transmission, outreach and communication in simple terms for the public and media, translating basic resources in local languages, developing hardware solutions and apps. Aniket Sule, a science communicator with the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education in Mumbai, says, 'Since science communication is my area of interest, I volunteered to be a part of this effort. In this crisis, everyone has a role and each person can contribute by doing what they know best.' R. Ramanujam, a theoretical computer science professor at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMSc) in Chennai, says, 'While people in the medical and healthcare community are doing their work, we thought, what about others like us, what can we do?' Rahul Siddharthan, a computational biologist at the IMSc, says, 'How an individual gets infected is definitely a biology problem, but what we are looking at is how an infection spreads in society, and we are dealing with large numbers of people. Physicists have a lot of experience in dealing with dynamical systems modelling, differential equations, and computer/data scientists can analyse the data that is available. It has to be an interdisciplinary approach and we need people to be talking and on the same platform.' T. V. Venkateshwaran, senior scientist at Vigyan Prasar, says, 'In a situation like this it's important to do two things, one is communicating to people that they need to be alert, not alarmed...The other thing is falling for wrongly circulated remedies and rumours. We need to counter all the misinformation going around so people feel at ease.' The group is putting together links, videos and articles in Indian languages and also working on translating others. Anindita Bhadra, an animal behaviourist and associate professor at IISER Kolkata, says, 'I am not an expert in virology or epidemiology or modelling, but I am interested in science communication so I thought I should help with that as well as translation. You need people who can transmit all this to the public.' Read on...
World Economic Forum:
How 300 Indian scientists are fighting fake news about COVID-19
Author: Bhavya Dore
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 19 apr 2020
Experts say that technology companies are now more inclined to hire people with background in humanities as they have better understanding of customer needs and have capacity to help design more relevant software. Scott Hartley, author and venture capitalist, in his book 'The Fuzzie and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts', says, 'The best engineers are those who are also deeply versed in and passionate about philosophy, psychology, and ethics. They play music, are refined in culture and have a deep sense of their own values.' Kalika Bali, principal researcher at the Microsoft Research Lab in Bengaluru (India), says, 'As technology becomes more pervasive and human-centric, professionals with expertise in social sciences are needed to understand how it is best used by individuals and societies.' Here are the few of the many examples that highlight this trend globally - Bess Yount of Facebook (communications and sociology); Stewart Butterfield of Slack (philosophy); Jack Ma of Alibaba (english); Brian Chesky of Airbnb (fine arts); Susan Wojcicki of YouTube (history and literature). Sean O'Brien, vice president of education and training at SAS, says, 'Many liberal arts degrees require extensive research and writing. And good writing requires precise expression of thinking. So liberal arts majors often have the most training in how to think and how to communicate their ideas in spoken and written form. Few engineers get that kind of writing experience. In an age of 280 characters, IM and Slack, clear communication skills have atrophied. The technology values speed and compression over precision and completeness. This communications scarcity is a gap that liberal arts graduates are ideally fit for.' Ashok Srivastava, chief data officer of Intuit, emphasises the idea of breaking up a problem into smaller pieces and tracing the history behind the decisions made. He also says, 'I have found that teams that have varied backgrounds function better as they have a better understanding of the customer needs.' Richard Lobo, head of human resources at Infosys, says, 'By building a new hybrid talent pool, which draws on broad-based liberal arts foundations and promotes cognitive diversity, we can leverage the liberal arts and technological know-how required to create complex and advanced technology solutions.' Kaushik Banerjee, business head at staffing firm TeamLease, says, 'An education in liberal arts is broad and diverse, rather than narrow and specialised. Most of the successful UI/UX designers are from creative arts.' An average tech company hires about 20% from liberal arts, and a combination of liberal arts with STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) subjects or an MBA is a huge plus. Kamal Karanth, CEO of staffing company Xpheno, says that between the two ends of software industry (tech end and user's end), there's now a critical layer of non-tech talent and skillsets that operates close to both ends. Read on...
The Times of India:
Why tech companies are hiring people with humanities degrees
Authors: Avik Das, Arpita Misra, Swati Rathor
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 31 mar 2020
India needs to upgrade its education system to build trained human resources and benefit from the demographic dividend. Amit Dasgupta, former Indian diplomat, author, educator and Inaugural India Country Director of UNSW (Sydney, Australia), explains, 'In a world of ageing societies, this demographic dividend can be leveraged to global advantage. But for this to happen, the young population needs to be in tune with the demands that future societies would require. This is fundamentally where Indian education fails as it clings on to an obsolete system of pedagogy with an acute resistance to change.' He says that education is about individual's overall development and Australian education makes it possible for students with diverse career aspirations, to gain deeper knowledge in the sectors of their interest. Moreover, it is not restricted to classroom and relies on broad engagement activities, personality development seminars, and soft-skill workshops. He provides lessons that India can learn from Australia's education system - (1) Need for dynamic faculty: Consult with potential employers, understand their expectations and design courses accordingly. Enhance learning experience through experiential or project-based learning. (2) Globalising education: Include, accept and celebrate diversity. Nurture and value different ideas and perspectives. Welcome students from all walks of life and different backgrounds. (3) Quality education: Avoid exclusivity and broaden intake of students. Have clarity in educational objectives. Institutions shouldn't function like business ventures but they should be knowledge imparters and focus on human development. (4) Robust research culture: Research is crucial part of the teaching and learning process. It provides students with in-depth knowledge on the subject and assists individuals in forming clearer opinions and promotes innovation. Read on...
4 things we can learn from Australia's education system
Author: Amit Dasgupta
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 09 mar 2020
Empowering women and girls in rural India is a necessity that can't be ignored. Initiative taken by Gurdev Kaur Deol of Ludhiana (Punjab, India) is trying to achieve it by a self-help group (SHG). She is marketing their produce through Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) and making them self-reliant with sizeable income. There are other nonprofits that are transforming lives of women and their families by engaging in various ways. Ms. Kaur says, 'Initially, I formed SHGs involving 15 rural women...Later, I made 'Global Self-Help Group FPO' which is now engaged in production, manufacturing, processing and marketing of food processing items such as pickles, squash, honey besides staples. Currently, we have 300 farmers with 50% of them being women.' Deepika Sindhwani, president of NGO Mahila Kalyan Samiti, says, 'These rural women are talented and need guidance. We have formed 350 SHGs...We have imparted them training in phulkari, jute bags and food processing.' National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) is also assisting through SHG Bank Linkage Programme by providing credit, skills and micro entrepreneurship development training. J. P. S. Bindra of NABARD says, 'During the past one decade, we have also started forming Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) to increase farmers' income. A few of our FPOs have successful women farmers.' Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 24 oct 2019
Christopher Charles Benninger, India-based US architect and author of the book 'Letters to a Young Architect', while speaking at a World Habitat Day event in Kochi (Kerala, India) advocates that Indian students should not go to US to study architecture citing higher cost incurred and subsequent settling there, but instead, they should spend 8-9 months travelling across India to see the country's traditional architectural marvels and the materials used for their construction. He suggests that architects should make use of the local climate, materials and labour force. V. Sunil Kumar, founder and MD of Asset Homes, says, 'Among the economically-backward people of India, there is a dearth of 2.5 crore homes while lower income group also lacks 3 crore houses.' Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 08 oct 2019
Agriculture is one of the critical sectors of Indian economy as it employs about 50% of the working population and contributes 15-16% to GDP. Even though government policies are designed to make the sector benficial for those engaged in it, but the media is full of news describing the ailing condition of India's agriculture at the ground. Can entrepreneurs, full of ideas and working zeal, coupled with effectiveness and efficiencies of technology, become harbingers of change and transform the condition of not only the farms and their produce, but also the farmers and all other hard working people employed in the sector. Abhishek Agarwal, co-founder of TechnifyBiz, suggests that agri-tech entrepreneurs can tackle some of the problems of Indian agriculture and help grow the sector. He cites following issues - Depleted ground-water, low-quality seeds and ravaged soil quality due to over-use of chemicals; Lack of market linkage creates a considerable gap in the industry; Inadeguate transporation and storage; Scarcity of credit and high lending rates. He suggests that agri-startups can assist in standardization of agri-market practices through technology, aggregation and organized marketing. According to NASSCOM, sector had secured a funding of US$ 73 million in 2018. The agri-tech industry has been able to raise financing of over US$ 248 million till June 2019. Accenture says that digital agricultural services market is set to touch US$ 4.55 billion by 2020. Mr. Agarwal explains, 'Market linkage, farmer markets in the digital space, superior database management, digital agriculture and micro-financing are gaining in popularity, making the sector conducive to attract funding.' Agri-startups are encompassing both the production and after-harvest side of agriculture. He says, 'The various areas of improvement, like the reduction of input costs, better nutritional value in food crops, better quality seeds that drive crop production and improving soil quality. Using technology to predict weather patterns, irrigation cycles and soil quality are the focus of some startups. This enhances the quality of production...The use of smart technology and superior logistics infrastructure has created a new eco-system of agri-marketing. New-age startups are leveraging technology to tap the retail as well as B2B marketplaces through digital agronomy startups.' Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 22 sep 2019
Project-based work is resulting in the rise of flexi or contractual staff hiring in India, partcularly in the IT-ITeS (Information Technology and IT-enabled Services) industry. According to the Talent Radar 2019 report by Infosys, the top 5 technical skills in demand for digital projects are - analytics, user experience, automation, IT architecture and artificial intelligence. Indian Staffing Federation (ISF) says that IT-ITeS sector tops flexi-staff adoption with around 12 out of every 100 employees being contractual or flexi staff and, this workforces is expected to grow to 720000 by 2021 from 500000 in 2018. Pankaj Khanna, VP of talent acquisition at Mindtree, says, 'The first advantage of flexi hiring is that demand can be fulfilled faster...Secondly, for requirements that are short term, it makes business sense to leverage the subcontracting/flexi hiring models without increasing the headcount.' U. B. Pravin Rao, COO of Infosys, says, 'As enterprises progress in their digital journeys, the winners will be those who utilize multiple hiring sources and reskill workers in a culture of lifelong learning.' According to Broadband India Forum, the IoT and AI-based applications will create over 2.8 million jobs in rural India over the next 8-10 years generating Rs. 60000 crore every year. Rituparna Chakraborty, President of ISF and co-founder of Teamlease, says, 'With emerging technologies such as AI and big data, new skill requirements are in demand. Flexi staffing is a solution to find out the right skills, based on project requirement.' Sivaram S., engagement manager at Zinnov, says, 'The focus on flexi-staffing is to quickly deploy talent for new-age areas such as AI, Machine Learning, and IoT, and drive velocity/agility in transformative engagements. It can be viewed as a means to augment existing digital engineering workforce in an organization, as there are challenges associated with hiring for specific skillsets.' Siddharth Pai, IT consultant and venture capitalist, says, 'The reason for the proliferation of project-based work, as opposed to long-term contracts is the global slowdown that is leading companies to hire for one-off projects so that they can easily let people off when there is no requirement.' According to Nomura Research, subcontractors are typically 15-20% (more) expensive than employees and are a margin headwind going into FY20F. Apurva Prasad, Research Analyst (IT) at HDFC Securities, says, 'Increase in sub-contracting resulted from a combination of surge in demand and staffing challenges on account of tech supply crunch.' Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 05 aug 2019
People with the twin passion of design and development of new products can transform into design entrepreneurs. They are able to control both the design and business processes. Vijayant Bansal, founder of World University of Design (India), explains what it takes to be a design entrepreneur and explores the shifting landscape of design entrepreneurship in India. He says, 'We are in the midst of a design revolution and increasingly design is gaining a lot of focus...But it's not easy starting from ground zero and working yourself towards achieving credibility, recognition and last but not the least, generating demand. This involves having to create a balance between what we want to create with what the customer wants; what is possible technically and how much of a resource pull will it involve.' Contemporary design entrepreneurship includes new product development, restoring crafts, innovating existing products and providing design services based on new & emerging technologies. Explaining the design revolution, he says, 'Designing is undergoing a metamorphosis, aided by new technologies and digital transformation of today. New and disruptive technologies like Artificial intelligence, IoT, Machine learning etc., are the biggest enablers, disrupting traditional processes and systems, enabling out of the box thinking and new ideas, which in turn reshape the entire user experience.' Universities can play an important role in guiding and mentoring students to pursue design entrepreneurship. Industry experts can also play a role in this and enable students to participate in hands-on training. Virtual products have also expanded the scope of design entrepreneurship with designers engaged in designing and developing games and apps. Design entrepreneurship is the new career paradigm. Mr. Bansal suggests, 'Today the scenario has undergone a sea change, with almost every industry, be it apparel, automobiles, film making, animation, product design or gaming, with design playing an intrinsic role in the entire process from an idea to the end product. It's worth the challenge if financial security and stability are not foremost on your mind and you have the patience and inclination to see through the entire process of making the design-centric idea into a successful venture.' Read on...
The Rise of the Contemporary Indian Design Entrepreneur
Author: Vijayant Bansal
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 25 jul 2019
According to the online research by Booking.com, 59% of youth surveyed want to give back to society as part of their travel experience. This is almost double the global average (31% of Gen Z) that want to volunteer while travelling. Report surveyed 21807 respondents of 16 years or above in 29 markets with about 1000 from each country. 71% of Gen Z travellers consider volunteering as enhancement to their trip's authenticity - more interaction with local people and making a difference. Sustainability travel is also on the rise with care for environment at the top of traveller's mind. Ritu Mehrotra, country manager India at Booking.com, says, 'Over 71% of all travellers want to reduce their carbon footprint by limiting the distance travelled. This number increases further among the Gen Z to 76% as they want to use more environmentally-friendly transport, walking or biking, during the holidays.' Read on...
More youth want to volunteer while travelling: Report
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 30 jun 2019
According to 'Annual Status of Education Report (Aser) 2017' by nonprofit Pratham, about 42% of rural youth between the ages of 14 and 18 were employed in January 2018, despite going to school. Among these, 79% were working in agriculture, while at the same time only 1.2% of the youth surveyed wanted to become farmers. India's rural population residing in about 600000 villages has not benefited substantially from economic growth and opportunities are limited, resulting in large migration of youth to urban areas in search for greener pastures. But, they are not well equipped in terms of education and skills, to compete in a challenging urban environment to avail better opportunities and respectable lifestyle. Education, coupled with skill development, is the key to bring them at par with their urban counterparts. Ashweetha Shetty, founder of Bodhi Tree Foundation, is trying to bridge this rural-urban divide by building confidence and self-esteem among young people living in rural areas. Explaining the work of her nonprofit, Ms. Shetty says, 'Our foundation works with rural youth between the ages of 17 and 23. We help them build life skills and enlighten them about opportunities. We achieve all this through intervention at our village centers. We have a residential program for girls, and we also work with district administrations on initiatives, particularly those which concern the children of sanitation workers. Most of the rural youth we help are usually first generation college goers. Bodhi Tree helps them to think about their future. These young kids have many inferiority complexes, and there is an information gap. We are trying to bridge that through our organization.' Regarding the life skills that her organization is trying to build, she says, 'We do self-development, self-awareness workshops, and provide exposure to opportunities - we help the children to discover what they want to do in life and understand their strengths and weaknesses. We enable them to develop themselves through public speaking and other skills. We also conduct workshops on resumé writing to help them achieve their goal.' Differentiating her nonprofit from skill building organizations, she says, 'Bodhi Tree is completely different from skill building organizations. We don't want to build a skill in someone and send the message that it's the only thing they can do. Skill building programs have no progression, no scope for dreaming. I feel it robs opportunities from the children. Children should have access to government jobs, schemes, internships - they should have knowledge and know what to do with it. I think that's the difference between us and skill building initiatives. Maybe our model is not working that well because we are not focused on one skill, but I think this is a conscious choice we have made where we don't tell people about what skills they can inculcate. Rather, we tell them what kind of dreams you should have, we make people realize their potential. For us, the immediate impact is more like standing up for yourself and going to college.' Read on...
Helping India's Rural Youth Unlock Their Potential
Authors: Ankita Mukhopadhyay, Ashweetha Shetty
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 26 jun 2019
Creativity is at the core of art and design. They both are visual and material culmination of varied degrees of human expression. Vibhor Sogani, fusing the lines between design and art, between being a product designer and public installation artist, says, 'At the end of the day, it is all about creativity. People may deem art superior to design but designing is serious business and a very responsible job.' He explains the value of public art for the growth-oriented country like India, 'Since India has so many people and so many public spaces, it is an ideal ground for engaging with them through art. The all-important ingredient of public art is engagement with people.' On balancing creativity and guidelines in commissioned projects, he says, 'We all need a sense of direction. After all, you need to align yourself with something. I think the brief given to me by my client is only a starting point. Thereafter, I am free to follow my vision.' An alumnus of National Institute of Design (Ahmedabad, India) and having worked in the field of industrial design, he is well-versed in the craft of materials as well as technology. He follows both reactive and proactive approaches to pursue his creative work. He suggests that while thinking of an idea is instant, putting it into a tangible shape of art is slow and time consuming. His public art works include Joy in Dubai, Sprouts in New Delhi and Kalpavriksha in Ahmedabad. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 18 mar 2019
According to the recent NASSCOM CEO survey of 100 participants from IT and ITES sector, majority agreed that 2019 will have large digital deals and to gain part of this they consider making investments into products and platforms and intend to co-innovate with start-ups to build digital capabilities as a priority. In 2018, 40 global capability centers were opened in India and the number of digitally skilled workers has increased to 6 lakh. Industry leaders discussed the emergence of India as a preferred hub of new age innovation in the digital era at NASSCOM's Technology and Leadership Forum. Whether it is creation, storage or analytics, data is the big thing along with artifical intelligence or machine learning. Nivruti Rai, Country Head of Intel India, says, 'The two most important technologies which are critical from Intel's perspective are artificial technology and 5G transmission technology.' Sashikumar Sreedharan, Managing Director of Microsoft India, says, 'The fundamentals of technology, like services innovation and supportability in an automatic and self sustainable manner over the full lifecycle are some of the areas where innovation is happening at Microsoft.' Chetan Garga, Managing Director and Country Head of All State Insurance India, says, 'Business is driving innovation but also technology is driving businesses to do things differently, it's a two-way flow.' Innovation is critical and most business leaders agree that meeting the expectations of customers in the real world and understanding their needs is where the convergence lies. India with 1 billion population, large data size along with its complexity can become a test lab for the world. Pankaj Phatarphod, Managing Director & Country Head of Services at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), says, 'If it works in India It can work anywhere...I wish we had more applied research and smarter talent.' Read on...
India emerges as a preferred hub of new-age innovation
Author: Rukmini Rao
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 28 feb 2019
Companies Act of 2014 made India the first country that made CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) mandatory for a section of corporates. The companies were expected to integrate social development programs into their business models and culture. KPMG's 2018-19 report that analyzed the CSR work of 100 companies found that corporates increased their prescribed amount for CSR expenditure from Rs 5779.7 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 7096.9 crore in 2017-18. Moreover, they were actually spending more than what was prescribed (Rs 4708 crore in 2014-15; Rs 7424 crore in 2017-18. But India's most backward districts remain deprived these CSR funds. According to the Ministry of Rural Development, 115 of the 718 districts in India are backward. NITI Aayog suggests that corporates can contribute to the development of these districts. Jharkhand (19 districts, 1% CSR funds received); Bihar (13, 2%); Chhattisgarh (10, 1%); Madhya Pradesh (8, 3%); Odisha (8, 11%). While Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, which account for only 15% of such districts, have received 60% of the CSR money. The most backward districts got only 13% of this year's funds and not more than 25% of the total projects. Companies have found convenient ways to direct their CSR funds and shrug off their social responsibility. In July 2018, 272 companies were served notices by the Registrar of Companies for non-compliance with CSR expenditure. Between July 2016 and March 2017, about 1018 companies were issued notices for non-compliance. KPMG has identified three principal areas of non-compliance - disclosure of direct and overhead expenditure on projects, details of overhead expenses, and keeping these overhead expenses below 5% of total CSR spends. Sujit Kumar Singh, senior program manager at Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), says, 'There is no data to know if companies are undertaking need-based assessment studies, a must since it prioritises the requirements of the impacted communities.' Mr. Singh adds, '...Often, professionals handling CSR are not trained to comprehend societal nuances. In most cases those heading the human resource department handle CSR activities. The need now is a policy which drive companies towards self-regulation, the key to CSR.' According to the reporting guidelines that CSE has prepared, 'Companies should self-regulate and be responsive to the disadvantaged, vulnerable and marginalised sections of society. They should respect and promote human rights, make efforts to protect and restore the environment, and support inclusive growth and equitable development. The guidelines show how to improve accountability and transparency in CSR spending, and make it an integral part of business.' Read on...
Indian firms' CSR spending needs more accountability and transparency
Author: Vikrant Wankhede
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 08 feb 2019
India's 'Development Agenda' as outlined by current government includes development of 100 smart cities, 40 million dwelling units, 20 million affordable homes, better infrastructure facilities through the AMRUT scheme, focus on urban development and transformation, slum rehabilitation, and 'Housing for All' by 2022. It is estimated that to fulfil this agenda there is requirement of 75 million skilled people in real estate and infrastructure. Moreover, according to reports there is need of 4 million core professionals (architects, engineers, planners). Shubika Bilkha, Business Head at The Real Estate Management Institute (REMI), explains the key aspects that architectural graduates and planners should keep in while building their skill set in evolving environment - (1) Be Multifaceted: Take advantage of a number of roles- from design architecture, structural or liaisoning architects, to urban planning, property development, sustainable development, teaching or getting involved with disaster relief/re-building communities. Require skills such as engineering, design, supervisory skills, managing people/teams/vendors/client expectations, an understanding of key building/designing/construction/smart technology, strong communication and persuasion skills to communicate their vision. Have much larger role and bigger scope getting involved from pre-design services, to cost analysis and land-use studies, feasibility reports, environment studies to developing the final construction plans etc. (2) Be Business Minded: Understand key real estate and planning concepts and calculations, municipal and local development regulations, legal limitations, the social and urban infrastructure, fundraising/financing and the evolving policy framework. (3) Be Responsible: Consider social and environmental impact of the recommendations. Understand sustainability and implement it effectively. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 08 jan 2019
According to the 'Global Highly-Cited Researchers 2018 List' by Clarivate Analytics, India has only 10 researchers among the world's 4000 most influential researchers. Even though India has many globally renowned institutions, but it lacks breakthrough research output. Top three countries in the list are - US (2639), UK (546), China (482). Prof. CNR Rao, world renowned chemist from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Sciences and named in the list, says, 'About 15 years ago, China and India were at the same level, but China today contributes to 15-16% of the science output in the world, while we currently contribute only 4%.' Prof. Dinesh Mohan, environmental science academic at JNU and included in the list, says, 'Areas such as climate change, water and energy are areas where research is more relevant nowadays. Where you publish your work is also important for impact.' Dr. Avnish Agarwal, also named in the list, says, 'We need to improve our research ecosystem...There is a lack of focus on quality research in Indian academia. If teachers do not do high-quality research, they will not be updated with new developments.' Others in the list are - Dr. Rajeev Varshney (Agriculture researcher at International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics-ICRISAT); Dr. Ashok Pandey (Researcher at the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research); Dr. Alok Mittal and Dr. Jyoti Mittal (Researchers in environmental science, water treatment, green chemistry and chemical kinetics at the Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology); Dr. Rajnish Kumar (Researcher and professor at IIT Madras's Department of Chemical Engineering); Dr. Sanjeeb Sahoo (Researcher in nanotechnology at the Institute of Life Sciences); Dr. Sakthivel Rathinaswamy (Professor and researcher in Applied and Computational Mathematics at Bharathiar University). Read on...
ONLY 10 AMONG THE WORLD'S TOP 4000 INFLUENTIAL RESEARCHERS ARE INDIAN: REPORT
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 31 dec 2018
In India there are central government run healthcare institutions, public state run institutions and private medical colleges that provide modern healthcare education mainly the four year degree MBBS and after that post-graduate degrees of MS and MD. India also have a number of institutions that provide degrees in other healthcare systems like Ayurveda (BAMS), Unani-Greek (BUMS), Homoeopathy (BHMS), Naturopathy etc. Moreover, there are vocational training institutes that provide skills and courses to develop other medical staff like nurses, health assistants etc. There are also corporate run and other private medical colleges and universities and training institutes. India's healthcare facilities are generally concentrated in urban areas while rural areas are generally served by public hospitals and centers. Private clinics are also present in both rural and urban areas. They are generally run by a single doctor or doctor couple and provide basic healthcare. Diagnostic centers are spread all over due to technological advancements and compact and affordable equipments. Healthcare has major disparities between urban and rural areas when it comes to healthcare access. Healthcare has become one of India's largest sectors - both in terms of revenue and employment. The industry comprises public and private hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, pathology and diagnostics, medical devices industry, clinical trials, outsourcing, telemedicine, medical tourism, health insurance and medical equipment. The public sector constitutes primary health centers, central research centers and hospitals, state-run research institutes and hospitals etc. The private sector provides majority of secondary, tertiary and quaternary care institutions with a major concentration in metros, tier-I and tier-II cities. According to National Family Health Survey-3, the private medical sector remains the primary source of health care for 70% of households in urban areas and 63% of households in rural areas. Rise of technology is creating new business models in the healthcare industry. Healthcare through smart phones and fitness trackers is new trend. Information technology is automating and streamlining various healthcare processes. Big data is creating new ways of improving healthcare delivery. Startups in India are promising to provide best healthcare at affordable cost more effectively. Latest healthcare equipment is not only imported but also manufactured in India. Digital technologies are enhancing every aspect of healthcare. Technology solutions are able to modernise current medical practices, reduce costs, eliminate any duplication of tests as well as streamline processes and update medical records in real time. Modern technology has great potential to increase access of healthcare services in rural communities, especially the ones where there is serious shortage of doctors. India has demonstrated since long a commitment to offer comprehensive healthcare to all citizens. This has been reaffirmed in the 12th Five-year Plan, National Health Assurance Mission, and more recently through Ayushman Bharat Program. However, the challenges remain and this goal has not been achieved as of yet. There are two critical components of successful healthcare systems. One is the financial aspects whereby citizens are protected against any eventuality and don't get into penury due to health spending. Second is the provision and delivery of healthcare services. It is imperative to ensure that healthcare infrastructure is sufficiently equipped to provide effective healthcare when needed by its citizens. Technology, public-private partnerships, access and affordability are the critical component in the future of India's healthcare. Better healthcare with policy, financial and physical framework will bring long-term benefits to the nation. Develop effective mechanisms to improve general health, and disease prevention strategies through campaigns, advocacy etc. To make India's citizens more aware about their health, inculcate better sanitization and cleanliness habits will help to improve overall health of India. Prevention before cure becomes the key for the country with the size and demographic profile like India. Health aware citizens, trained, sensitive and caring medical staff, cutting edge technologies and modern infrastructure, are the golden elements for a healthy future of India. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 27 nov 2018
Corporations are encouraging their employees to volunteer as part of their corporate social responsibility efforts. Experts recently conducted a workshop to discuss different stages of volunteering, scaling up the volunteer programs and how companies can use volunteering for better employee engagement, learning and alignment. Aditya Nagpal, Director and BU Head at Goodera, said, 'Our goal is to use technology and data to simplify volunteering, so more people are able to do good at scale. We feel that employee volunteering lies at the perfect intersection of people, planet and profit.' According to him companies go through five stages of volunteering - (1) Informal volunteering (2) Support and encouragement by launching initiatives (3) Planning initiatives strategically (4) Volunteering becomes essential component (5) Volunteering programs attain brand status. Svetlana Pinto, Country Head Communications & CSR at Novartis India, said, 'There are many advantages of volunteering that we have seen in our journey so far. Interestingly, we have found a lot of enthusiasm in the younger lot that is joining the workforce. Other things being equal, they would look more favourably towards an organization with a soul that helps them give back to the community. Volunteering has also helped in building a greater team spirit.' Ester Martinez, CEO & Editor-in-Chief of People Matters Media, conducted a session on 'Designing volunteering experiences for your workforce: Is your organization volunteering ready?' He addressed four challenges - getting started; sustainability of employees; architecting a good experience; policymaking. To overcome them it is important to have clear communication of values, better engagement of employees and a good reward and recognition program. Read on...
Designing volunteering experiences for your workforce
Author: Sharon Lobo
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 21 oct 2018
According to the report by Prof. Anne Boddington (PVC of Research, Business & Innovation at Kingston School of Art, Kingston University, UK), 'Future of design education in India', India needs to produce 65000 designs annually to satisfy the capacity of indigenous creative industry. The current production is around 5000 per year. Prof. Boddington is working on the development of arts and design education in India and collaborating with Indian Institute of Art and Design (IIAD). She says, 'Design and Art as a field is emerging in India. There is not only a huge opportunity but also a sense of enthusiasm and can-do attitude in Indians for it. But to match-up to the emerging field, there is a need to train teachers first...A design teacher needs to make the student autonomous and increase their level of creativity and understanding.' She recommends that arts and design education should not be limited to creative fields, but should also become part of all fields of learning. She considers critical listening, research, and quality assessment are part of design and art curriculum. According to her, there is a great potential to create interdisciplinary programs where creative skills will be imparted as a part of foundation courses. Read on...
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