Here are a bunch of things happening in India that have been brought to my attention lately.
In the corporate and entertainment categories:
Gojiyo: A site created by Godrej, one of India’s largest consumer goods companies, that claims to be ‘the world’s first browser-based integrated virtual experience’ – basically an independent Second Life site for Godrej. I have issues with virtual worlds because I really don’t think they are particularly useful – and I’m wondering how exactly this would be useful to a Godrej consumer. I wonder why brands insist on building sites just to tick the ‘digital’ and ‘social’ boxes.
Educost: A tool from Aviva Insurance that helps parents calculate the lifetime costs of educating their child. Ticks the ‘useful’ box, but I don’t like the fact that they require you to mandatorily enter your name and mobile phone number. Data capture makes no sense if you turn people away before they can even experience what you’re trying to offer them.
Mirchiplex: A movie rating and review service for Indian films that is currently in closed beta. Readers of my blog will be granted access if they click through to the site from over here, and then proceed to log in via Facebook Connect.
In the more exciting democracy and innovation arenas:
Fight Terror: A community effort to crowdsource information about terrorism in India.Soumya Dev, who started the site, hopes to kickstart a community of citizen journalists who can highlight the need for peace. It is similar to Vote Report India, which Gaurav Mishra co-founded during India’s elections last year, and both are examples of how the internet is changing India, a fact Bruce Sterling highlighted during his talk at SXSW 2010.
IIM Ahmedabad’s iAccelerator programme: This is easily one of the more exciting things I’ve seen come out of India recently. An initiative of the Centre of Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship at IIM-A, one of India’s top business schools (if not THE top), the iAccelerator programme is an incubator for mobile and tech start-ups in India. Anyone from across the country with an intelligent entrepreneurial idea can apply for funding. The focus is on start-ups in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad, but anyone is welcome to apply because they provide living and working space in these cities if required. After a 10-day induction programme at the institute, entrepreneurs get 3 months to develop their idea into a business, and also get help sourcing customers and investors. The programme also has a number of mentors from relevant industries. I particularly like what Karam Lakshman, the Program Manager, had to say about what makes iAccelerator interesting: “The best thing I can say is that we’ve got zero in the way of red-tape even though we’re technically a government organization. That and we read every single application that comes in.”
The deadline for this year’s applications to iAccelerator is April 10th.
One Billion Minds: This is another site that encourages innovation and social entrepreneurship. It aims to connect students from the top universities of the country with companies and charities looking for out-of-the-box solutions to problems in business, technology and social innovation. These range from finding a way to build a house in under $1000 and developing a teaching aid for children for $1 to developing a technology idea that can change the way people live in rural India. It works in a simple way: clients submit a challenge and the site’s members submit innovator pitches. The community views, discusses and rates them, and the best ones are invited to submit a more detailed response.
For a long time, I’ve thought that there really isn’t a site that allows India’s brightest young minds to work towards the development of the country in a simple manner like this. What I’d like to see is One Billion Minds going to the top universities of the country to tell students about the opportunities provided by the site, and plenty of submissions.
I can tell you one thing: Bruce Sterling was right. There’s a lot changing on the subcontinent.