Bhumi Sharma cannot stop smiling. Daughter of a cab driver, Bhumi led the team of five girls from Government Girls Polytechnic, Ahmedabad who received a special prize in the recently concluded Gujarat Industrial Hackathon 2019.
As part of the Student Start-up and Innovation Policy (SSIP) to support student-led start-ups and innovations as well as create an Innovation and Pre-incubation Ecosystem Support, the government had organised two hackathons — Smart Gujarat for New India Hackathon 2017 and Gujarat Industrial Hackathon 2019.
Breaking the glass ceiling
Bhumi and her team from the polytechnic college were competing against teams from engineering institutes where 95 per cent were boys, mostly final-year students.
Making their place among the 19 winning teams of nearly 100 students out of a total of 171 teams of over 950 students, the five-member all-women team was awarded for its Customer Relationship Management System (CRMS), a web portal that had come up with solutions for problems like declining customers, complaint management, low manpower, service centre management for a Rajkot-based private automobile diesel engine manufacturing company.
“We were the first team ever from our institute to participate in such an event. Moreover, we were from a polytechnic college while others were from engineering colleges. And then being awarded the special prize certainly made both our institute and us proud,” said Bhumi, who after completing her polytechnic three-year diploma course, secured a seat in Engineering in Information Technology at the LD Engineering College, Ahmedabad.
The girls developed a web portal to manage the Rajkot company’s interaction with its customers on a single platform. It requires special mention because most of the customers of the company are truck drivers who are not technically sound. So, the girls had to design it in a way which would be easy to use.
Besides Bhumi, other team members are Ravina Sardar, Sakshi Guraniya, Riddhi Dalwadi and Muskan Rawat. Of them, Muskan is the youngest who is pursuing her final year of polytechnic.
“We realised that customer relationship is mostly ignored even by most of the big enterprises. However, it is a very important component as most of the sellers believe their job ends once a product is sold. Our system satisfies all the criteria right from the product registration to customers complaints and even the service centre details,” said Bhumi who had topped the state in her branch.
Bhumi, whose family is originally from Rajasthan, will be the first woman engineer in her family. Despite the financial constraints, she said that the men in her family pushed her really hard to work towards her dreams.
“My father had a paan (betel leaves) shop before he started running online cab service. Our financial condition was not very good. Moreover, the social set-up of our family is such where girls are discouraged to go to college or university. But both my brother and father supported me the most,” she said. Her elder brother recently completed his engineering, while her younger sister is in Class X.
The prize money of Rs 20,000 awarded to them by the state government was shared equally among the five girls, four of whom are pursuing their engineering course.
The youngest of them, Muskan said that while initially she would feel shy in front of her seniors, soon the project on which they worked for nearly six months helped them develop a bond.
“We became very good friends. After the hackathon got over and we got admission in different colleges, we parted with heavy hearts,” said Riddhi.
Of the five, Bhumi and Ravina also participated in a 50-hour-long national hackathon held in Bengaluru recently from July 16-18 where they were one of the 71 finalist teams. They developed a solution for a problem in disaster management system.
The Gujarat Industrial Hackathon 2019 that concluded in June this year after going through several rounds covering a span of six months was the second attempt of the state government in the last three years. Students came up with real-life solutions ranging from safety issues in vehicles, automatic irrigation system, minimisation of transportation cost of raw milk for dairy plants, driving licence-controlled smart vehicles, finding easy space for two-wheelers in a parking lot for industries ranging from corporate, large, medium, small sector and Public Sector Undertakings (PSU) of which Adani Power Limited, Hero Motor corporation, state irrigation department, Dudhdhara Dairy, Paschim Gujarat Vij Company Limited (PGVCL) are a few to name.
Solution for farmers
With no experience or background in agriculture, a team of eight students, including two women from Silver Oak College of Engineering and Technology, Ahmedabad, developed “Agro Expert”, a problem shared by Junagadh Agricultural University.
Among the 33 winners of Smart Gujarat for New India Hackathon 2017-18, this is one of the three said to be in the final stages of implementation.
The team won the first prize of Rs 50,000 in the agriculture category and second prize in the overall category for which a prize money of Rs 30,000 was awarded to them by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani in May 2018.
“Since almost all the farmers these days carry a smartphone but lack technology know-how, we developed two applications — one for the farmers and the other for agri experts as per the requirement of Junagadh Agricultural University. The multilingual app helps farmers to ask queries either through text, audio, video or photos or all. The expert on the other end will get notification on his phone and the person can share the solution in real time,” said Parshwa Shah (21), a computer engineer who recently took up a job at a private company in Ahmedabad after completing his degree.
Post hackathon, the team of eight also gave a 15-day training in July 2018 to the farmer community and experts at Junagadh Agricultural University.
“It was a challenge for us to develop an app for farmers since we had never interacted with any till we started working on the project. It was very essential to understand what kind of issues they face in order to come up with an app for them,” said Mohit Vyas, another team member.
For this, under the guidance of their faculty mentor Kapil Shukla, they started visiting farms around Ahmedabad and interacting with the farmers.
“This helped us understand that not all farmers can share their problems by texting but can take pictures and upload. Then there are also those who cannot do either of these, so, for them we developed the facility of recording their problem in audio mode,” said Parshwa.
The team is now waiting for the app to go live as they have been assured that it will be launched during a state government programme soon.
Tackling road accidents
A team of seven final-year Computer Engineering students from A D Patel Institute of Technology, Karamsad were faced with a challenge where they had to develop a solution that prevents unauthorised access to vehicles by persons without licence.
They developed a driving licence-controlled smart vehicle which the team tested on an old Maruti 800 car and won the first prize at the Gujarat Industrial Hackathon 2019 in the Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) category. They were also awarded Rs 50,000. It is also being filed for a patent after the hackathon. With the technical and financial support of Gujarat Technological University (GTU), the team is also in the process of exploring a commercial implementation.
“We chose this problem because we realised that we have failed to come up with a solution to stop road accidents. After working on the problem for two months, this three-level authentication system has been developed where a four wheeler will only ignite if the person on the driver’s seat holds a valid driving licence,” said Jay Patel, the team leader.
Using the micro chip in a driver’s licence, the license holder details are verified from the databse of the Regional Transport Office (RTO) and only after the authentication the vehicle starts.
“All this takes barely 10 seconds depending on the network. But with more funding it can be upgraded,” said Jahnvi Rathod, one of the seven team members.
Fighting water wastage during irrigation
Awarded the first prize in the Gujarat Industrial Hackathon 2019 under the ‘large scale industries category’, the team of five third-year engineering students from Vishwakarma Government Engineering College, Gandhinagar and a first-year student of Government Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar developed a solution sought by the Irrigation Department, Machchu -2 irrigation scheme, Morbi. With a hands-on experience from one of the team members, Chahil Patel (19), the youngest of them all-who hails from a farmer family in Mehsana, the team said they felt ‘at home’.
“We have been into farming since generations. Therefore I am aware of the irrigation issues the community usually faces. So, when we came across a list of problems, I suggested we work upon this one,” Chahil said.
“Our (farmers’) problem is that we follow the flood method for irrigation in our farms where we start the water pump from one end and channelise it at the farthest end. So, many times this flood system results in washing away of soil thus losing the soil nutrients,” he added. In order to solve this issue, the team developed an automatic irrigation system which will possibly reduce such wastages and help in better utilisation of resources. The solution developed results in saving of water, better utilisation of resources, reduction in run-off of water and nutrients, reduction in evaporation losses. The system uses the basic switching mechanism of motor using sensors by sensing moisture present in the soil.
“What is different in our solution is that in the wake of common problem of network connectivity in rural farmlands, the system uses radio frequency. Also, with the irregularity in water supply where at times farmers had to reach their farms even at midnight, in this case, the farmers are sent an alert on their phone when the water supply is released,” said Raj Gandhi, the team leader.
Smart parking system
With the burgeoning number of vehicles in cities, finding your vehicle in a parking lot is a common problem, especially for two-wheelers, said Jay Patel, student of third-year Computer Science Engineering at Sal Engineering And Technical Institute, Ahmedabad. The team, with Jay and six other students from Sal Engineering And Technical Institute, Ahmedabad bagged the first position under the ‘small industry’ category at Gujarat Industrial Hackathon 2019 for developing a system where one can spot his parked vehicle even at night.
“This smart parking system does not require manual handling. Under the software developed, everyone who will enter a parking lot will be automatically provided a slip that will have the designated parking space already numbered. Even if he does not park at the designated space, it will be automatically updated,” said Kishan Vyas, one of the team members.
Post the hackathon, the team has been offered a grant of Rs 2 lakh under the state government’s scheme of handholding for young innovators to motivate them in commercial implementation of their innovation.
“With that financial support, soon this software is going to be implemented on our college campus where it will be tested live. This will also help us upgrade the software, if needed,” added Raj.
State government’s role, support
Under the Gujarat government’s start-up initiative, college students who have solved some of the real-life problems of industries like Adani, municipal corporations, milk co-operatives, Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) and Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) are now motivated with mentorship and financial assistance to start their own start-ups than look for jobs.
“The process of collecting proposals to be submitted to the incubators is going on. Once this is done, an exhibition of each prototype will be exhibited in front of the Chief Minister,” said Dharmendra D Mandaliya, faculty member at the Department of Chemical Engineering, Vishwakarma Government Engineering College, Ahmedabad. He is the nodal officer for the entire project.
While only the state government departments participated in the first hackathon where 17 departments had submitted over 200 problems, in the second hackathon concluded in June 2019, 175 problems were selected from 141 industries put under five different categories — corporate, large, medium, small and PSU.
Thus, giving students an exposure of real industry challenges from both public and private sector, the second edition embarked outside the state government departments.
On the financial assistance under the SSIP, Dharmendra D Mandaliya said with an yearly allocation of Rs 20 crore every year, so far
Rs 40 crore has been allotted to 130 grant-in-aid institutes under different Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs). “The performance-based release of funds to student through institutes is done after obtaining the quarterly completion certificate, both physical as well as financial outcome certificates. In addition to the annual Rs 20 crore allocation, the Budget target for five years is Rs 200 crore. Out of this, while Rs 100 crore will be the state government’s share, the remaining 50 per cent is expected under various centrally-sponsored schemes,” Mandaliya added. “Out of Rs 40 crore alloted under SSIP, the government has disbursed Rs 11.02 crore to the students,” principal secretary, education, Anju Sharma said.
The third edition
The state government has already initiated the process for the third edition — Smart Gujarat for New India Hackathon 2019-20. While in the first two editions, college and university students participated, the third edition will be open for school students as well.
“Since hackathon is a powerful tool to bring students to work on real-life problems. The process of developing solutions requires an in-depth practical understanding of the problem itself. Hence it makes education more relevant,” said the principal secretary. School students from Class IX to XII will get an opportunity to participate in this year’s edition for which the last date of submission of problem statements is August 15. The state government is expecting 450 problems for the first regional round which is scheduled in last week of January 2020 and the grand finale after a month.