MAY 20, 2020
Topic: Challenges and opportunities in the times of COVID-19
In this I-CAN Conversation, we had Mr. Ramanan Ramanathan with us, who is the Mission Director of Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) India. AIM is a flagship initiative set up by NITI Aayog to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the country. The session was facilitated by Ms. Aparna Bhattacharya who is the Director of Ragaaz Studios. The conversation was centred around the challenges that our innovation is suffering and might suffer due to the unannounced outbreak of COVID-19. There were a lot of important facts that were covered by our guests on the importance of start-ups and entrepreneurs in the coming future. He discussed the role that AIM would be playing in this in a detailed manner.
Compiled by Somya Jain
The session started with the introduction of AIM. Mr. Ramanathan proudly stated the number of Atal Tinkering Labs that have been established i.e. 10,000. Praising the presence of 30,000 startups in India, he told the audience about the initiative that AIM has taken. The initiative is taken to come up with the solutions to the challenges and problems that communities are facing due to the virus. He gave some positive remarks about the advantages that our country has for carrying out the required innovations. The advantages he mentioned are:
- Demographic dividend
- Constantly evolving technology
- Fast growing economy
He came onto telling the 5 major initiatives that were taken in the light of establishment of AIM:
- ATAL TINKERING LABS for creating problem solving mindsets in school students so that they become well versed to the application of the learned information and can sort the ways to use available technology in labs to solve problems.
- ATAL INCUBATION CENTRES for fostering world class start ups by making 102 incubators available to solve the problems in various sectors like agritech, biotech, healthcare, affordable housing, e-commerce etc.
- ATAL NEW INDIA CHALLENGES to create product innovations relevant to the country and aligns with the needs of various sectors.
- ATAL COMMUNITY INNOVATION CENTRES to stimulate community centric innovation, mainly in the remote areas of the country including Tier 2 and Tier 3.
- APPLIED RESEARCH INNOVATION FOR SMALL ENTERPRISES (ARISE) for ensuring research and innovation in the MSME industry.
After being asked to elaborate on the major challenges that we as a country are facing, he answered it by dividing into two categories of challenges, immediate challenges and challenges after the crisis. In the former one, he pointed out that the coordination with biotechnology institutes, science and technology institutes Start-Up India, Invest India to sort all preventive, curative and assistive measures for the availability of PPE’s, masks, ventilators etc. There have been more than 1000 solutions registered on the Start-up India Portal from start-up communities in the light of the same concern. The latter one explains the challenges that country will be facing once the situation gets normalised. It focuses mainly on the creation of job opportunities for migrant workers when they come back, employment, entrepreneurship and identification and building of smart cities as well. He quoted that “India is a country with a billion people and a million challenges” and as opportunities lie within challenges, the co-operative efforts are the all that we will be requiring after the lockdown to make everything fall into place. The financial package announced by Hon’ble PM Narendra Modi seems to be providing all sorts of financial help in order to resurrect the badly affected districts. Other challenges that were discussed in the sessions includes:
- Fear of proneness to the virus even after the lockdown gets over
- Digital working mode of working to be replaced by the old ways
- Local employment opportunities for the migrant workers who will come back to find work
For the education sector, our guest assured the steps that the Government is taking for the kids, especially for the financially challenged ones. He said that the Government won’t be able to take all the necessary actions and decisions alone until and unless academic industries, NGO’s, empowered communities, UNDP, World Bank and others come together and pool in their efforts as well. He emphasised over “self-driven learning” through mobile apps and marked it as a great opportunity for Ed-Tech start-ups during this period. During the conversation, he made it pretty clear that the future of India is dependent on the success of start-ups and innovations. These are the times of necessity and it is true the “necessity is the mother of innovation”. Therefore, the effective working of start-ups will contribute in getting us through the times of difficulty both during and after the lockdown. He advised all the start-up communities to start sorting the ways to do more with less i.e. to give greater output with less input and focus on the efficient working. This huge wave of crisis gave great opportunities to work on the innovations that can possess the potential to satisfy the relevant needs. There are a lot of people who are afraid of losing their jobs if technology replaces humans. In response to this, Mr. Ramanathan said that even if technology comes in the human working sector, it will come as an opportunity for them to acquire and develop the skills to carry out their working. Thus, there is a snowball’s chance in hell that people would lose their jobs after the lockdown due to the advent of redefined technology. He talked about the mentorship programme of AIM, Mentor India Campaign in which the national Mentor network will collaborate with public sector, corporates and institutions to support all the initiatives of Atal Innovation Mission (AIM).
He urged the contribution of the individuals and societies that can help in contributing many solutions to various problems and challenges and he appreciated the initiative of I-CAN for the same cause. He highlighted the efforts that the entertainment industry is putting to spread awareness about sanitation, hygiene and other important issues with the help of digital technology and putting it to the best use possible. Reaching towards the end of the session, Ms. Aparna asked our guest to give some piece of advice to the 3 categories of people on how to tackle with the problems caused by the virus:
Key Highlights of the Conversation:
- Introduction of Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) and it’s working.
- 5 major initiatives of AIM.
- Importance of innovation and technology.
- Challenges to be faced in the current scenario and after the lockdown.
- Steps to be taken for the Education sector.
- Creation of job opportunities, especially for migrants.
- Mentor India Campaign
- To bring up solutions for the challenges through new innovations.