Why 19th February is my new Valentines day ?

Today, 19th February is a very special day for me, my valentine’s day!! Why? Because I got what I really love to do on this day. I love computers, programming, and technology. Exactly 9 years ago, I joined my first IT job at Cognizant as a Programmer analyst trainee (PAT) in their Technocampus at salt lake Sector V, Kolkata, India. I completed all necessary formalities, got free lunch coupons, got to visit the whole campus and finally opened my salary account with HDFC bank. I was on cloud nine. Till today, I can’t forget the enthusiasm and energy of that day.

When I fast forward the time 9 years to today, I am feeling a similar kind of love today for data, IoT, and the higher education sector; though, this time, the reason is not a new job but something very different and exciting. Today, we (I and my team) have installed the first IoT device as part of our product offering in IIITB campus. The device will track real-time student movement in specific parts of the campus like the library and give its analysis report to the management on an on-demand basis or timely basis. By next week, we will install one more device in a specific classroom. The devices will solve 2 purposes. One, it will give the management a brief idea about effective utilization and two, it will help us in understanding a student in a much better way.

Now, I want to take you 2 years back in time and the relevance of these 2 years in our journey. February 2014 was the time when I started on charting out a new path for myself which would be challenging, which would provide satisfaction and which would have a positive impact on society. I started meeting a different kind of people. 95% of them asked me why I wanted to do it, why it was world’s worst idea and why I shouldn’t do it. I started getting frustrated and lose faith in myself. But as someone has rightly said it, ‘When god proposes, no one disposes’. I met some really wonderful people on my journey and we started walking together since then. My co-founder Venkatesh, a guy who completed his B.E. in electrical engineering in the year 1990 when I was 6years old! He could have been easily a corporate VP or CXO but he chose challenge over monotony with a focus on the positive impact on society. That’s why we both are still together despite numerous fights and extreme lows throughout our journey. Two more guys joined after that. One of them is an MBA from University of Ottawa with an option of a nice job. But he chose to come back and fight when he didn’t need to, with single point focus on impact. The fourth guy is someone whose elder brother has a profitable start-up in Edu-tech, he has all options to join that and not fight. But like all of us, he also chose wilfully to fight a new unknown battle. We all 4 are now a rock solid team where unity and diversity coexists. The things that bind us together are uncompromising ethics, a can-do attitude, and the fighting spirit. We may not have the best possible things in the world but we now know how to make best possible use of anything.

On 02 March 2015, we joined our acceleration program called IMACX (IoT to Mobility Applications for Community Excellence) at IIITB. Our start-up at that time was creating video based marketplace for education. The technology we were working was complex and we struggled to find right brains to work with us. Also, we didn’t have that much domain knowledge at that time. So, we started digging deep and figured out the most fundamental problems. The problem is the gap between demand and supply. Let me explain.

According to NASSCOM, 85% of our graduates are unemployable because they don’t have right skill-sets what the industry wants. Why they don’t have those skill-sets because our colleges don’t teach them? Why our colleges don’t teach the latest because they don’t know what is latest and how they can teach that? Another important thing is about ensuring quality. Our age old exam system for providing a certificate doesn’t hold valid in the highly dynamic scenario of recent times. Currently, anyone can learn anything from Coursera for free or by spending less money than a formal course with freedom to choose the course they wish. It is a completely new way of looking at old things which are for good.

We can safely assume that there is a complete disconnect between what a student wants, what an institute can provide and what industry expects. One of the ways to solve it is to create a place where all three can meet, discuss and define things on the fly and as needed so that we can make education more relevant, need based and goal oriented. Maybe the day is not far when there will be HEAS (Higher Education As Service).

Welcome to Epecate (currently in early beta), the future leader of HEAS (hopefully)!!