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Pune firms aboard hackathon bandwagon

Hackathons are increasingly a tour de force for Pune firms seeking to not only pre-empt crises, but to find answers that will change the lives of humanity for the better

pune Updated: Sep 19, 2018 17:13 IST
Namita Shibad
Namita Shibad
Hindustan Times, Pune
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In March this year, Persistent organised a Smart India hackathon, in association with 27 ministries of the government of India, that had students from several colleges find solutions for problems outlined by the government. (REUTERS)

Hackathons are in vogue. All the big guns of the industry, and smaller companies as well, have taken the word ‘hack’ and turned it into a problem defining and then, solution engendering festival.

Persistent Systems, IBM, KPIT, Extentia, Smart City, Pune - all have, or are going to have a hackathon.

In March this year, Persistent organised a Smart India hackathon, in association with 27 ministries of the governmentof India, that had students from several colleges find solutions for problems outlined by the government.

Now, they are doing another one in association with IBM – Call For Code - that is a multi-year project. It invites developers to compete to find solutions to a particular challenge pertinent to the world.

Persistent also uses hackathons internally to find solutions for its customers.

Says Anand Deshpande, founder Persistent, “We find such competitions valuable. We like to be seen as a company that values technology and such hackathons give us the opportunity to further technology for the good of people and even internally as a company. It basically helps our employees to think out of the box. We also showcase such solutions to our clients. It’s a good way to explore possibilities that are not visible all the time. We find this very valuable.”

Extentia, a smaller company, uses this tool as a means of growth for employees and business.

Says Umeed Kothavala, CEO, “We have been hosting X24 for 4 years and have seen a spirit of innovation emerge among our employees. It gives them an opportunity to solve real-world problems with the technology we know and have access to. In 24 hours, our teams grow as people, coders, UX and visual designers, and sales people, while our clients have a front row seat to the data, intelligence and experience on display at Extentia.”

The Pune Ideas Factory foundation (Piff), a subsidiary of Pune Smart City, will along with Niti Aayog organise a hackathon on September 29 and 30, to find solutions to the city’s problems in areas such as garbage management, water, citizen’s safety and security, says Manojit Bose, chief knowledge officer, Smart City Pune. “Such crowd sourcing of ideas and solutions, as I would like to call these hackathons, are very useful to us and even Niti Aayog has organised one in Delhi on September 6, where Piff has made a problem statement on urban mobility issues of Pune.”

IBM’s Call For Code was a big money event that took place on August 29.

Says Seema Kumar, country leader, developer ecosystem & startups at IBM, “This is a cause-based contest. The original idea is from the David Clarke Foundation that is supported by the UN Human rights organisation and American Red Cross. Our sponsors are Persistent. We feel a developer is as important in society as a doctor and can do a lot more. This year we have taken the cause of natural disasters to see how coders can find a solution for it. We have cash prizes for this contest held across the globe. The winning entry will get $200,000; second and third prize will be $ 20,000; and fourth and fifth will be $ 0,000. In case these winners wish to take it ahead, IBM will help them access funds and mentoring through our own networks.”

What is a hackathon?

How can making IT professionals sit together for 24 to 72 hours help find solutions for the real world or a corporate body?

Says Dr V Premnath who heads Venture Centre: “In my opinion, I think what such events do is help define the problem. For entrepreneurs that is a big thing. Often they have to spend a lot of energy and time to simply make a problem statement for which they then find solutions. Hackathons are more amenable to the IT and electronics industry where you find a solution in a matter of a day, or three. At Venture Centre this may take weeks as we work more on science-based solutions.”

However, such competitions do have an impact on entrepreneurship. KPIT, that has been organising such contests over the past four years for college students, has this year seen 12 out of 30 contestants become entrepreneurs.

First Published: Sep 08, 2018 15:57 IST