View from India: Movers & Shakers of the Year

As 2018 is coming to a close, it’s time for reflection. It’s time to acknowledge personalities who have made a difference. Strategic planning and the ability to think ahead have won them laurels. Their disruptive innovations have addressed real-life solutions. With that, comes gender-friendly workplaces that have enriched the tech landscape.

Come, join me on this journey.

Google Doodle for Sir MV

Google honoured Engineering legend Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya (Sir MV) with its special 'Doodle' on September 15 to mark the 157th birth anniversary of Sir MV. This reiterates the fact that Sir MV remains relevant and his contribution to society continues to benefit people.

Considering water management is always a concern, Sir MV is responsible for the construction of dams across India, which continues to benefit lakhs of farmers. The most noteworthy being the Krishnarajasagara dam or KRS or Brindavan gardens. With a capacity to irrigate 120,000 acres of land, KRS has transformed the Mandya district of Karnataka into a rice granary, besides providing drinking water to Mysore and Bangalore. His design expertise has translated into automatic barrier water floodgates, which has sustained several reservoirs.

A flood-protection system for Hyderabad and solutions for protecting the port of Vishakhapatnam from sea erosion are among other highlights. In 1904, he was awarded an Honorary Membership from the Institution of Civil Engineers in London and retained the post for an unbroken period of 50 years. A far-sighted statesman, Sir MV was bestowed as Knight Commander, by King George V, during the British Indian Empire.

September 15 is appropriately celebrated as Engineers Day, in honour of Sir MV, erstwhile Diwan (royal advisor to the King) of Mysore. He is a recipient of the Bharat Ratna the highest civilian award of the Republic of India.

Space mission for scientist Lalithambika

After clocking over 100 successful space missions, veteran space scientist V R Lalithambika is preparing for new innings. This time, it’s another space mission but with a difference. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) - the primary space agency of the Indian government - has selected Lalithambika to steward the Gaganyaan Project, India’s first human space flight. Narendra Modi our Prime Minister has set 2022 as the deadline for the ambitious space project, where the Indian Flag will be hosted in space. The space mission has been planned to mark India’s 75th year of Independence in 2022. This will certainly be a historic moment in Indian space history.

ISF awardees raise bar for science research

Infosys Science Foundation (ISF) celebrated its 10-year milestone and announced the winners of the Infosys Prize 2018 in six categories: Engineering and Computer Sciences, Humanities, Life Sciences, Mathematical Sciences, Physical Sciences and Social Sciences.

Among all, the most noticeable winners are the two scientists from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc). The Infosys Prize 2018 for Engineering and Computer Science has been awarded to Navakanta Bhat, Professor, Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore and Chairperson, Centre for Nano Science and Engineering. The prize recognises Prof Bhat’s efforts to build a state-of-the-art infrastructure for research and talent training in nanoscale systems and for developing technologies for space and national security applications. Prof. Bhat has devised gas sensors with ultra-precise detection accuracies necessary for space and environmental monitoring - especially useful for India’s growing space, atomic energy and security programs.

SK Satheesh, Professor, Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, and director, Divecha Centre for Climate Change, is another award winner. He’s recognised for his pioneering scientific work in the field of climate change. His studies black carbon aerosols, the dark, light absorbing, microscopic particles in the air which greatly influence the energy balance of the atmosphere over the Indian subcontinent. His work has enabled a better understanding of the role of these particles on climate change, precipitation and human health in the Indian subcontinent.

ISF believes that this year’s winners will continue to raise the bar for science and research over the next decade. Hopefully, these awardees will inspire the next generation to take up careers in science and research.

Women create nautical history

Nautical milestones are an historic hallmark of 2018. We reported that six women officers of the Indian Navy have been honoured for circumnavigating the globe on INSVTarini or the Indian Navy Sailing Vessel Tarini. An endeavour of the Indian Navy, this all-women crew is part of the Navika Sagar Parikrama to promote ocean sailing activities, as well as to reinforce GoI’s efforts towards women’s empowerment. Equal opportunities for women officers in the armed forces were also announced this Independence Day. Women officers of the Short Service Commission in the Indian Armed Forces would now be eligible for permanent commission through a transparent selection process.

Science for social impact

At 23, Roopam Sharma has made headlines as he won the World Health Summit Startup Award, 2018. His award-winning creation Manovue is described as the world’s first intelligent personal assisting system for the visually impaired. Its USP is that it integrates vision intelligence for the visually impaired to read, meaning that the customarily used Braille language can be set aside. Manovue is a device worn as glove. A camera attached to the index finger of the glove captures the text images. It helps in navigation even in unfamiliar surroundings. Individuals move their fingers over printed text as they read along. Furthermore, the glove is connected to a mobile app that facilitates users with audio directions.

The innovator is an engineering alumnus of Manav Rachna University in Faridabad, Haryana. The President of India honoured him with the National Youth Award earlier in the year. Even before this, Sharma was the youngest person ever to be recognised as one of the top innovators under 35 by the MIT Tech Review for the year 2016. The researcher was also awarded the Gifted Citizen Prize – something akin to the Nobel Prize of Social Innovation in 2016.

Women entrepreneurs get digital verification 

In an effort to provide economic empowerment for women, CRISIL has launched WE-Check in association with NITI Aayog (a policy think tank of the Government of India). A free digital verification and assessment service dedicated to women entrepreneurs, the value-added service is available to women entrepreneurs who register on the Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP). Incidentally, CRISIL was the first mainstream rating agency to roll out grading on microfinance institutions (MFIs) and has assigned more than 100 MFI gradings in over a decade in this domain. Typically, over 90 per cent of the clientele served by MFIs are women borrowers.

In addition, CRISIL has assessed over 125,000 micro small and medium enterprises (MSME) since 2005, many of which are led by women entrepreneurs.

Xerox makes it to list of top 100 best companies for women in India

Agreeably, the workplace requires a balanced mix of men and women professionals to achieve outcome-based results and the environment needs to be work-friendly and conducive for women. Xerox India understands this pre-requisite. The company has set a new benchmark for diversity and inclusion in corporate India. As per a press release, the company has been recognised as one of the top 100 Best Companies for Women in India (BCWI) by AVTAR and Working Mother. Currently in its third year, the BCWI study highlights initiatives undertaken by companies to increase women’s workforce participation.

Organised by India’s workplace inclusion expert, AVTAR, along with Working Mother, a gender-parity champion in the United States – the survey focused on practices, programmes and policies organisations enforce to ensure gender inclusion at the workplace.

Xerox India’s key differentiators include culture and management accountability. It has provided a safe working environment for women including the strong compliances around anti sexual harassment policies.

In addition, the key highlight was the work Xerox India engages in through ‘The Women Alliance Asia Pacific Chapter’. This is a catalyst to advance the personal and professional development of women at Xerox, enabling them to attain their goals.

Let’s hope more such companies come forward with similar non-discriminatory initiatives.

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