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Creating spaces for new ideas: The in-thing

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Creating spaces within spaces is the new mantra to drive innovation and firms offering experiential platforms to the new generation of thinkers and doers say this not only helps in regular interaction, networking and sharing of ideas but also facilitates an organic connect for cross pollination.

According to Parmesh Shahani, head of experimental ideas space Godrej India Culture Lab, these platforms are trying to find solutions to some of India's most pressing problems by fostering collaboration and creating alternative kinds of education - what the community needs and what it teaches each other.

Godrej India Culture Lab is a collaborative space, whose physical infrastructure is within a company, but it is open to everyone. Jaaga in Bengaluru builds temporary structures on unused land. It exists both in urban Bengaluru as well as on a farm outside Bengaluru.

Then there is Maker's Asylum where they get people to give them space, and then fill it up with equipment, learning and skills where the whole community collaborates. In both cases, it is really is about bringing knowledge and skills and sharing it with each other.

There are learning spaces and conferences like Unbox, which can be both structured and unstructured, that aim to make people grow.

So basically, different stakeholders - companies, individuals and educational institutions - are coming together and creating these hubs for non-traditional knowledge.

"Spaces like Jaaga, Maker's Asylum and events like Unbox attract outliers - people who don't fit into the regular standard paradigm. These could be artists, scientists, hackers, or organic farmers. These alternative people share ideas, collaborate on projects and find alternative solutions and so these spaces are great magnets for bringing together these diverse people," Shahani told PTI.

"Our Godrej India Culture Lab is a similar kind of an alternative space that has really added value to the city, created a new cultural destination in Vikhroli. When we started it was an ambiguous experiment, but we realised that it provides value to both the city and the company that hosts it," he says.

Vaibhav Chhabra, co-founder of Makers Asylum, insists that

the concept of shared spaces is steadily getting stronger and in turn aligns closely with the greater sharing economy.

"Given the current landscape, I think a model of providing spaces is extremely interesting. The Asylum itself was born out of the concept of sharing tools and knowledge, leading to the birth of a collaborative space that brings together interdisciplinary activities covering science, technology, engineering, art and math," he says.

He feels spaces such as these allow for cross pollination of ideas, opening up new and varied opportunities.

"Shared spaces act as catalysts in bringing together interdisciplinary skill sets, resources and by extension activities, which are already changing the business and startup landscape. In the case of Maker's Asylum, by bringing together engineers, designers and artists, we catalyse innovation on a budget."

Avik Kedia, founder and CEO of FinanceBazaar.Com, says the concept of co-working spaces has gained prominence due to boom in startups.

"Business incubators can play an important role in shaping the startup ecosystem. Many prominent business incubators like IITM, Startup Village and CIIE already play a crucial role in filtering and nurturing good ideas that can be scaled," he says.

He terms the government's startup idea as bold but feels that it requires a strategic shift in policy and governance at the grass-roots level, at the state and district level. "

"Another challenge would be sticking to fiscal discipline to actually see these ideas get fully implemented over the course of time," he says.

Shahani is also of the view that the future of India is in creating many more start-ups.

"We are partially an agrarian and partially an industrial economy, but for us to leapfrog into the future and meet the severe challenges that we will have soon, we need to innovate rapidly and across various sections," he says.

The Start-up India movement is adding a lot of impetus to what is already emerging on the ground but an ecosystem can't be started overnight, it takes years for all the components to come together, he says.

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First Published: Sun, January 31 2016. 13:32 IST