“Let’s do something about it!” There’s no waiting around for someone else to fix things for these guys, they’re taking matters in their own hands — from skiing to raise money for the leprosy-afflicted to rewriting an unbiased history of India and Pakistan; recycling tyres and pushing solar energy to solutions for the hearing impaired and making earthquake relief count. Motherland picks out a bunch of promising superheroes from across the country, determined to light up the world we live in.
Varun Satyam has big plans — he’s on to something that, he feels, could potentially alter how education is approached in the country. Indians have been stereotyped internationally for being diligent and hardworking, but that often masks the ingrained flaws our education system — an indispensable part of any functioning society, more so in the developing world — suffers from. The 21-year-old from Kochi, in his final year of engineering, thinks that Punrut could be the answer.
He had always wanted to contribute to the education sector, having identified its impracticality and the many shortcomings in the way it works. “The education sector is very detached from the real world. What we learn is not directly applied to the market.” Punrut is a ‘knowledge network’, one that bridges the gap between faculty and students. “It will be instrumental in connecting a person in any location to anyone across the world,” he says. “For instance, if a student fancies a mentor in a prestigious institute in a different country, they could connect through this platform,” he says, adding, “the idea is to digitise the whole education base. While most educational institutions are short on resources, infrastructure, and skilled teachers, Punrut will turn the whole system into one big database where a skilled and sought-after mentor can be accessed by students from across the world.”
He’s developed Punrut in association with the Kochi Startup Village, which has provided the required infrastructure. The product is already 60% ready, and should be rolled out by the first week of March, starting in India before expanding globally. However, we should rewind just a bit.
Punrut in reverse spells Turn Up, which is the name of the venture that Varun founded, which originally began as a service for design of websites as well as mobile and web applications. “When I started TurnUp 10 months ago,” says Varun, “we were dealing with only services in terms of designing websites and mobile or web applications. Even though TurnUp initially started as an initiative to build products that could be helpful to society, I had very little idea about the industry — my view was limited because of my ongoing course.” It was a place to start, a place to gain valuable experience; and, eventually, Varun, searching for a solution to the problems with the education sector, began work on Punrut, along with five of his team members at Turn Up.
Besides connecting faculty and students, Punrut will also help students to better assess themselves. “Students begin realising their career paths only when they sit down to prepare their resumes. There is no real focus on gaging skills and qualities. This platform will include important elements such as leader boards, where everyone will be able to compete with everyone else on the basis of their profile strength and markings.” These attributes will be evaluated on the basis of personal growth, achieving milestones that each student will set for herself, and the level of student-mentor interaction. “Right now, someone pursuing her career in theatre cannot be compared to someone working with a corporate organisation. But through this platform, we aim to put everyone on the same footing, where the final scoreboard will give out markings on the basis of a fixed matrix.”
Another advantage is that every student’s strengths and weaknesses will be available publicly, enabling the faculty to know exactly what the student lacks and what she can excel at, as opposed to the present scenario where a faculty member is only aware of a handful of students they deal closely with. Further, Varun adds: “If a student has a good profile but is sitting in some remote corner where recruiters cannot reach her, she can be spotted and picked up through the platform.” The jury is out, naturally, until Punrut is available publicly, but any attempts to shake up the system need to be appreciated.