Metamorphosis: The Journey from a College Project to a Product

Written By : Akshay Goel

If you tour the almirahs or corners of laboratories in Indian engineering colleges, you’ll see hundreds of projects covered with dust which are a sad testimony to the ideas and efforts put into waste. Why is it that every year a large number of prototypes are conceived but not even a few are able to enter the market as feasible, sustainable and scalable solutions to real-life problems? Where are we failing? Are we not creative enough?

Well, the answer lies in a simple fact, just like a butterfly has to struggle and work hard during it's cocoon stage likewise there is a struggle that one has to go through to convert a project into a prototype and then to a marketable solution. We tried brainstorming as to where can we improve and compiled a few of the major points:

  • The common tendency to build projects, not products.
  • Complacency prevalent in student’s minds to make projects and be over with the assignment/ grading easily or to add a new skill to the resume, not realising that the real skill is acquired through the challenge faced while making something scalable.
  • Some of the projects have the potential of becoming products, but even then, don’t get the necessary push after they have fulfilled their purpose of aiding in high scores or acquiring some recommendations.
  • Murky thought process while making a project, not taking the project’s size, feasibility and application into consideration from the very start.
  • Manufacturing complexities involved in converting a prototype to a product.
  • Lack of knowledge and awareness about the actual problems.
  • Lack of exposure to the industry and the ongoing demands.
  • Inadequate facilities and resources available in colleges to make the journey of a project to the product possible.

I, myself, am a victim of the same thought process. Since college, I have been an enthusiast and I have desired to experiment and create. There are multiple projects I have ventured into, multiple ideas brainstormed to develop projects, but all were motivated with the mindset to gain knowledge, not with the yearning to solve real-life challenges. It is during this journey, till the final year of my college, in search for ideas, that I realised that every idea existed online in the form of some project/hack but nothing existed in the market. This made me think and search for the reason. Even when I was getting an education from a good college I felt that no one cared about making something useful. If I talk about Electronics as a Branch only, we have 200 students in electronics and communication engineering which mean more than 50 BTP projects a year and I am only talking about BTP projects, so If I calculate overall projects in a year it will be around 200 but I never heard, in my four years, that someone did something useful which was finally converted into a product or a startup. As much as I felt bad about the whole situation, I also felt the need to do something about it.

Here are my thoughts on what all can be done, some solutions that might help us change the way we think and we work:

  • Change the perspective. When you are making something, think about its applications, its size and its feasibility. More importantly, deliberate on what if someone tries to sell you the same thing? Will you buy it or not? And then come up with a suitable, rationale argument as to would you spend your energy doing this or would you do something else which is worthwhile?
  • Gaining some skill and adding a new bullet point in your CV should not be the sole motivation for making projects.
  • Colleges should collaborate with industry and provide exposure to the students.
  • Collaboration with industries in all types of projects must be encouraged.
  • Project grading should also take care of whether a particular project can reach the product stage or not.
  • Professors should also encourage the students to take their project to the next level if they think a particular project is capable of becoming a product.

Hope you find this interesting. What we all need to do is think about this and spread more awareness and encourage more people to make efforts so that their ideas see the light of the day rather than lying around uselessly. Will come back soon with some more important facts. Till then, keep up the maker spirit!

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