If you look carefully at the blue fish in the water below, you can discern INDIA written faintly on the body. Well it is not a fish but India’s first indigenous designed Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV). I have a story about it for you.

I first met Ammar in Delhi after he reached me through the India Brand Equity Foundation. I travelled to the Delhi College of Engineering campus and met the larger team of 8 students.  You should have been there with me to see the kick ass energy this team has. They have gone ahead and built a 4th generation AUV that has been the only Indian participant at the prestigious annual competition hosted by the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Centre, San Diego.

They have not won yet. They lost to the Israelis and the Americans. One reason – the US team has the support of an entire fab for the circuitry right inside the university. The DCE team was building it themselves on a circuit board using a solder.

The kind of applications for such a thing is amazing. It can travel 2km on its own. Can identify objects. Follow a path intelligently. And all onboard, right from the power to the brain. Applications range from security to fish patterns. In any other country, they would have received funding, or would have been kidnapped by the armed forces months ago. In our case, this team is struggling to raise a fund of just Rs. 20 lakhs to buy equipment.

They footed my bill at the College Canteen! So I got them over to meet a couple of international angel investors who were speechless after the meeting about how they were able to see something like this without an NDA. It would be very difficult for the team to raise professional funding as the IP is university controlled. The Dean of Research, Dr. R.K. Sinha is wonderful and has got the Institute to be more outward looking but for those benefits to reach innovators within will still take years after the IITs first get their act in place!

So what happens in the meanwhile? Ammar and his eight muskeeteers will graduate in a year and get picked up by some software company. VCs will continue funding social community startups. Angels will never get to know.

I wonder how we could change it. We have adopted the AUV DCE team as our mascot. I am speaking to every friend, every one I know to get these guys 20 lakhs over one year. If any of you can help, and it is not only money that they need but equipment in kind and mentors, please get in touch with Ammar and the team at auv@dce.edu/9873999040 or me at sanjukt.saha@onebillionminds.com.

At One Billion Minds, we are trying to see if team like this need not go a begging.

Sanjukt K. Saha

Sanjukt is the Founder/CEO of One Billion Minds. Previously he headed the Indian business of Patton Electronics, a global telecom equipment manufacturing company. A Mechanical Engineer from the Indian Institute of Technology, he received a general management MBA from the European School of Management and Technology, Berlin where he was awarded an Axel Springer scholarship and elected Class President. He previously attended an advanced executive program offered by INSEAD & McGill. When not minding his own business, especially over weekends, Sanjukt enjoys mentoring early stage ventures. He can be reached at: sanjukt.saha@onebillionminds.com

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