Jay Panjiyar has formed a team of highly motivated individuals who want to work towards developing artificial intelligence and data science technology in Nepal. Their main focus is to work on projects that can have a positive impact on peoples’ lives. They are still in the third year of their Bachelor’s but have found time to participate in several tech competitions and create prototypes for all of their concepts. From autonomous drones to cashless stores, they work on each idea dedicatedly until it is complete. Jay believes that we shouldn’t get starstruck and try to imitate billionaires like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, but instead try and follow our respective paths and be objective about the reality of our situations without making hasty decisions. Continue reading to find out about his opinions on entrepreneurship, social impact and what the future plans of the team are.
1. Could you give us a general introduction of your organization and your idea?
We don’t have a registered company yet, but we do participate in a lot of competitions to test the quality of our ideas and work. Right now we have four prototypes for different ideas. We haven’t registered yet because we are still in our third-year college and we want to test our ideas and observe the feedback we receive. Once we’re done with our degrees, we want to have more experience that lets us identify the perfect time to launch a certain product. After that we will register and move forward.
2. What was the product you presented at the Smart Urban Tech Challenge?
At the SUTC we presented a prototype we developed for smart attendance. Right now most of governmental institution has an attendance system, like a thumb print or something similar. Our software works with a facial recognition system to simplify the process. Once people are registered their attendance is tracked so if they forget to clock-in or something the cameras in the compound will automatically have a record of it. It will be a centralized system connected to a central server that no one has access to and will be a fully automated and transparent system. Additionally, the software also tracks if electricity in the offices is being wasted in any way and utilizes IoT to coordinate the lights, computers and other electronics in the office.
3. What are other ideas you are working on?
We participated in the Everest Hackathon quite recently where more than 20 countries participated. We produced a prototype for a cashless store to present at the hackathon. There are so many shopping centers right now, even though we’re in the 21st century we walk to the mall, stand in line, pay with our cards, which is a huge waste of time. Amazon made the concept of a cashless store where you grab what you want and just walk out but the issue is that the computation is really expensive. Amazon has its own powerful, widely distributed computational machines so it’s not an issue for them but if we wanted to implement something like that in Nepal at our level, it’s not feasible. So, we minimized the idea and were able to produce a prototype that only cost Rs. 1000. We tested it and it did quite well. To make this product we were coding for more than 24 hours continuously as it was a hackathon. During demonstration the feedback we got was great.
We also designed an autonomous drone system. Drones are typically controlled by a user but we programmed one that was autonomous. We can input a certain location into the drones and it will go to the location and return. We planned an IoT powered drone where we could have a mini-airport with 10-15 drones there and as the user you could use the drones like a service. There is an app you can log into, we plan to implement a blockchain system in it so there’s no need to worry about security issues. You operate the drone through the platform and we monitor everything to make sure it is all in order. It’s autonomous but only to a certain extent, there are limitations on what you can do with the drone and any anomalies are detected right away by the central server.
4. So are these projects complete or just in the concept phase?
All the ideas I’ve spoken to you about today are complete and the prototypes are ready.
5. What kind of problems do you want to work towards solving?
Our team is focused on the impact we create. If there’s a business idea that generates $1000 per day versus one that impacts 1000 lives, we’d prefer the latter because that’s how you make change. If you focus on people and the impact you have on their lives you will make money somehow. It might take a while but that’s what happens. Once that happens the business grows exponentially.
6. Would you rather have a job or start your own company?
The IT sector is still emerging so my skillset in data science and AI is not widely applicable in Nepal yet. The current demand here is for app and web developers mostly but if we think internationally, this expertise is needed everywhere. For example, Cellphones facial recognition systems, elections systems in countries like the US, improving weather forecasting, digitized stores in China they all use AI concepts. There are innumerable applications of this, our main goal is to launch those things in Nepal, however that may be.
7. What are your needs as a company?
I think the biggest thing we need is financial investment. I already have a great team which is the most important thing for an organization. If your team is effective then they can implement anything. Our team works continuously on any given idea. We start each idea at a very basic level, for the drones we spent 6 months designing the prototype. We’d be sitting in the last benches of our classes figuring out how to make it happen. We probably just planned it for a good 6 months before we started. You should never just start something all at once, you must have a long term plan or strategy.
8. What is the profit making model going to be?
We want to invest in these projects ourselves for as long as it’s feasible. The drone project that we made cost us around Rs. 60,000 to 70,000 and we came with that ourselves. Once we completed the design and assembly of the autonomous drones, we could make a profit by using those drones for advertising. We plan on using them for aerial marketing, hopefully this materializes by the end of next year. We could focus on crowded areas like Thamel or Durbar Square and do aerial advertising there with holograms using the drones. It doesn’t have significant environmental impacts the way paper and other advertising materials might. When it’s an aerial ad everyone notices it because it has a “Wow-factor” and people would certainly be interested, even if it’s advertisement for something boring.
9. What do you think your challenges will be moving forward?
I think the main challenge is going to be to dropping everything because this sort of work requires a lot of dedication. Once you have your own organization or your own company, you have to dedicate everything to it, you have to give your 100% which is why we haven’t registered a company yet. If we told our families we wanted to drop out of college, our families would not be happy about it. It’s not a good option either for academic life, people like Bill Gates did it because they had incredible ideas that they wouldn’t be able to work on if they had missed that particular window of opportunity. If it wasn’t them some other company would’ve done it. If we had an idea like that we’d definitely do it, but things like application of drones or facial recognition systems aren’t that revolutionary. We can still work on those ideas while we’re studying. However, if it ever came down to it, I would walk out of my final exam in my final year if I felt like there was an idea or an opportunity so worthwhile.
Politics is also another big challenge in Nepal. It starts even at the lowest level, if I were to have a great idea or a plan that solves a problem but no political connections, it probably won’t be implemented. One of my friends had the similar idea as the winners of the SUTC, 8 months before the competition. He had brought it up at the Ministry of Health and received no response. Then a very similar idea was among the top ideas in the competition, which was very disappointing for him.
10. What are your thoughts on social entrepreneurship?
I think the path of entrepreneurship is one that interests a lot of people but to be frank I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to become one to accomplish something. A lot of people look at billionaires like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos and they want their lives to be like that but that’s not enough. You need to have dedication towards your work that comes from within. When you google it, you’ll all this information and biographies of successful people like Elon Musk. For a minute you get excited and think you can do it too, but it doesn’t last forever. People even quit their jobs which isn’t a good idea, just because it’s trending. If you have a calling from within or if you really want to bring change that’s when you do it. The way people perceive “bringing change” varies too. Some will make an app think they’ve made a difference, others carry out grand projects and feel it’s insignificant. It’s important to objectively analyze the situation, discuss it with a few people and then move forward.
For more information, please contact Jay Kishan Panjiyar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interviewed and article by Jyotika Shah.