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Meet 18-year-old Mansi Jain who is giving new meaning to Delhi’s heritage

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By Nishtha

Eighteen year old Mansi Jain has been brainstorming for the past two years to create digital content about all the monuments in and around Delhi-NCR region. With an aim to create an academic and cultural interest in the subject, Jain with the help of Ramit Mitra (founder, Delhi by Foot – which conducts heritage walks in the city) has launched an interactive website called, ‘Heritage Hike’.

The website includes videos which offer simple and interesting explanation about monuments and various historical events.

In an exclusive interview with NewsGram, Jain, who recently got accepted at Stanford University, talks about her interest in history, hiring interns for Heritage Hike, and expansion plans of her venture. Excerpts from the interview:

 

Nishtha: When did your fascination with historical monuments begin?

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i Jain: As my parents were always interested in history, I was exposed to monuments and museums from an early age. We even travelled around the world where we visited places of historical significance. I was inspired to start Heritage Hike when I visited Italy with my family, about two years back. We went to this bell tower town called, San Gimignano in Tuscany and I was surprised to see that it was so well preserved! This town has a population of about 20,000 people and they get roughly 1.5 million visitors every year. The people in Tuscany took care of the sanitation aspect and were well aware about their town’s historical past. However in India, there is no ownership of monuments among people. They scribble over the walls of the monuments and some of them still remain unaware about our heritage. These two distinct examples (of Tuscany and India) motivated me to work on historical monuments in India.

 

N: So, what is the current status of your website?

MJ: We have already developed our website (www.heritagehike.com). Information about Tughlaq Dynasty has already been uploaded on it. We have about five videos, out of which three are on the emperors froIMG_2873m this dynasty. We also did video walkthroughs at Feroz Shah Kotla and Tughlakabad. These videos were also shown to school students and it was pretty effective. There was one student who had no interest in history, but once she visited Tughlakabad, she was able to understand everything about the monument because of the video. We hope to produce five videos every month.

 

N: You are also in the process of hiring a couple of interns to help you with Heritage Hike. How do you plan to train them?

MJ: Since I will be going to Stanford University for my graduation, I felt the website would require more people. We are setting up a three month internship so that the interns could work with us properly. In this formal setup, the interns will be given a document stating their work hours and what they are expected to do. We will be giving them certificates and personalized letters of recommendations.

For the two posts – managing the enterprise and marketing and communications, we have received surplus applications so we will be conducting interviews. We are hoping to start the internship by June 13 until the mid of September. We require about 16 interns. Few days back, students from Kolkata approached and showed volunteer interest in Heritage Hike.

Apart from the internship, we are also looking for project heads – who can help with the training of the new deputy project heads. I will continue to supervise the entire process and work towards the creative output of the project.

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N: You have created your website in sync with the history syllabus taught in schools. Do you think inclusion of interactive aids will be beneficial for students?

MJ: Yes, it will definitely help. When we conducted surveys with school students, they didn’t remember anything from their history textbooks. Since this is a theoretical subject with a lot of dates and factual information, students tend to forget what they have learnt. Interactive medium would be fun and interesting for the students and they will enjoy the subject more.

 

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N: Do you plan to pitch your website and videos as a teaching tool in schools?

MJ: Yes. We have asked for three interns in the outreach director field. Since the Tughlaq Dynasty is relevant for class 7 students, we want to approach school principals. An hour long presentation would be beneficial as we will be able to gauge students’ responses. Students will also be given a recap worksheet to fill. So we hope to be in a couple of schools in the next three months. Even the students in Calcutta were interested in taking this project to their schools. Our goal is also to create an online library which can be used by the teachers in classes.

 

N: IMG_2889Since you have long terms plans for Heritage Hike, do you plan to seek funding for this venture?

MJ: I realized last year that to sustain a project it is important to have finances in place. In the past, we got student volunteers for the website but once they received the exposure they wanted, their interest dwindled. If we have finances, stipends can be provided to the interns as an incentive to keep them going. Funding will also help us in scaling the level of production. But, before looking for the funds, I want to plan and set up the entire working system.

 

 

 

N: What are the expansion plans for Heritage Hike? Do you plan to take this initiative to other parts of the country?IMG_2884

MJ: Currently, my focus is on Delhi and the dynasties, sultanates and monuments around it.

We want to expand our videos beyond the syllabus. The history books are limited to Delhi sultanate, the Mughals and monuments in the British era. History has been restricted to power structure – who ruled and what they did during the rule and so on. We want to make videos about history of a mathematical theorem or a particular native dialect or about something else about which people are not aware of. I want to expand the definition of ‘history’.

The other form of expansion would be to different cities and finding students to cover monuments in their areas.

A continued focus on education about history and awareness of the monuments will always be Heritage Hike’s aim.

 

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How telecom has become driver of economic change in India

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The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front.
The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. Wikimedia Commons
  • India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution
  • The sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991
  • India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world

For the most part of human history, the change was glacial in pace. It was quite safe to assume that the world at the time of your death would look pretty much similar to the one at the time of your birth. That is no longer the case, and the pace of change seems to be growing exponentially. Futurist Ray Kurzweil put it succinctly when he wrote in 2001: “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).” Since the time of his writing, a lot has changed, especially with the advent of the internet.

India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution. The country’s hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. In fact, according to Reserve Bank of India data, the sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991, growing by over 10 percent. On the other hand, no other sector has had a productivity growth of above five percent during the same period. It is no wonder that it has also been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the Indian economy, growing at over seven percent in the last decade itself.

Also Read: Social Media in India: Understanding The Dynamics of ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’

Such an unprecedented pace of growth has been brought about the precise levels of change that Kurzweil was so enthusiastic about. Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Meanwhile, India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world, which has hit rock bottom after the entry of Reliance Jio. This has ensured access to those even at the bottom of the pyramid.

A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country.
A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. Wikimedia Commons

Even though consumers have come to be accustomed to fast-paced changes within the telecom sector, the entry of Jio altered the face of the industry like never before by changing the very basis of competition. Data became the focal point of competition for an industry that derived over 75 percent of its revenue from voice. It was quite obvious that there would be immediate economic effects due to it. Now that we’re nearing a year of Jio’s paid operations, during which time it has even become profitable, we saw it fit to quantify its socio-economic impact on the country. Three broad takeaways need to be highlighted.

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First, the most evident effect has been the rise in affordability of calling and data services. Voice services have become practically costless while data prices have dropped from an average of Rs 152 per GB to lower than Rs 10 per GB. Such a drastic reduction in data prices has not only brought the internet within the reach of a larger proportion of the Indian population but has also allowed newer segments of society to use and experience it for the first time. Since the monthly saving of an average internet user came out to be Rs 142 per month (taking a conservative estimate that the consumer is still using 1 GB of data each month) and there are about 350 million mobile internet users in the country (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India data), the yearly financial savings for the entire country comes out to be Rs 60,000 crore.

To put things in perspective, this amount is more than four times the entire GDP of Bhutan. Therefore, mere savings by the consumer on data has been at astonishing proportions.

Today's smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons
Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons

Now, this data has been used for services that have brought to life a thriving app economy within the country. So, the second level of impact has been in the redressal of a variety of consumer needs — ranging from education, health and entertainment to banking. For instance, students in remote areas can now access online courseware and small businesses can access newer markets. Information asymmetry has been considerably reduced.

Third, a rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. These effects arise not merely from the creation of an internet economy, but also due to the synergy effects it generates. Information becomes more accessible and communication a lot easier. Businesses find it easier to operate and access consumers. Labour working in cities has to make less frequent trips home and becomes more productive as a result. Education and health services become available in inaccessible locations. Multiple avenues open up for knowledge and skill enhancement.

Also Read: Facebook to ‘Signal’ news gathering for journos

An econometric analysis for the Indian economy showed that the 15 percent increase in internet penetration due to Jio and the spill-over effects it creates will raise the per capita levels of the country’s GDP by 5.85 percent, provided all else remains constant.

Thus, India’s telecom sector will continue to drive the economy forward, at least in the short run, and hopefully catapult India into 20,000 years of progress within this century, as Kurzweil postulated. The best approach for the state would be to ensure the environment of unfettered competition within the industry. Maybe other sectors of the economy ought to take a leaf out of the telecom growth story. The Indian banking sector comes to mind. However, that is a topic for another day. (IANS)

(Amit Kapoor is Chair, Institute for Competitiveness, India. He can be contacted at Amit. Kapoor@competitiveness.in and tweets @kautiliya. Chirag Yadav, a senior researcher at the institute, has contributed to the article.)