I landed yesterday in Bangalore and two things happened. First, India won the World Championship in Cricket … that is big … second, Arduino’s Indian distributor 9circuits was featured on liveMint.com (a partner to Wall Street Journal) … to me, that is bigger, specially considering the length of the article -devoted to the DIY culture and how it opens up for innovation-.
(c) 2011 LiveMint, picture courtesy of LiveMint.com
Nandeep Mali, Harry Samson, Priya Kuber and Pronoy Chopra are the founders of 9 Circuits, an online store that hopes to kickstart the country’s fledgling do-it-yourself (DIY) hardware community. Hardware engineering includes everything from building prototype vehicles to experimental gadgets. The store sells an entire range of programmable Arduino Boards (the engineering foundation for everything from a robot to a GPS module), hardware components, sensors and spare parts.
It operates out of a single room on the first floor of a shopping complex in east Delhi’s Mayur Vihar. Their unlikely neighbours include a detective agency called Omniscient Detectives. Inside the 9 Circuits office are four desks arranged haphazardly, stacked with miniature mountains of electronic components. “Everything is about software here, so the hardware hobbyists in India are largely fragmented. There’s lots of knowledge but very little networking,” says Mali, rooting through a box of touch screens. “The entry barriers become very heavy.”
The part dedicated to 9circuits is actually quite interesting, there is even room for Priya to advocate for a better gender distribution in the world of hardware and technology. That we want as well:
“When you study abroad, every student is exposed to some broader arm of DIY culture,” Kuber says. “We want to recreate that atmosphere. Create documentation and videos that can be replicated locally.” While detailed instructions exist on the Internet for just about every conceivable engineering conundrum, many of these assume that you’re living in a society with easy access to specific components. “Try going to a hardware store and asking for an M3 screw,” Kuber says. “They’ll blink.”
Kuber conducts workshops on DIY at engineering colleges around north India, and wants to encourage more women to take up hardware engineering. “The problem here is that there are middlemen and organizations willing to sell you complete college projects, so a lot of people don’t have to solder a thing to get through the system.”