What did I learn from Indore Hacks?

December 13, 2017. Indore, Madhya Pradesh.

Competitions bring out the best in you. People compete and there is someone, who proves himself to be better than the rest and then takes away the coveted crown. It is the gruelling heat and friction of the competition that makes people do, what they just had plans for.

Last week, I participated in Indore Hacks (a Social Hackathon jointly conducted by E-Cell and Enactus, IIM Indore). There were two rounds. In Round One, we had to design a business plan set in the 2000s about a nonconventional energy company. The question was open-ended – meaning there were no correct or wrong answers. It was how creative you could be in your response, being realistic. The difficult part of this was that it was set in the 2000s. So, most data available now won’t be of any use. You have to resort to web archives.

Going through the data, I found various anomalies about our country. It was the time when solar electricity was over four times conventional electricity. Urinals couldn’t be used because they gave foul smell – rather than the conventionally accepted reason of sacredness of homes and reluctance to build toilets.

Anyways, we aced the first round – were able to make it to top 15 teams across the nation, amongst 150 teams. The second round was, however, a tough one. This was an actual Hackathon.

We were given a case by Indore Traffic Police, describing various problems they faced; particularly,

1. People not wearing helmets. Their previous steps of stopping people from refuelling failed due to bubbling helmet rental shops near Petrol Pumps.

2. Minor driving. Traffic police weren’t able to handle the case because of the parents who allowed and appreciated their minor children driving.

3. Drunken driving. 99% of people admitted that drunken driving was dangerous. But, they still did it.

In the 24 hours which we were given, we were expected to bring up B-plans to solve one or more of the problems above.

Our team focussed on the first problem. We did a small analysis.

There are 20 lakh vehicles in Indore.

Out of which, about 15 lakh* are two-wheelers.

Among those, about 10 lakh* come to streets on a given day.

Of these, about 8 lakh* riders don’t wear helmets.

And the maximum rate of being caught is about 2000.

So, probability of getting caught = 2000/800000 , i.e. 0.25%.

So, our point was – is the public feared of Traffic Police? And getting caught by them?

Of course, no!

Next, we tried guesstimate traffic police personnel in Indore.

The total number of traffic police in Madhya Pradesh = 2443 (BPRD, 2015).

Assuming they are distributed by population,

Total number of traffic police in Indore = 2167447/72626809 = 394.

The number of chowks and crossings are greater than that!

Can they be everywhere? Again, no!

So, what we proposed was that we should make everyone a policeman. How? Give them power – they can record traffic violations and send them to us, which after initial screening, would be forwarded to Traffic Police for action. They, then, would challan those who committed the offence. Easy, and would decrease the offence.

But, why would someone do that? We tried to bring an incentive for them. For every challan they get through us, they give a fraction of that to us. We then keep a fraction for ourselves and forward the rest to the one who made the complaint. Initially, they could be given credits, which could be converted into cash or coupons/vouchers.

So, people would do this for earning easy money – of course, other than the content of making the city a better place.

Moreover, we would develop user community for the credit points. This community could also (in future) discuss serious issues concerning the city.

Unfortunately, almost similar solutions were also proposed by three other teams.

We hadn’t shared or collaborated or overheard each other.

So, I learnt the most important lesson of all – we are all hardwired to think along similar lines. If you want to be different in your thoughts, you have to be different in your actions.