18 August 2015
Kavita Arora: “Although India is a land of makers, it is relatively difficult to acquire sophisticated tools and equipment”
Interview with maker Kavita Arora from Bangalore on what the state of the maker movement in India is, and what the barriers that impede it from taking off are.
Could you tell us about your background? How did you get started with the Maker Movement?
I studied Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, in the United States graduating with a bachelors of Science degree in 2004 and a Masters of Science degree in Information Technology in 2008.
I was always surrounded by the “maker movement” even though the actual term did not exist then. When I moved to Bangalore in 2009, I attempted to find like-minded folks – who had always wanted to explore the experimental or applied side of technology – but in a casual atmosphere as opposed to a corporate one.
After a business trip to London towards the end of 2012, I came across the London Hackspace, which inspired me to further get involved with the global maker movement and start a maker community back here in Bangalore called Bangalore Makespace and Open Source Creativity (bmosc).
Today, this is the largest community of makers in India having 15,500+ members who actively share and contribute techniques, news and tips on getting started with DIY endeavors across almost every single maker category.
Indeed you are striving for opening a makerspace. What are the principal challenges you are facing in setting the it up?
Although India is a land of makers, it is relatively difficult to acquire sophisticated tools and equipment that a makerspace would need in order to be fully functional.
International Import costs are too high for certain brands of machinery such as laser Cutters, milling machines, and PCB manufacturing units (Printed Circuits Board), and they serve as a deterrent to get a full-service makerspace up and running quickly.
Overall funding for the venture has also been challenging, with potential investors questioning the validity of the makerspace profit model.
Further, since Bangalore is a rapidly expanding metropolitan, real estate costs with respect to finding a suitable location to start makerspace or FabLab operations in a centrally, accessible venue, are somewhat inhibitive, due to rising expense per square ft. of space.
What is the current state of the maker movement and how do you see the maker culture evolving in India?
I feel the maker movement is poised to be the defining force shaping the next generation of industries worldwide.
India is uniquely positioned to capitalize on the maker movement as the country’s rich heritage in textiles, craft and artisanal goods involves makers from across the economic spectrum.
Today, the maker community I started back in 2013 – Bangalore Makespace and Open Source Creativity has the largest membership of Makers from across the spectrum.
Most popular are topics relating to DIY Electronics, Robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT) and 3D Printing – with several Indian startups being created via this forum!
I realized that along with a virtual community, we needed to complement the discussions with in-person meetups, and thus began a successful series of Maker Events where community members meet once a week, if not on a daily basis.
Almost every single large metropolitan city in India – New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore – boast of up and coming makerspaces, each of which is growing exponentially with respect to the diversity of people they attract and hope to get involved with innovation activities.
I have big hopes and dreams for Indian makers and am proud to be surrounded by so many innovators as well as potential inventors!
In your opinion, how much is digital fabrication influencing India’s economy and production system?
The rise of new 3D Printing startups and indigenous additive manufacturing facilities sprouting around the country is a promising move.
India has always been strong with respect to any kind of software design and development – with Indian engineers mastering almost any and all brands of CAD/CAM applications.
I believe it is only a matter of time before digital fabrication becomes as affordable an option as photocopying. In terms of how it is or will affect the Indian economy – digital fabrication is still a nascent market –importing from China is an easier option at the moment.
It is projected, however, that digital fabrication will change the face of Indian manufacturing – once skilling and development of individuals for the purpose of “making” at a mass level is mainstreamed.