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social-minded projects

Doing well & doing good


LET THERE BE LIGHT: Kairos India chair Hemant Sahal shows a highly efficient lighting solution

It sounds like a utopian idea - the most innovative minds from top universities around the world working on ventures that will drive economies as well focus on community welfare. But a non-profit called Kairos Society is turning this vision into reality.

From an Indian collating a lifesaving database of blood donors to an MIT group venture working to increase fuel economy, the society has been backing a slew of social-minded projects. The brain behind the worldwide network, Ankur Jain, 21, is a second generation Indian American who believes that social idealism pays. "The power of our generation is collective, not individual, because of the advances in technology. Just think of the possibilities if brilliant young minds from all over the world across disciplines unite with a single goal to solve basic to advanced problems of the world?" asks the Wharton graduate.

Established in 2007 by a band of college friends, Kairos is an international, student run, not-for-profit-organisation. The aim of the society is not just to establish an entrepreneurship eco-system across the globe but also give it to access to expertise, resources and mentorship network.

What started simply as a Wharton initiative now has a presence across 40 universities in more than 20 countries across four continents. The network of over 750 Kairos fellows works together through several initiatives. It is based in the US but has 15 national hubs in fastest growing economies like India and China. The Kairos European summit, held in partnership with the World Foresight Forum and The Hague Center for Strategic Studies, allows Kairos fellows to enter into strategic and policy discussions with global thought leaders.

The annual Kairos Global Summit in New York city is a meeting place for renowned CEOs, investors and student entrepreneurs. At the end of the summit, young entrepreneurs come together to launch ventures;they are guided in this by leaders from the fields of business, politics, science, and media.

"Mentoring of Kairos fellows is a very important strategic step for us. If tomorrow's business leaders are mentored by the top political and business leaders of today, will they not be able to lead better?" asks Jain.

Over 100 such startups have emerged out of Kairos and many of them have subsequently been rewarded with titles such as Forbes Business Week Young Entrepreneur of the Year and Inc Newpreneur of the Year. The 2012 version of the global summit was hosted between February 2 and February 5 in partnership with the United Nations and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), where the Top 50 Kairos startups were unveiled.

A look at a few ventures by Kairos fellows shows a refreshingly original take on finding solutions to the micro and macro problems of the world. There is Jain s own Panjia, which handholds startups that are led by breakthrough technologies from across the world. It also helps these ventures network with established foreign companies and forge joint ventures. Then there is LevantPower headed by Shakeel Avadhany, Zackary M Anderson and Zachary Jackowski of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which works towards increasing fuel economy. Its products are used by even the US Army. Recently, Levant received The National Science Foundation (NSF) award of $150, 000 towards product development.

Solben, a startup by Mexican Daniel Gomez Iniguez, is another Kairos mentored project. It recently received a $3 million funding to develop more efficient and automated processing techniques for the production of bio-diesel.

Kairos India is also a formidable presence in this global entrepreneurial network. CALLMATT, a venture led by Kairos India chair Hemant Sahal, provides an inexpensive range of water purification technology applications that rid the water of heavy-metal poisoning. One of the Kairos Top 50, Socialblood. org spearheaded by Bangalorean Karthik Naralsetty, is on a mission to connect the entire Facebook population of over 850 million users to their blood types for medical emergencies. Apart from India, 16 more countries are also included in this attempt. A participant at the Karios Global Summit 2012, Karthik is in talks with NYSE investors about funding to technically advance his venture.

Jain likes to call these ventures his game-changers for the future. Echoes Hemant Sahal: "There was no question of not believing in the Kairos concept. It is a very powerful movement. "

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