Imagine this. Students of Anuradha Engineering College from Chikhli in Vidarbha have all assembled in their college auditorium. They are attentively listening to a lecture given by none other than, hmmm say …Padma Bhushan Dr. Sam Pitroda. They have questions and Sam Pitroda hears them out and replies. Such sessions get repeated with Padma Bhushan Nandan Nilekeni and another Padma veteran Dr. K Kasturirangan.

Skeptics all, this is not a trip in Utopia!

Anuradha Engineering College, Chikhli, is just one of 30 such colleges in Maharashtra to already have a set-up which facilitates this. Select colleges in Nagpur, Amravati, Pusad, Nanded, Katol, Ramtek, Chandrapur in Vidarbha and Jalgaon, Nashik, Ahmednagar, Pune and Mumbai in rest of Maharahtra also now have this facility installed.

In simple words, it is only a virtual classroom. But what makes it different is the attitude of Nagpur-based WatchWitz Technologies Private Limited which has come out with this innovative model. It starts with being a virtual classroom but aims to end the disadvantage faced by students in small cities in the matter of exposure to the guidance of the country’s top scientists, experts and business leaders.

We have chosen to call this initiative ‘Apropos Gumption.’ 'Apropos Gumption' literally means –‘A relevant initiative.’ And the reason, these installations are free of cost are cause, “The company has developed this model as its self- sustainable social initiative. The aim is to make virtual learning easy, affordable and accessible to colleges and students in small cities.”
So impressed was the Science and Technology Park (an organization promoted by Department of Science and Technology, Government of India) with this initiative, that it became a shareholder in WatchWitz Technologies. It then mobilized a list of speakers which not only include the above mentioned names, but several other illustrious ones. These include Padmashri Dr.Vasant Gowarikar, Padmabhushan Dr. Jayant Naralikar, Padmashri Dr. Govind Swaroop, Shiromani award winner Prof. Arun Nigavekar, Padma veterans Dr. Anil Kakodkar and Prof. CNR Rao, Padmashri Dr. Thirumalachari Ramasami and Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award winner Prof. Samir Brahmachari.

Obviously WatchWitz is set to do today to the country what internet should have done some 10 years back. When the internet was introduced in India it was thought that it would be capitalized on to deliver high-quality education to the non-metro and rural centres of the country. However, this did not materialize due to the prohibitive cost of the technology involved and other issues. The basic problem with the earlier formats of virtual classroom projects was that they ran on lease lines whose cost itself ran into lakhs of rupees. Colleges, especially in the hinterlands, have not been able to afford such a costly system. 

“Apropos Gumption has removed this difficulty because it works on simple broadband connection. This is quite affordable and is available in B and C grade cities also. Moreover, as a social initiative, the company would be installing the required system free of cost at a total 50 locations.”

At a time when it is fashionable to talk of social disparity, the chasm is widest in the field of education. The scenario today is that while big institutions in big cities have the wherewithal to invite world-renowned lecturers to address their students, institutions in smaller cities become Children of Lesser Gods. The disparity split is almost ‘Haves’ and ‘Have-nots’ when it comes to the level of exposure. 'Apropos Gumption' seeks to remove this disparity by ensuring that a top scientist is heard and spoken to by thousands of students in various towns and cities. Such exposure, it is expected, would bring students in small cities on an equal footing with students in the big cities. All that is required from such an institution benefiting under the initiative is a computer, a trained operator and a one-time registration fee. An essential condition for a college to become a member of 'Apropos Gumption' is that it should not restrict such learning sessions only to its own students but also invite all students in its neighboring community.

Our vision and dream of 'Apropos Gumption' does not end here. We have also in discussions with 17 universities abroad having Indian students. These students will share their experiences real-time through the same system regarding not only the disciplines of learning but the reality of issues, finance and opportunities of education abroad. “Our students have a fascination for foreign universities. It is only when they end up at some of these that they realize that financially, academically and career-wise it was not a sound decision. 'Apropos Gumption' may end up saving such misgivings.” 

Ask Karnik, The man behind this initiative, why he chose to launch this mega-initiative from Nagpur and his reason is simple, though emotional. “It is my city, the company’s city," he says. The company was strongly urged to launch the initiative from Mumbai or Pune, the commercial and IT hubs of the country. "But I chose Nagpur over them. The other and bigger reason was that the launch affords an opportunity to convince industry bigwigs that cities like Nagpur too have talent and the scientific temperament to innovate,” Karnik concludes. 
We are sure that Apropos Gumption will prove to be a revolution, it would be a huge stride in the field of education even live up to its name –A relevant initiative.