Be yourself. Identify what you truly love and work on things that truly matter to you. – Mrigank Pawagi
Mrigank Pawagi is a 17-year-old visionary and generative technopreneur from Uttar Pradesh. He considers himself as a high school student with interdisciplinary interests who is a very passionate teenager and has an interest in the field of Science and technology. He runs the blog called “Technifity,” where he writes on science, society and their intersection. Aside from that, Mrigank is an active volunteer with Schoolhouse as a tutor, as well as with various NGOs in their respective social media departments.
Mrigank founded the “LocalQueue” project, which focuses on strengthening local economies by providing a better local shopping experience to consumers and is currently planning a pilot with some University Incubators. LocalQueue has also established itself as a well-validated prototype among its beta users. He and his four LaunchX team members have also launched “EcoGo,” an international platform with the same vision as LocalQueue but focusing on sustainable products. EcoGo already has over 30 partners in Hong Kong and South-East Asia.
Apart from that; He is also conducting research on the need for technology-driven tools for creating discovery-led learning experiences in classrooms, and has been offered a grant by MIT Solv[ED] to pursue the same, Research on the global vaccine distribution and bias in AI systems with the New York Academy of Sciences. Being a student advisory board member of the Diamond Challenge (a global entrepreneurship program) and a Dojo Youth Champion (for founding India’s first school-based CoderDojo), he works to encourage students to step outside of their comfort zones and innovate through research and entrepreneurship.
Aside from that, some of his contributions include: WebME, a game for discovery-led cyber security education, has aided thousands of people in over 80 countries. TattleGEN, a news verification forum to combat fake news, was a revolutionary way to fact-check using the “wisdom of crowds,” as recently demonstrated in a study by MIT researchers. LocalBrackets, a social networking and learning platform, has over 100 active users in India and neighboring countries. Kronologue is a daily scheduler based on a genetic algorithm that he created in collaboration with Intel. ExoGo and CodeTheColor are hands-on learning modules for space and optics, respectively. By proposing various substantial changes to the traditional and affordable air cooler, his concept “Smarter Cooler” has also ignited a new light of hope for people who cannot afford ACs.
Mrigank is a firm believer in action and change. His work actually inspires teenagers to make a difference. His passion and enthusiasm for making a difference in society has made him one of the change-makers and recognized him as one of the Finalists of Glocal Teen Hero India 2021. We had a few conversations with him regarding his projects.The following are the main points from the interview;
How was your experience when you were announced as a Top 6 Finalist of Wai Wai Glocal Teen Hero India, 2021?
I received a phone call from the Glocal Team on the evening of 23rd November, and I was overjoyed on hearing the news. I felt honored and pleased not only because of the recognition that Glocal provided me, but also because I felt more confident about continuing to pursue my interests in the future – the warm congratulations that I received were sincerely encouraging. My parents were equally, or perhaps more, delighted. We were also excited about proceeding further through the process. All in all, it was an amazing moment!
How did your journey as a Technopreneur start? What kind of challenges did you face on your way?
I wasn’t always inclined towards entrepreneurship. I was introduced to the power of technology when I began learning to code in middle school and eventually became involved in different kinds of projects through the initial years of high school. However, I soon realized that science and technology were mere ideas if we did not take them to the right people – people who need these innovations the most. The process of democratizing innovation and making it sustainably and freely accessible drew me towards entrepreneurship.
Like everything new, it took some time for me to understand how things work in the entrepreneurial space and admittedly, there were several instances where my ideas failed – due to unsustainable financial plans, ineffective marketing, or misidentification of the target audience. Yet, all of these were indispensable learning experiences. If anything, they taught me the art of collaboration and inspired me to continue learning and experimenting.
Science and Technology continue to serve as the core of my interests, and I have continued working to expand my knowledge on them. Entrepreneurship to me is more of a tool to identify problems, and a vehicle to viably implement possible solutions. Asking the right questions is more important than finding the right answers.
What kind of content do you create on your “Technifity”?
When I entered high school, I felt that I was filled with thoughts, but constrained by the limitation of platforms to express myself. This wasn’t the case with me alone, and so in 9th grade, I got together with two of my classmates and started Technifity. It was originally conceived as a blog for simplifying scientific ideas for teenagers in our age-group, but after experimenting with our content for a while, we started focussing more on the intersection of science and society as well as our own personal reflections on certain popular ideas.
Personally, I have published articles on topics ranging from the role of language in human evolution, to the impact of evolution on technology; from the meaning of NOTA in a democracy, to the psychological basis of misinformation; and from the impact of COVID-19 on our society, to the role of students in national development.
You have initiated a project called “LocalQueue”, how did you come up with the idea? Can you share your experience?
LocalQueue was born mostly out of my personal experiences in the pre-pandemic world. I was distasteful of the experience at local shops and service providers like salons – while knowing that my parents often preferred them over malls and online shopping due to credibility and cost. It was during the pandemic though, when I came to know how these small local businesses were negatively affected, that I began studying their challenges in detail.
The process of building LocalQueue was both technologically and entrepreneurially intense and was filled with several iterations of trial-and-error. This experience was lengthy and frankly, occasionally boring – but at the end of the day, it taught me more than I could ever expect. I got experience in building rigorous software, communicating with different stakeholders and collecting feedback, and formulating an accurate value proposition and a workable business plan. A friend of mine also joined me for a while to help develop a stronger business strategy.
Through LocalQueue, I was also able to connect to startup incubators and ecosystems – which helped add to my perspective about entrepreneurship as a whole.
In what areas EcoGo works?
EcoGo works at the intersection of economic and environmental sustainability. The main objective for EcoGo is to make sustainable consumerism accessible and lucrative – thus accelerating the eco-friendly trend that is slowly gaining momentum in several Asian countries. We began operating in Hong Kong because our research indicated that Hong Kong already has a relatively sharper inclination towards sustainability. Despite this growing trend, small and local businesses continue to find it hard to make satisfactory sales – often because they are lost beneath other more influential brands on social media and google search. EcoGo gives these small vendors their own online identity as well as the credibility that our platform offers – while encouraging more and more people to shop sustainably through different incentives.
EcoGo is much more than a listing – we are building a community of eco conscious people and beyond stores and products, also allow shoppers to give feedback and business to host events via our platform. We are also working on new e-commerce concepts like team purchasing.
EcoGo is under development and we are steadily growing every day. Recently, EcoGo was selected among the top 6 startups in Misfits Global by Vruksha Ecosystem Foundation. Previously, it has been awarded a grant by Kids4Kids as a winner of “Powered By Youth”, and mentorship by Smarter Me Singapore as one of the top-21 startups in their Youth Founders’ Summit.
What are your future plans that you are planning to execute in the upcoming days?
I plan on spending more time on EcoGo and LocalQueue in the coming months, and developing these platforms further. As a member of Diamond Challenge’s Student Advisory Board, I plan to produce more creative content for Diamond Challenge’s blog and increase my efforts at encouraging engagement in Diamond Challenge’s online community – since the contest period is going to end soon. Finally, I hope to return to volunteering as a tutor at Schoolhouse again within the next couple of months – I had to take a short break because of some academic commitments.
What message would you like to deliver to teenagers?
Our biggest strength is that we are still teenagers – we have nothing to lose, and a lot to learn. I will simply encourage all teenagers to explore different things, and pursue whatever interests them even if it means taking risks. If you don’t have enough opportunities around you, create them. If you feel you don’t have access to sufficient resources, improvise and adapt. Just persevere, and learn as much as you can out of every experience.
Finally, be yourself. Identify what you truly love and work on things that truly matter to you.
Glocal Teen Hero is a platform for teenagers to identify and honor outstanding teenagers whose creativity, commitment, experience, and strong leadership have helped them achieve success in an increasingly challenging environment. This award recognizes and honors the exceptional teen whose work is sustainable and who can think out of the box addressing the issues and creating an impact in society. Fostering a collaborative community among recipients and strengthening the recognition of today’s young leaders is a primary goal of the Glocal Teen Hero Award.