Alum Parmesh Shahani Named One of Financial Times 25 “Indians to Watch”; Costanza-Chock on Apps for Sandy

Parmesh Shahani

Parmesh Shahani

Parmesh Shahani, CMS graduate class of ’05, continues to rack up the kudos, this round from the Financial Times in their list of 25 Indians to watch:

Bringing new insights to a stuffy 115-year-old Indian conglomerate isn’t easy, nor is being an openly gay man in India’s still-traditional business culture – but Parmesh Shahani manages both, in his role as the founder and head of an ideas and innovation laboratory within the $3.3bn Mumbai-based Godrej group.

And meanwhile, fresh off organizing a hackathon of Hurricane Sandy data, Assistant Professor Sasha Costanza-Chock spoke with the New York Times about the lessons he’s learned while helping make technology with communities before, during, and after crises:

NYTimes Bits illustration

Sasha Costanza-Chock, a professor of civic media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says disaster preparedness is about more than stocking up on bottled water, packaged meals and fresh batteries. It’s also a matter of pooling technical resources to solve the problems that can arise quickly, like how to move supplies to those in need and relay reliable information about shelters and food.

In the hours before the hurricane struck, Mr. Costanza-Chock started Hurricane Hackers, an online hub where software engineers and developers could share ideas as the storm advanced.
“We were looking at ways to support and build together, even people from a distance who wanted to support relief efforts,” he said.

Mr. Costanza-Chock emphasized the importance of realistic ideas that can be deployed quickly.
“It’s easy to dream up fantastic solutions, but what works on the ground and will be useful in the moment are the ones that are the most successful,” he said. “Whether it is beautiful or not does not matter.”

In his experience, tools that are tied to a real need—grounded in an organization with people working on the scene, and limited to a specific geographic area—are those that have worked the best.

“The challenge is not to build the tools,” he said, “but rather, how do you capture the attention and energy that people have and plug it in?”

Andrew Whitacre

About Andrew Whitacre

Andrew directs the communications efforts for CMS/W and its research groups. A native of Washington, D.C., he holds a degree in communication from Wake Forest University, with a minor in humanities, as well as an M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College. This work includes drawing up and executing strategic communications plans, with projects including website design, social media management and training, press outreach, product launches, fundraising campaign support, and event promotions.


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