The Kathmandu Post, Story

Jul 30, 2016-Madindra Aryal is easily lost in a crowd. Decked in a casual tee and loose-fitting jeans, he looks like any other guy—unsuspecting, dallying around Bouddha on a busy Monday morning. But his brisk walk, firm handshake, and terse introduction give away a very different impression. Madindra means business, and he knows how to get it done. Taking a right from the Bouddha Gate and up a flight of stairs, following Aryal’s confident strides, we reach the terrace of a cafe with an uninterrupted view of the Stupa. As soon as we are comfortably seated, Madindra starts right away. “I am prepared for your questions. I have become quite used to interviews now; it’s almost as if I can tell what question you’re going to ask before you do.” But 25-five year old Aryal has earned his bragging rights, all through hard work and sheer determination. At a time when the most powerful earthquake the country had seen in over 80 years jolted the entire country, Madindra attempted, in whatever way he could, to bring in a small amount of light to a country immersed in darkness, figuratively and literally. “When the earthquakes came, there was chaos everywhere. People fled their houses and started living in makeshift tents; we didn’t have any electricity, phones couldn’t be charged, and everyone was scraping for whatever little news that was made available through radios. It was then that Bal Joshi Sir, my teacher, proposed that we do something to ease all our lives. And with whatever resources were available at that time, we built Nepal’s Light,” says Madindra Nepal’s Light is a simple product. A basic solar-powered portable charging system, it has 5-6 hours battery life (when fully charged which takes around 3 hours), and can charge phones up to 3-4 hours; it can be used to charge 10 phones at the same time. Built under the roof of Electronic Lab Nepal—a lab Madindra set up himself—and with the help of Gham Power Nepal, and Bal Joshi, of, the first prototype of Nepal’s Light was built in just two weeks after the quakes first took place. “I used to walk from Bouddha to Asan every day to get the parts for the products during the quakes. On May 12, the day the second powerful quake struck, I was in the lab at Kalanki. A huge cupboard crashed on the very spot I was sitting on seconds ago. It was pretty scary. I had made half-a-mind never to go back again!” he says, as he settles in and gets comfortable. After the prototype was built, almost instantly, 500 pieces were manufactured and placed in the market, priced at Rs 2,500 each. The lights were mostly delivered to places most affected by the quakes, in places like Barpak, Sindhupalchowk and Bhaktapur—where devices like Madindra’s Nepal Light were not just helpful to the people but desperately needed. “A lot of my close friends mock me sometimes. Nepal’s Light engineering and design is—how would I put it—too simple. As a robotics engineer, I have worked on products that are much advanced technologically but I seem to be gaining rapid popularity through such a simple product. It seems strange to me. I don’t really mind the jests though. As long as there are people who are being helped by it,” he says. “And besides, we have put in a lot of work. At a time when everyone was huddled close to their families, fearful for their lives, we were out in the lab trying to make something. I am proud of that, that I did something to help.” But Madindra’s journey is not his alone now. With the help of sites like Collabarizm and Indiegogo, online platforms that work as collaborative workspaces and crowdsourcing for aspiring entrepreneurs, which are helping generate awareness about the product as well as raise funds for the project, Madindra is being dared to push his limits. “If I do get the funds, there would be nothing like it. I would get an opportunity to explore my own invention and make it better,” says Madindra, already excited about the prospect. “In Nepal, the biggest problem we have is that we don’t have the services to hone our products in terms of appearance. We are already there in terms of ideas and products but, because of the lack of manufacturers, the products are almost always very, very crude. I, however, am grateful for the acknowledgment that Nepal’s Light has received internationally.” A student of Khwopa Engineering College, who only recently started his career as an engineer from 2013, Madindra is currently working on home automation, mostly focusing on the internet of things. “Sometimes it is days until I go back home. I get too engrossed in it,” he says. But from where did this passion of his grew he has no clue. “Engineering happened as an accident. I was always interested in MBBS, and took up biology in the intermediate level. I still don’t know how my interests shifted to engineering. Blame it on fate, I guess,” he says, “Now, I can’t think of anything else to do in life.” And as though in an afterthought, he adds, “Actually, I do think I would have made a fair cricketer. I have always loved the sport.” As he signals an end to the interview and readies himself to head back to work, you realise that these are exciting times for Madindra—from being interviewed by a prominent tech magazine like Fast Company to creating ripples in this still evolving field of electronics in Nepal so young in his career. “There is much to be done though,” he says, just as he gets up to take his leave, “not just for me but for the field of electronics in Nepal. We have the potential, now we just need the resources. Things are just starting.” Published: 30-07-2016 10:24

Let there be Nepal's Light

From the paper

Covered on The Kathmandu Post by Marissa Taylor

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