That there are problems in India’s academic scene is evident. We had some intense debate on why Indian institutions don’t produce enough productizable ideas. That’s a problem which won’t go away anytime soon.
Moreover, as we’d pointed out earlier, Indian scientists living abroad find it difficult to cut through the red tape and find jobs in while the private sector is busy with outsourced R&D. This is a tough problem as well.
The other problem is that academicians find it hard to collaborate effectively. Thankfully, this is a problem that many are trying to solve. In fact, some seem to be making good progress at it.
Delhi based Knimbus, a startup which has built a platform for researchers to access journals and network with others of similar interests, has signed up over 1500 institutional users already. Knimbus is like the Facebook for people wanting to research and collaborate with people with similar interests.
“If you look at countries that have higher scientific output, it is correlated to how much collaboration they have. Over 90% of published research is co-authored,” said Rahul Agarwalla, the co-founder of Knimbus.
Agarwalla tried something similar in the dot com era. His first venture, Matrix Information Services was an aggregator of news and business information. “At that point (1997) there wasn’t much online,” he says. But this time around, the idea was to provide a platform for scientific, technical and medical content. He has also started a KPO and later worked in Japan.
Knimbus, his latest venture, was launched two years ago. Today it has over 1500 institutional users out of which 50 are paying customers. Agarwalla has no salesmen on the team. Knimbus, which operates on a freemium model, is pushed largely through online channels while the paid version is sold through partners. “We have sales partners in India and US,” he said. Individual users can signup for free.
The market it addresses is broadly three fold– academic, government and corporate. “ The pricing depends on the number of users,” said Agarwalla, who raised some funds from angels about four months ago. This financial year, the company is looking to clock $100,000 in revenues.
There are two broad trends in science that are working to the favor of the company. “Science is growing in Asia and also information is getting democratized,” Aggarwala says. He believes that its not just the journals that are important sources of information. “Even a blog written by a scientist is important,” he feels.
According to India’s new Science & Technology innovation policy, India is aiming to double the number of its scientific publication and quadruple the number of papers in the top journals from current levels by 2020.
To be sure, Indian scientific output has been growing. Citations per article (CPA), a metric used to determine quality of publications, has gone up in India over the last five years from 2.0 to 2.7 citations per article outperforming China, according to research from Elsevier.
We loved the interface, which was fairly intuitive and the search is extremely helpful. The feature to network and create a timeline could be really helpful for people wanting to keep themselves up to date with developments in their areas of research.