This is part of a series of YouthSpark profiles where we highlight young people in Asia who are dedicated to changing the world through technology, and inspiring others along the way.
Ask yourself a simple question – How many Presidents of India have I met to date?
Meet Harkesh Kataria: student, teacher, innovator and much more, who has met three. Not just met them, but been feted by 3 Presidents of India, from APJ Abdul Kalam and Pratibaha Patil to Pranab Mukherjee.
Harkesh hails from a small village called Gharauli Khurd in rural Harayana where his father used to run a small business renting out tents and chairs for marriages and events. The family was business oriented with little emphasis on education. So it was a surprise when little Harkesh started tinkering around to make small but useful gadgets around the house. His first device was an electric crane that he fashioned out of scrap metal found around the village.
Since then Harkesh has designed many devices including a musical water fountain which can be operated through a mobile phone, an automatic clothes line that shades clothes in case of rain and a device to prevent wrongful use of train alarms (a common problem in rural India). Hearing him talk about capacitors, resistors and circuits, one often forgets the fact that Harkesh has had absolutely no formal training in engineering and technology. As he said, “Even I don’t know how I know these things. Some I learn by watching others. The rest I just know.”
Unfortunately, family circumstances have forced Harkesh to put aside his research and focus all energies on contributing to his family income. After completing his computer course at the local Community Technology Learning Center run by Microsoft India partner Aide et Action, he has now started a small teaching center of his own where he teaches rural children spoken English and other jobs oriented toward soft skills. He says that if he cannot do his research, then he would rather teach, because without education everything else is useless. He wants the children of his village to understand the importance of technology in today’s world. His dream is to eventually set up a free school that promotes science and research, where others like him can expand their knowledge and continue innovating till their heart’s content.
His father, though initially skeptical, has come around to appreciate Harkesh’s talents. “Sometimes we wonder if Harkesh hasn’t been born in the wrong family. Had he been born as a Tata or a Birla, his success, his achievements would have known no boundaries.”
But, for now, Harkesh is waiting to put together enough money to expand his training center to include computer education. He came to the Microsoft Innovate for Good event quite unsure about what to expect. But now he says that while the SPROUT training will definitely help him in streamlining his training center business, the friends he’s made and the discussions during the event have given him even more ideas to work on. He has already been granted patents for some of his inventions. He hopes that once his computer center is up and running he can return to his first love – invention and innovation.
We wish Harkesh all the very best in his future endeavors and adventures.
Microsoft Innovate for Good, a Microsoft YouthSpark program, is a global community enabling youth to collaborate, inspire and support each other while using technology to make a difference in their communities.
For more information visit YouthSpark.