This EdTech start-up is looking to bring EVs into the education ecosystem. Here's how

There's more issues to the EV industry than a lack of infrastructure. These two young entrepreneurs have spotted gap in skills between the industry and academia and are looking to fix it
'Skill development is important for the industry and the students, both,' Ashhar Ahmed, Co-founder, SkillShark| (Pic: SkillShark)
'Skill development is important for the industry and the students, both,' Ashhar Ahmed, Co-founder, SkillShark| (Pic: SkillShark)

If you want to build a career in an industry, you have to understand the whole ecosystem, says Akbar Baig, Co-founder, SkillShark EduTech. He was pursuing a BTech in Automobile Engineering, while Co-founder Ashhar Ahmed, belonged to the Mechatronics department, a hybrid of mechanical and electronic engineering. Both are graduates of SRM Institute of Science and Technology, Chennai — with Akbar being the senior of the two by a year.

Akbar was part of a team that made race cars and participated in the Formula Student competition in Germany, which happens to be one of the toughest design challenges for students. Ashhar on the other hand was building his expertise in the sustainable energy department, designing and developing solar electric cars from scratch. The two met at the lab they shared for the design fabrication of their two very distinct cars. "That is where we became friends over a shared passion for cars and technology," says Ashhar. Akbar graduated in 2017, and once Ashhar had followed him out in 2018, the two retrofitted a Maruti 800 and a Maruti Esteem. Confused? Retrofitting refers to converting a combustion car run on fuels such as petrol and diesel into electric cars. The technology was nascent back then, and the two had managed to pull it off, drawing accolades from the budding Electric Vehicles (EV) industry. That encouragement led them to establish Bharat Mobi, a start-up that retrofitted cars in Hyderabad.

Policies are being pushed by the government, startups are being established, but the universities are not able to teach fast enough: Akbar Baig, Co-founder, SkillShark

"We have always been active as students, and we understand that we were lucky to have received the exposure from the projects we were part of. However, the time we spent at our retrofitting start-up made us realise that there was a huge skill gap between industry and academia when it comes to EVs," says Akbar. And that's where SkillShark comes in. With its hybrid model of hands-on training and online courses, the platform has been approaching colleges and universities in India and in Africa to help equip students with skills specific to the EV industry.

An Ambassador retrofitted to an electric car at Sri Sairam College of Engineering

"Our exposure to mechatronics and an integration with other branches of engineering helps," Ashhar (24) says. Akbar, who is 26-years-old, adds that the EV and renewable energy sectors demand a multidisciplinary approach, therefore making the "upskilling" of students all the more important. The start-up has set up a Centre of Excellence at Mathusri Engineering College in Hyderabad where they train students, faculty, researchers as well as mechanics and technicians to understand the EV ecosystem. Their initiative Ev4Africa is a collaborative effort with MPact Lane Consult to foster employability and innovation in the stakeholders in the EV industry in Africa.

The Ashhar (centre) and Akbar (right) at BITS Pilani, Hyderabad 

Apart from that, the company also works with technicians and mechanics to help "reskill" them for the EV platform. "Consider this: a combustion car has 2000 moving parts, whereas an EV has just 20. When the industry shifts to EVs, there will be workers involved in the designing, manufacturing, and assembling of these parts. These mechanics need to be able to adapt to the inevitable changes in the industry," says Ashhar. SkillShark conducted programmes with technicians and mechanics in association with the Andhra Pradesh State Skill Development Corporation in January this year, teaching them about the transition in the industry and how to adapt to it.

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