Shanthi Rajan, Director, Institution Development, University of Stirling, RAK Campus (UAE)

Shanthi Rajan is a senior HR professional with a cumulative 29 years of experience in HR and academia and currently working as the Director – Institution Development for the University of Stirling, RAK, UAE. She holds a Master’s degree with a specialization in Strategic Human Resources Management from the University of Wollongong and pursuing her Doctorate in Education Leadership (USA). She is an affiliate member of CILT (UK), Fellow of Higher Education Academy (UK) and a certified S+EI coach from ISEI, Denver, Colorado. She has also completed her PGCert in teaching and learning from the UK and Higher Education Teaching Certificate from Harvard.

Mankind is in combat with a strange yet persistent scourge called COVID-19. This pandemic has done incalculable harm to us in all conceivable fronts. Right from questioning our existence on this planet to destroying our economic and financial infrastructure. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have become victims of this pandemic and for those whom we have lost forever. Eventually, we will triumph over this pandemic, it is just a matter of time. Our sincere Salutes are to our medical and healthcare fraternity and our authorities who show up day after day with courage, grit and determination, to fight this scourge from the dreaded frontlines and more often even from behind the enemy lines. They have kept us safe and secured to live our dreams and no words of thanks for them will ever be good enough!

While at home and in solitude, putting forth an indefatigable spirit, students of the University of Stirling, RAK Campus (UAE), participated in the Techstars Global Weekend Start-Up, a gruelling 54 marathon hours to propose, incubate, develop and simulate a real-life innovative business start-up idea and finally present the final product to the panel of judges. This final product is a viable business idea with specific relevance to the current scenario of COVID-19. And this was the key!

The Techstars Startup Weekend Community and Organizers have always been a wonderful source of innovation and inspiration for the students’ community and prospective entrepreneurs. This platform fosters the participant’s abilities to create new opportunities in form of new and innovative Business start-up ideas for themselves and other aspiring entrepreneurs such as the ones created and presented by various teams in this event.

During the non-stop 54 hours of this event, our 13 students had to participate in various workshops and seek mentor assistance to refine the product and its presentations in line with the demanding standards of the Techstars’ Global Weekend Start-Ups. These workshops and mentor assistance included specialized domain experts such as in finance, marketing, data analysis, organization and industry and entrepreneurship. I too was an empanelled mentor to assist various teams who participated in this event, as and when assistance was called for by them. On the part of the participating teams, this called for great perseverance, dedication and attention to detail with the greatest constrain: time.

Attention to detail was probably the single most dominant attribute besides innovative streak of mind required to create and sew all the concepts, skill sets, strategic and tactical level viabilities and the requirement of relevance to COVID-19 situation at hand. The business ideas presented in its fully functional forms ranged from various helping apps to utilities, all with leanings and applications to the current prevailing circumstances.

Culture and pedagogies at the University of Stirling have always given impetus to independent and innovative thinking woven with critical qualitative and quantitative flavour toward situation assessments and their resolutions. This was probably one of the salient features that kept our students in good stead in a well-acclaimed intellectual event such as this. One of our team made it to the top five amidst fierce competition and it was an erudite pleasure watching them convert a raw idea and data from the 16th of April evening onward and submitting a viable entrepreneurial presentation on the 18th of April 2020. For those who could not participate in this event, this drumbeat of accomplishment by these teams were quite inspirational. With the outcome of the encouraging results of this event, one thing got clear: our students are intellectually dexterous to handle a marathon with the same ease as they are at sprints! As the University of Stirling tag line states, they did prove to “be the difference”.

While still in the undergraduate programs, this was indeed a great opportunity for our students to listen to the Techstar experts of their experiences and to be mentored by field experts of various domains. To assimilate the nuts and bolts and to complete the novel COVID-19 relevant business model solving all the puzzles it threw on the way was a great and an excellent accomplishment on the part of our students.

Exemplary! And they deserve a sound celebration!

Well done University of Stirling, RAK, UAE team and keep up such good work. Brilliant endeavour!!!

These are our brilliant minds!

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