The Indian Maker Movement is alive and kicking; we head to their Mumbai branch to see what they're up to

A designer pops down to India and decides that he wants to create a mobile workshop to help disseminate the “Maker spirit.” He builds said mobile workshop. We go to check it out, as well as the people who helped him do it. In the process we stumble upon a creative community unlike any we've encountered before.

A designer pops down to India and decides that he wants to create a mobile workshop to help disseminate the “Maker spirit.” He builds said mobile workshop. We go to check it out, as well as the people who helped him do it. In the process we stumble upon a creative community unlike any we've encountered before.

If that sounds like a fun way to pass the time, read on.

Mumbai’s Maker’s Asylum is located in Andheri (East), a stone’s throw from the Passport Seva Kendra over there. It’s an out of the way place, I know, but more importantly, it’s packed to the gills with equipment (3D printers, laser cutters, woodworking tools, etc.) and people willing to help you learn to make things.

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The Maker's Auto reveals all!

The aforementioned mobile workshop, called Maker’s Auto, was parked outside the place. It’s a regular auto-rickshaw, the type you see plying the streets around you every day, but this one has a few tricks up its sleeve. Coby Unger, a designer who’s worked with the likes of Instructables and Autodesk, is the man responsible for the auto.

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The people who helped breathe life into Maker's Auto. Coby's the guy with the pink hammer.

Unger is quick to point out that it wasn’t entirely his idea and that his team were heavily involved in the ideation and creation of the vehicle.

The idea behind the Maker’s Auto was to create a “mobile platform for conducting workshops on public art, design thinking, collaborative hacking and making.” Why an auto? Unger says it’s because auto-rickshaws are a culturally significant part of India and the symbolism mattered.

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Maker's Auto is packed to the brim with assorted tools

Maker’s Asylum acquired an auto-rickshaw, stripped out the rear, modified the chassis and built a kind of tool rack on the back. They added gull-wing doors (they look really cool on an auto-rickshaw, by the way) and threw an assortment of regular and power tools into the racks.

The Maker’s Auto was meant to travel to various parts of Maharashtra, spreading the Maker spirit and igniting young minds. That was the dream anyway.

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We're not entirely sure what Unger and these kids are doing, but they seem very busy.

The reality of liaising with RTO officers, security concerns and myriad issues has hampered progress, but Unger and Rodrigues assure us that they are working hard to get the project on our streets as soon as possible. Unger also adds that they expect to have the Auto on the road by early next month and that the Auto will be handed over to the Maker's Asylum team soon.

The red tape is a minor setback, but it's nothing that warrants concern. Maker culture is, after all, about “learning-through-doing in a social environment.”

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In conversation with Coby Unger. Allan Rodrigues is on Unger's right, Pradeep Nair on his left.

When asked about the commercial benefits of the project, Rodrigues explains that the Maker’s Asylum isn’t a place that’s been set up to make money; it’s a place where people come to make things, and to learn to make things. That’s all.

Autodesk had a large part to play in getting the Maker’s Auto project off the ground and they’re also a big part of the Maker movement themselves. Pradeep Nair, Managing Director of Autodesk India and SAARC Operations, told us that Autodesk is a part of the Maker movement because Autodesk is a company that likes to help people make things. Their software enables this, and they’re willing to support any initiative that propagates that spirit.

The Maker movement, Autodesk and their other partners want to “democratise technology” by enabling innovation and indulging creativity. The Maker’s Asylum and Maker’s Auto seem like as good a place to start as any.

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We received this laser-etched doodah as a parting gift

Maker’s Asylum is essentially a makerspace. As Wikipedia puts it, “it’s a community-operated workspace where people with common interests, often in computers, machining, technology, science, digital art or electronic art, can meet, socialize and collaborate.”

To be a part of the Maker community and to take advantage of all that the Maker’s Asylum has to offer, one must take a membership. Full details can be found here and I’ll tell you right now, given the potential of what’s on offer, those fees are more than justified. Students even get a discount.

So what are you waiting for? Start making!

Editor's Note: The article originally stated that the Maker's Auto project failed to achieve its target and that it could be considered to be a failure. The Maker's Asylum team has assured us that this is far from the truth and that they fully intend to have the Auto on the streets as soon as possible. The article has been updated accordingly.

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