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Want To Be Seen At Tech, Innovation Forefront In Digital Documentation Of Cultural Heritage: Anupama Mallik

I believe today is the time in India for a woman to be the founder of a start-up - to step out and achieve what one has always dreamed to achieve, said Anupama Mallik.

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Vizara, founded in 2016, was motivated by collaborative and multidisciplinary work done under the Indian Digital Heritage initiative of the Department of Science and Technology, for digitising the tangible and intangible heritage of India, focusing on the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hampi, Karnataka. 

In a conversation with BW Applause and BW Everything Experiential, Anupama Mallik, Co-founder, Managing Director (MD) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Vizara Technologies talked about  Dubai Expo 2020, her journey to success, and the future of her company. 

Q1. Tell us about your journey as a woman entrepreneur so far, Vizara and its offerings 

Ans- My name is Anupama Mallik, and I am the co-founder, MD and CEO of an Indian tech startup called Vizara Technologies Private Limited. We offer knowledge-based solutions that employ AR, VR and 3D technologies using Artificial Intelligence for domains such as Heritage, Tourism, Education, Security and Smart City governance. 

When we talk of journeys, we always remember more distinctly the obstacles and the turns we take which define the paths we ultimately take. I have a PhD from IIT Delhi, and this would not have been possible without the professor who sat me down to explain to me why I would fail. She cited the fact that I have an MCA from Delhi Univ and so I would not fit into the IIT mould-that I needed to look after my children and family and the hard work that a PhD requires would take me away from these duties - and so on. As I said - she was responsible for my completing my PhD from an institution as renowned as the IIT Delhi as I needed to prove to myself that I could prove her wrong. 

In the case of my startup, the voice of doubt was in my own head. Having been one of the first women tech entrepreneurs in the 90s running my own software consultancy, and subsequently having moved to the academic world, I wasn’t ready to take the plunge again, especially after enjoying the comfort zone and cocoon of being in academic research. But I had to prove something to myself in this case. Also, the timing was just right in 2016 - what with the govt initiatives like the startup India, Digital India and the encouragement being given to Women entrepreneurs. 

This time I found it much easier to start a company, find an incubator (at my alma mater IIT Delhi), and get certified by DPIIT, Ministry of Commerce. Startup India hub and Invest India teams have supported us in many ways, and through them, we were able to meet investors, different ministry officials and discuss opportunities. Vizara was amongst the selected 1 per cent to get Tax benefits in 2017 - all this has made the journey much smoother. 

I believe today is the time in India for a woman to be the founder of a start-up - to step out and achieve what one has always dreamed to achieve.  

Our exhibits and digital heritage installations for 6 monuments (Hampi, Taj, Rani ki Vav, Konark, Kashi Vishwanath Temple) have been proudly showcased at the National Museum, Janpath for the last 2 years. These have recently been exhibited at the Expo 2020 in Dubai and have been mentioned on social media by the Indian Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce. 

Q2 What are you planning to do as far as heritage and tech space are concerned?

Ans- In Heritage Space: Change the heritage tourism space and the way people experience the history and learn about our tangible and intangible heritage.  

Get youth excited about our roots and our past by learning through experiential technologies and gaming.  

Tourists should love to visit and heritage sites and museums online and in reality, with exciting, immersive but validated experiences built around them. 

Set up Heritage Experience Centers and History Labs with hands-on, interactive play-throughs to learn and retain knowledge better. 

In Tech Space: Offer immersive experiences, virtual explorations, mobile apps and innovative applications through a confluence of digital technologies such as AI, AR, VR and 3D for domains such as Education, Entertainment, Real-estate and Industry 4.0 

Q3. Which models are being showcased at the Dubai Expo 2020 and what is the highlight of the exhibits?    

Ans- Vizara is showcasing five true-scale 3D printed replicas of Indian monuments with a linked augmented reality (AR) application. In addition, the VR films created by Vizara around the life lessons of Mahatma Gandhi Ji were showcased on October 2 (Gandhi Jayanti). The Expo 2021 Dubai comes at a perfect juncture when India is celebrating 75 years of independence. Vizara’s proposition offers a creative and relevant solution to bringing Indian history to the fore leveraging new age expressions. 

Vizara is the only Indian company that is showcasing the Indian heritage monuments digitally, 4 out of these 5 are UNESCO world heritage sites and were digitally documented and then 3D printed. Vizara offers a sustainable, structured plan with a broad scientific undertaking to reincarnate the Indian heritage in the digital era. Vizara’s Dubai showcase includes: 

Stone Chariot, Hampi (3D printed replica) – with digital reconstruction in AR.

Taj Mahal, Agra (3D printed replica) – with a guided tour in AR.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Varanasi (3D printed replica) – with a guided tour in AR. 

Sun Temple, Konark (3D printed replica) – with a guided tour in AR. 

Rani Ki Vav, Gujarat (3D printed replica) – with a guided tour in AR.

The Site guided tours are in Hindi and English and can be experienced through an AR app called “DharohAR App” run through iPads placed next to the models. The app was specially created for the India Pavilion by Vizara. These models will attempt to bring a sense of homecoming for Indians abroad with a trace of spirituality and culture to promote tourism at the Dubai Expo 2021. It will also attract communities from diverse disciplines such as science, technology, culture, and social sciences who are engaged in conservation, preservation, and management of the World Heritage in the physical and digital space. 

Q4. Which Technique is used in creating the models and what makes them stand apart? 

Ans- Cultural heritage documentation refers to a multidisciplinary field of activities aimed at gathering data (usually prior to any intervention but can be done at any stage) about the physical and other related aspects of the heritage element (heritage site or artefact), and a subsequent organization and utilization of that data for multiple purposes.   

Vizara has documented multiple historical sites of India. It involves 3D Scanning of the monument along with 2D data capturing. Lidar and Photogrammetry have been used for capturing the 3D data, Vizara has also documented the cultural and historical significance of the intangible aspect of the monument using High res 360 degrees and 2D capturing.   

The 3D scanned data is post-processed and 3D printable files were created for 3D printing. A virtual walk-through of the monuments was created using authentic and actual 3D and 2D data sets. The digital assets were used as content in AR and VR applications. The output of these two pipelines was combined to create visually immersive and interactive digital experiences of the rich Indian culture and history.  

The digital reconstruction of certain missing parts of the monuments in ruin is also shown by us through a mobile AR app. The conjecture of the reconstructed parts is as per evidence and as per research done on the prevalent art style of similar structures. 

Q5. What are your future plans for the company? 

Ans- We would like to be seen at the forefront of technology and innovation for everything related to digital documentation of cultural heritage. Our future plans are digital documentation of 250+ cultural heritage sites in India, and 100+ India related cultural heritage sites abroad starting with ASEAN countries in the next 5 years, and the creation of digital experiences to enhance tourism. 

Our plan also includes establishing over 150 experience centres for heritage with interactive tech and 3D content in the next 5 years, helping implement the experiential learning vision mentioned in the NEP 2020 by applying Extended Reality (XR) and Gaming in education in 100+ Indian schools in the next 2 years. Also, help the government in digitizing and upgrading over 100 museums and interpretation Centers and moving into the vertical of education and entertainment. 


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