Movers and Shakers: Siddhartha Pailla

September 13, 2013
Origin: Hyderabad, India
Roles at Uva: Co-founder at HiComm, Chair of StudCo’s UVAStart , and Ph.D/MBA candidate at the Engineering school and Darden
Visits OpenGrounds: Regularly; a few times every weekSid has been at Uva since 2004 (he is a ninth year!) and from the very beginning, he sought to form teams of people from varying disciplines to tackle big problems. This, he thought, would bring a seldom-found cooperation between people from different majors and schools Uva.

Sid’s first project aimed to do exactly that. It was officially launched in early 2012 with the goal of repairing a sand water filter that had been previously built in Tshapasha and Tshibvumo in South Africa by another team. He received funds from the University to lead a team of students with specialties ranging from finance to agricultural engineering. They travelled to South Africa, assessed the infrastructure situation in both villages and found that it was not built to withstand the kind of repairs the team aimed to accomplish.

Instead of viewing that as a hurdle, the team went on to develop a health and hygiene curriculum for the schoolchildren, and established an apprenticeship model for training volunteers in the village to maintain the new water supply infrastructure. That way, the maintenance of the water supply system would come from within the villages, causing them to become self-reliant in that regard.

From thereon out, Sid learned first-hand the value of bringing together a team of people from different fields to work on a project. So when OpenGrounds first opened its doors in March 2012, Sid was naturally excited to see what would come out of such a space.

When I asked him what he thought of the concept behind OpenGrounds, Sid paused for a second. “It is one of the only spots on Grounds that is interdisciplinary in every sense. One day, I could be in there working with our StudCo group and the next I might be dropping in on a flash seminar on Arts and the Environment. That is what makes the space truly unique” he said. When pressed a little more, he adds “the unlimited coffee keeps me coming there as well.”

Currently, while getting his Ph.D and M.B.A at the Engineering school and Darden respectively, Sid is working with a team on a startup called HiComm. Throughout his travels across the developing world, Sid noticed the vast ubiquity of the cell phone. Not the fancy kind that could very well be the mascot for my generation, but the old Nokia-types that is likely to break through a wall. That realization, led Sid to bring together an interdisciplinary team to solve the communication problem that exists in most developing countries among various stakeholders operating there.

HiComm uses SMS messages to communicate information from and to various stakeholders working on any given project. If executed properly, it would be a tremendously helpful platform to contractors, NGO’s, and funding agents working in developing countries.

As part of launching the startup, Sid and his team have used OpenGrounds regularly to brainstorm and bounce ideas off of each other. “The fact that I could use every single wall as a white board is amazing. I am the kind of person that likes to write down what I am thinking while I think it, so having a constant place to record my thoughts on is certainly an advantage of working at OpenGrounds.”

Want to get in touch with Sid? He can be reached by email here or through UVAStart’s website.



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