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From Culture Shock to Second Home

Vipul Swamy Ballupet, a native of Karnataka, India, graduated in 2017 from Chemnitz University of Technology. He is a 5th generation coffee grower and entrepreneur based in Chemnitz

Vipul, what was it like, when you first arrived in Chemnitz?

It was cold and dark outside. I arrived in Chemnitz on the 1st of April 2013. My friend picked me up from Chemnitz Central Station and I stayed with him till I was approved for my own place to stay by the Studentenwerk, which took about a week. I vividly remember feeling cold and visibly nervous about my future. There was a mixture of emotions; I was homesick for a couple of months as I missed my family a lot, especially my mother, to whom I am very much attached. I experienced some culture shock and I was finding it hard to strike up a conversation with any locals. But the people of Chemnitz were, and still are, warm and welcoming and kind enough to show me how things are done here in Germany.

Why did you decide to study in Chemnitz?

While applying to German universities, I did a bit of research, and quickly understood the achievements of TU Chemnitz in the areas of Micro and Nano Systems and Automotive Software Engineering. The enriching diversity of the international students and faculty members was very appealing. This environment encourages people of all backgrounds, irrespective of their origin or nationality, to get an education. I had also learned how the city was warm, quiet and peaceful, which, in my opinion, is a custom-made setting for pursuing higher education and starting a new business. This is, by the way, one of the reasons why I still live in Chemnitz to this day.

What subject did you choose for your Masters of Science?

My aim was to specialize in software engineering, so I completed my masters in Informatics from the Department of Computer Science. My main focus was on Automotive Software Engineering as I was curious to learn about Advanced Driver Assistance Systems and Autonomous Vehicles. I worked with various departments as a research assistant. For my masters thesis I conceptualized, designed and developed a smart anti-theft alarm system for electric bikes under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Wolfram Hardt and in association with Fusion Systems GmbH in Chemnitz. On weekends I built electric skateboards in my dorm room, which later led me to start my own company.

Has studying in a new country changed your outlook on life?

Before coming to Germany I had predetermined and vague ideas and perceptions about the western world in general. That has changed, thanks to living in Chemnitz. I started making local and international friends, who come from different parts of the world. They help me break stereotypes which I previously had held, and teach me about their respective cultures and belief systems. Having lived in Germany for quite some time now, I am looking at the world through a lens of deep respect for countries and people from different backgrounds. I am proud that I became more mature, punctual, disciplined and responsible than ever before. I think Germany has offered a lot to me personally and professionally. Germany, now, is a second home for me.

What are you working on at the moment?

Currently, I am working as an Independent Engineering Consultant at Ballupet Consulting with clients in Chemnitz and Zwickau. For one of my clients I am helping build a first of its kind Smart Mobility App called "Drive with me!". I am also one of the co-founders of an electric vehicle start-up based in Chemnitz called "Vimana technologies", which is in the process of registration. Along with my co-founder Frank Schoenefeld, we are a core team of seven members. We are actively designing and developing an innovative micro mobility solution, which is scheduled to be launched by the end of 2019. In all my endeavors Gründernetzwerk Saxeed has supported me with expertise and regular consultations.

What are your plans for the future?

I am a 5th generation coffee grower and want to continue the family tradition. I am planning to increase our annual produce of Arabica coffee as of 2020. I am also looking into agricultural technology and smart farming, as the Indian economy is hugely dependent on agriculture. Currently, I am interested in the concept of autonomous tractors and drone-based farming. Meanwhile, I will continue working for my start-up and consulting business.

Is there anything that you would like to share with our future or current students?

There is an old proverb in the kannada language, of "Desha suttu kosha odu", which translates as "travel the world, read the books". There are things you cannot learn from books, but only from experience. No matter how progressive our belief systems are, we will always be facing social, economic, political and scientific challenges. These can be met with education. Future students at TU Chemnitz will receive a privileged world class education, from one of the top universities in Germany. I would like to advise students to make use of this platinum opportunity to build a bright future for the next generation. And, strike the right balance between work and pleasure! I wish I had known this before, as I worked too much and did not devote enough time to my friends. Also, try to engage with the locals, so that you can understand the local culture well enough. It will give you a sense of belonging.

(Interview: Evamaria Moore)

Mario Steinebach

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