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Aquib Baig
Aquib Baig

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The current state of hackathons in India


There have been a lot of technical hackathons over the past few years claiming to generate ideas to solve problems of the modern world and making it a better place. I would not like to present my views on the state of hackathons world wide because I certainly have not experienced those but in my career I have experienced a handful of them in India. I would like to bring them to light and majorly discuss why I am not ready to not attend one ever again. We will discuss major facts and figures in terms of an expectation vs reality graph in order to visualize the details minutely.

A means to churn ideas?

Starting off with a rather controversial title, I would want to suggest that this post wont be a rant but a detailed explanation of my experience over the years. Hackathons are a major platform for a group of students to work on a product that targets at solving a modern problem. Solving a issue would essentially prove a team's worth of problem solving and even win them the prize money.

The hackathon is just a means to find a way for organizers to get the best solution and use them in their use case. I went in a hackathon organized by the government where an idea of online bus service was sold to a company who patented the application.

A waste of work?

When you are selected for a big hackathon, and by "big" I mean those which are by the government, state, national or world wide, you normally would expect your solution(if selected) to be an end-product which would make a difference in the real world.

I wonder how many teams will be able to drive their products to reality in terms of production and marketing after the competition. Mostly, the teams are happy after a prize money and an entry in their resume.

Time constraints are a hoax

We go to the competition hoping it's fair at least in terms of time limit. A 24 hour hackathon would essentially expect a team to solve something within 24 hours only.

Most hackathons expose their themes and problem statements before the competition where the teams come prepared with their products, an unfair means of competition. Also, most use modules already available on the internet.


Anybody would expect the judges to be focused more on the product than the presentation! Not nitpicking about machine learning in a project, and should be aware of the fact that very few complex models can be trained overnight and most teams will use pre-trained models on the internet using APIs which is pretty easy. The correlation between a solution and the problem is what judges should be looking for.

In many of the hackathons I've been in, the teams try to make up their product with a good presentation at the end. And if you want to win in a hackathon, use machine learning just to beautify the project which doesn't add value either to the solution or the product.


I am not against any hackathons or competitions but to be honest, this is what I experienced. I would basically say that hackathons are mostly for the experience and community and a win or loss doesn't determine your worth. Thanks for the read.

Top comments (2)

manishfoodtechs profile image
manish srivastava


thebuildguy profile image
Tulsi Prasad • Edited

This really is a well put together document on the state of the hackathons that are being conducted lately. I am aware there are several pain points on the idea of hackathons, mostly because we're shifting from the original idea of bootstrapping a product from an idea level, to come get some swags and be that cool kid who does software all night. Although, thats cool but its never is of prime importance.

I think this mostly should be about the building the idea rather than the whole product itself, no startup could entirely be built within 48 hours of work by couple members. I was upto one hackathon some months after I started coding and I got to present but I was awestruck when I heard by a amazing panel that my project was mere HTML and CSS. I mean what about the idea that we lost sleep over and all those plethora of technical problems that arose at 3AM, which could have been better just if we had some more experience? This bugs me till date.

And being an optimist, I know these problems wont take long to be solved, especially with the rise of awesome organisers of hackathons like Devfolio and MLH. I know somewhere deep down there's this underlying motto of helping our community in people, which will ultimately take over all the fake show-offs that's been happening.