Three NIT Surat graduates are providing a smooth ride for daily commutersNeha Jain
Hyderabad-based Feel Good Innovations is a startup focussed on creating innovative products
Startup: Feel Good Innovations
Founders: Viswanadh Malladi (29), Santosh Samala (31), and Madhav Kolli (28)
Year it was founded: 2015
Where is it based: Hyderabad
The problem it solves: Health troubles caused during commutes
Sector: Product innovation
Funding raised: Government grants, crowdsourced funds, and funds from BVS Overseas.
While the idea of a long drive into the sunset, with your windows down and the wind whipping your hair sounds like a great experience, for the average Indian commuter, this is a dream that is yet to come true. Navigating potholes, sidestepping ditches, jostling for space with other commuters and the seemingly endless traffic snarls all leave us exhausted, frazzled and angry.
To ease commuter troubles, three friends, Viswanadh Malladi (29), Santosh Samala (31), and Madhav Kolli (28) got together to start Feel Good Innovations.
“We are a startup that foresees a better and improved standard of consumer transportation in India. We intend to create unique automotive enhancers- accessories that enrich our experience of automobiles,” says Viswanadh.
Hence, they kickstarted their journey in 2015 with FeGo Float, an air suspension based seat for bikes and cars. All the three founders are graduates from NIT, Surat. Viswanadh has an experience of running an advertising agency before and has worked with Amazon as a Program Manager. His B.Tech in Product Engineering helped carve a way for the development of the product idea.
While Santosh has over five years of experience and worked with companies like TCS and ONGC, Madhav handles the operations and has experience of working with CLP and Greenko.
“We had to persuade our families and also leave our secure jobs. We took a big hit on our earnings and had to get things done with minimum resources. But our friends and families had our back and over time we managed to work it out,” says Viswanadh.
It also gathered support and help from institutes like National Institute of Design, Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University and Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, and by October 2015, they built their first working prototype.
Viswanadh says, “The prototype was a huge hit. We bagged numerous awards and the government supported us too. Our next challenge was converting this prototype into a mass product. Forty concept designs, six iterations, more than 10,000km testing and many vendors. We successfully finished our first product, the FEGO Float.”
Design thinking - the game changer
It all started with an open-source design thinking class for the founders, as they wanted to apply the learnings to the problems in India. He says, “An average Indian spends roughly two hours a day on roads and we realised that we must do something to make that time more delightful, enjoyable and, most importantly, healthier.”
They recognised how the road infrastructure of India was a major hurdle for the quality of living. The first product Float is an add-on saddle that straps onto motorcycles, scooters and cars to provide relief from shocks and jerks caused while driving on bad roads or while riding for long hours.
The Float uses air cell technology. Inside the Float, there are air pockets. When one hits a bumper, the shock or vibrations are absorbed and distributed across the pockets so that the body gets less distressed.
It also helps fighting fatigue and cramps when one rides for long hours and is stuck in traffic jams. The product is made out of pure leather and breathable mesh, which enables good air circulation.
Viswanadh says, “The best part about it is that it is a universal seat. It fits all kinds of motorbikes. In the longer run, it helps reduce compression to the spine, further reducing back aches, shoulder pains, stiffness and any other kind of distress that happens due to continuous compression of the spine.”
Support from various sources
In terms of funding, they have received grants from the government, such as the MSME TBI grant and Gujarat Government Grant. They have also received seed funding from NDBI and angel funding from HNIs in Hyderabad.
They had also started a crowdfunding campaign last December and managed to raise over Rs 7 lakh within two weeks.
“Through aggressive scientific testing, Automotive Test Solutions (Pune) has certified that FEGO Float can reduce shocks and vibrations by up to 46 percent,” says Viswanadh.
Its revenue model is based on online and offline retailing. Besides online, they also want to place automotive accessories through health and lifestyle-based channels for optimum penetration.
The product is priced between Rs 1,400 and 2,000 for cars and bikes. The firm claims to have received orders of over worth Rs 1,50,000.
According to an IBEF report, the Indian auto industry is one of the largest in the world. The industry accounts for 7.1 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The two-wheelers segment, with 80 percent market share, is the leader of the Indian automobile market, owing to a growing middle class and a young population. Moreover, the growing interest of the companies in exploring the rural markets further aided the growth of the sector.
While in the US there are companies like AirHawk, India has Ride-OnAir and Gel Seats.
Talking about its differentiator, Viswanand says, “We created Float with a cause, so that everyone can ride pain-free. Our strategy is customer-centric. We want to educate everyone on the effects of bad roads and help them deal with them.”
For the future, they have identified seven major issues related to Indian commuting. “We surely want to expand our dimension into solving these issues. We are working on innovating a series of several cutting-edge automotive accessories that would help people with commuting in India,” says Vishwanand.