[Startup Bharat] Kollam-based Waferchips makes ECG monitoring easy and on the go
Healthtech startups are redefining healthcare in India and serving the growing population’s health needs. From something as complicated as cancer treatment at home to something as simple as maintaining medical records digitally, healthtech startups seem to have a solution to everything.
However, trends show that most innovation in the healthtech sector takes place in Indian metros. But challenging this stereotype and emerging from Tier II city of Kollam is Waferchips Techno Solutions.
The Kerala-based startup has come up with Biocalculus - an ambulatory cardiac monitoring device or, simply put, a wearable Electrocardiography (ECG) device.
Waferchips was one of the 10 startups from India to showcase its product at startup event SLUSH in 2017, in Finland.
Founders Archu S Vijay and Sonia Mohandas (L-R)
Biocalculus is a single lead and ambulatory cardiac monitor that takes no special training for usage.
It is attached to the chest of the patient using an adhesive patch. Data is then transferred from the device to an Android application through Bluetooth. In cases where a smartphone is not available, Biocalculus can store data from three days to one month (depending on the variant) of continuous recording.
A Biocalculus device with data being recorded in the Android app
The software in the backend analyses the data using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and detects any abnormalities. It creates a clinically actionable report for the doctor for further diagnosis and treatment.
"All reports are well built and can be printed. Each patient will have a unique and highly secured access to their datasets," explains Waferchips Co-founder Sonia Mohandas.
Based out of Technopark in Kollam, Waferchips is using IoT (Internet of Things) to solve for healthcare sector using delicate chips and self-designed hardware.
The company was registered in February 2016 by collegemates-turned-couple Sonia (30) and Archu S Vijay (32).
Formerly an assistant professor in an engineering college, Sonia has always wanted to increase socially relevant job opportunities for students. Thus, they started their business in Kollam. "Even though it's a rural area, we are provided with more visibility in the startup ecosystem," Sonia says.
"At the same time, we are able to reduce operational expenses by utilising top infrastructure. Now, we are able to give job opportunities for youngsters from our hometown itself," Sonia adds.
Archu, on the other hand, has eight years of industrial experience, and he resigned from a government job to start his own firm. He had previously co-founded educational institute THINC.
Waferchips also has an IoT-based remote monitoring device for Internet Service Providers. Asianet Satellite Communications is one of their key clients. While the company has worked on app development and provided remote site intelligence to stores and companies in the past, it is putting all its efforts in Biocalculus at the moment.
Challenges along the way
Starting up in Kollam was not easy for the Waferchips founders.
"Challenges have been identified mainly in two domains - motion artefacts in the ECG, and medical device Regulations," says Sonia.
Data analysis during the patient's movement was initially difficult. But later, Waferchips on-boarded Rohit Thomas, a doctor from Government Medical College, Ernakulam, to help them with the analysis.
Eventually, regulations were implemented as well. Biocalculus' engineering validation was done from Narayana Hrudayala, Bengaluru. The product is also approved by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation.
Waferchips is a 15-member team comprising data analysts, biomedical engineers, developers, the founders, and Dr Rohit.
Biocalculus is currently a B2B product and is under pilot study in four hospitals in Kerala, names of which the founders do not want to disclose at the moment. The clinical trials for Biocalculus will be starting next month.
Waferchips plans to price Biocalculus at Rs 35,000 per device, for hospitals. At present, the company earns its revenue from the IoT-based remote monitoring device. "We generate a revenue of Rs 5 lakh per month," says Sonia. "We are working towards extending it to Rs 20 lakh per month by the end of this financial year," she adds.
Initially bootstrapped, Waferchips has received support from the Kerala Startup Mission and Maker Village. The startup has also received funding from Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited in 2018. While the device production is in-house currently, the company will be using facilities available in Kerala's Maker Village for bulk-production.
Market overview and future plans
India is among the top 30 markets for medical devices in the world and the market size is expected to reach $50 billion by 2025, says Invest India.
Although we have highly advanced cardiac care devices in the country, they are mostly devised for critical stage usage. Biocalculus competes with the likes of Zio Patch and CHC Health Watch.
"An initial-stage diagnosis without affecting any daily routine for a long period of time calls for a device like ours," says Sonia.
Moreover, the usage is simple and all one needs to do is connect the device to the mobile application. Also, the reports generated by Biocalculus can be kept handy for doctor's visits.
Biocalculus, unlike the other two devices, uses two points to extract signals. Moreover, it uses AI to analyse the recorded data. Zio Patch and CHCHealth require the patient to book the device from home. But Biocalculus can be prescribed by the doctor directly.
Waferchips is looking for angel investments at present.