Startup

These deep tech startups are penetrating deep and creating impact in India’s small towns

These startups have come up with innovative deep tech solutions that address critical problems beyond the metros, like maternal mortality, deaths due to manual scavenging, and many more.

Apurva P
11th Apr 2019
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Deep tech is solving real-world problems, by driving innovation that is rooted in making people’s lives easier.


Many startup business models are leveraging emerging technologies to cater to India’s mobile-first generation, says a report from KPMG. Trends reveal India is the place to go for deep tech. And with a slew of deep-tech startups solving for regions outside metro cities, deep tech is penetrating deep into the country, across small towns in India. Let’s have a look at some of the deep tech startups creating impact outside Tier-I India.


Also read: On the rise: diving into India’s deep tech innovation boom


1. Genrobotics


Thiruvananthapuram-based Genrobotics works with the goal of sewer deaths due to manual scavenging. It cleans up manholes with Bandicoot, a spider-shaped robot.


The 50-kg, pneumatic-powered, remote-controlled robot can be sent down a manhole where it spreads its limbs and removes sewage. The robotic arm uses 360-degree motion to sweep the manhole floor and collect the filth.


Genrobotics was launched in 2015 by engineers Vimal Govind MK, Arun George, Nikhil NP, and Rashid Bin Abdulla Khan.


The team working on 'Bandicoot'


Working like a bot, the Bandicoot uses machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to determine the amount of unclogging needed. Bandicoot can complete in 45 minutes work that would typically take three to four hours manually. 


The Bandicoot is priced between Rs 15 lakh and Rs 35 lakh. The robots - 15 of them - have been deployed in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, and Gujarat. 


2. Lifetron


Phototherapy is a treatment for jaundice that is found in newborns and pre-term babies. Its visible light combats the toxic effects of bilirubin levels.


While this is easily available in most large hospitals, newborns in rural areas often don’t have access to this treatment, which can easily prevent unnecessary deaths.


Lifetron

NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant (centre) inaugurating the Portable Phototherapy unit


Kiran Kanthi, a practising anaesthesiologist, has been running a neonatal nursing care centre for over 20 years in Bagalkot, North Karnataka. The centre has a neonatal intensive care unit equipped with phototherapy treatment.


“The equipment available in the market today is expensive and heavy. It needs a compulsory neonatal intensive care (NICU) setup, where the baby has to be separated from the mother and kept under care. And this kind of care isn’t easily available in rural areas,” Kiran explains.


Lifetron’s patent-pending phototherapy unit costs Rs 30,000, which is half the cost of the existing ones. The product has full battery backup and can easily be used in primary health care centres. 


3. Nautilus Hearing


Audiologist couple T Uday Raga Kiran and Remya founded Nautilus Hearing to make hearing healthcare affordable and accessible to all.


The Hubli-based startup, incubated by Sandbox Hubli, has designed a device that can be used to conduct ear tests with ease.


According to the founders, people often use their hearing aids for short durations, but stop using them as soon as they find it unsatisfying. 


The couple has developed a booth-less, portable audiometer that helps doctors conduct ear tests with ease.


NR Narayana Murthy trying the Nautilus device


The device tests hearing in 10 minutes, and creates a digital diagnostic report, based on which different solutions and treatments can be given. It is available in two variations - a diagnostic product for certified healthcare practitioners, and a screening device that can be used at schools, colleges, NGOs, and industries with loud machinery and devices. 


The device costs Rs 2 lakh, claiming the price point is 80 percent lower than that of other devices available in the market at present.


4. UNesar


Vadodara-based UNesar was founded by Dhaval Thakkar in 2016 to provide clean energy solutions. The company develops solar stoves, providing a portable cooking solution that captures solar energy in a high-density thermal storage system, and becomes a hotplate for cooking. This solar technology can be suitable for remote and rural areas facing energy supply challenges.


According to Dhaval, the cooking energy that we use now takes less than two percent of the total energy required, but its contribution towards pollution is 15 percent.


UNesar Founder, Dhaval Thakkar


Dhaval says his solar stove design was acknowledged by the Gujarat government, which gave him a grant of a few lakh rupees. UNesar also obtained an undisclosed amount of seed funding from HPCL.

The startup is yet to commercialise the solar stove.


The stove needs to be kept under the sun for three to four hours for charging, after which it can be used to cook for two hours.


5. Desintox Technologies


This Thrissur-based startup makes wheelchairs and other devices for paraplegic patients.

Founded by engineers Don Paul and Sooraj Chandran, the startup currently provides three products. ‘Hoist’ is a patient transfer device that can help transfer patients from bed, chairs, and toilets. It has a leg spreader facility with high quality imported motors controlled with display and safety switch.


‘Smartmotive’- a standing wheelchair, can help paraplegic patients stand. It helps in muscle development and has benefits of wheelchair and tilting table.


Desintox Technologies also provides an electric wheelchair wherein it helps the paraplegic to travel by themselves. The wheelchair can be adjustable with joystick switch with variable speed options.


Don says that the team has sold around 50 units so far. Started in 2017, the startup is being funded by the Kerala Startup Mission.


6. Photom


Photom was started by Himmat Singh in 2017 in his village Mandla in Pali district of Rajasthan. The startup builds a robotic cleaning system for solar power plants.


The founders claim that dust deposit on solar panels reduces their efficiency, and people mostly need to clean it manually by using water.


Photom robots clean the panels without using any chemicals or water. It’s a fully dry system and thus can save more energy.


photom

Himmat Singh, Founder of Photom


The team has developed five prototypes of robots, which are about two to four metres in length. The startup is now planning to do pilots in Gujarat and will launch commercially after it receives certification from solar plants.


Photom has already received equity seed funding from iCreate and has eight employees. Himmat was among the 15 entrepreneurs from India to be invited by the UK government’s Royal Academy of Engineer for Leaders in Innovation Fellowship.


7. Bagmo


Founded by Ashfaq Ashraf, Arshad KA, and Anas Dalintakam this Kochi-based startup aims to solve the lack of blood availability in rural areas.


Ashfaq says that in the maternal mortality cases, half were caused by the non-availability of blood in rural areas.


Bagmo has a complete blood-bag monitoring device that will help health facilities to keep adequate amount of blood in an optimum level in a resource-poor city.


The device can tell the temperature of each blood bag while it is transported and stored and thus will be able to reduce wastage at blood storage centres. The device will also reduce effort in logistics and communication issues.


Started in 2017, Bagmo is in the pilot stage at present. The device has been installed in Christian Medical College, Vellore, and the team plans to install in more hospitals.

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