[Startup Bharat] Here’s why this IIT alumnus moved to Kochi to grow his medical device startup
Anaemia affects as many as half of all pregnant women in low-income and middle-income countries. According to World Health Organisation, India contributes to about 80 percent of pregnancy-related deaths due to anaemia in South Asia. And most of these deaths can be prevented with the availability of blood.
Enter Kochi-based Bagmo Pvt Ltd, which is working towards prevention of deaths during pregnancy due to non-availability of blood in rural India.
Founded in March 2017 by IIT-Madras alumnus Ashfaq Ashraf and his friends, Anas Dalinatakam and Arshad KA, the team has developed a blood bag monitoring device: Bagmo.
The device monitors the temperature of blood bags during transportation and storage. The B2B company aims to reduce wastage at blood storage centres, and improve logistics and communication issues.
The technology of the hardware product, which has cloud connectivity, can be used in other sectors such as food, pharma, and others.
Watch founder Ashfaq Ashraf explain what Bagmo is trying to solve in this video clip:
Beginning the Bagmo journey
After completing his MTech in Clinical Engineering, Ashfaq went on to do a fellowship programme in maternal and child health. This was a Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) social innovation programme in Odisha.
“During one of the field visits to a hospital in January 2015, two women died,” Ashfaq recalls. Despite the hospital having all the requisite facilities and physicians, these lives were lost because of non-availability of blood in the hospital’s blood storage facility.
“Blood had to be transferred from a district hospital 60 km away,” he says. These deaths set Ashfaq thinking, and he - along with Anas and Arshad - started working on the idea in the last quarter of 2016.
“We started identifying the bottlenecks in the blood supply chain,” Ashfaq says.
How the Bagmo device works
In 2017, the company received Rs 47 lakh funds from BIRAC, under the biotech ignition grant, and started working on the concept. Bagmo Pvt Ltd was formed in March 2017.
“We collaborated with Christian Medical College, Vellore, to develop the product,” Ashfaq says.
How does the device work? Whenever a donor donates blood, data is entered in Bagmo's cloud, using a web application. Once the donated blood has undergone tests, the three components - plasma, blood cells, and platelets - are separated into bags.
A radio-frequency identification (RFID) card is attached to each of these bags. Before the bag is placed into the mother bank or refrigerator, the RFID is scanned using the Bagmo device. The cloud stores the unique ID and the refrigerator that stores the bag.
Next time, whenever there is a requirement for blood, all the hospital or user has to do is enter the details in the cloud. Bagmo, or the 'Blood bAG MOnitoring' device, will alert the users about which bag is fit for use and in which refrigerator it has been stored.
A Bagmo device
Bagmo uses algorithms to store all this data. Currently in pilot stage, the device can be used to monitor blood in a blood bank refrigerator or container. The device monitors the temperature of each blood bag while it is being transported and stored.
“The device will be able to reduce wastage at blood storage centres,” Ashfaq says.
Ashfaq, 31, had five years of experience of working with corporate hospitals and startups, before he started his entrepreneurial journey. He has worked with the Ministry of Health under the technical support of Unicef, as a cold chain consultant for the vaccination supply chain.
Anas previously worked in a Research and Development Institute for two years, before joining Bagmo. He is the Technical Head at the company. Arshad left the company in 2017 as he wanted to pursue a master’s degree.
The founding team also recruited 10 freshers to work for Bagmo. Dr Joy Mammen, of Transfusion Medicine at CMC Vellore, mentors Team Bagmo.
The startup started its journey in Bengaluru. However, “getting quality manpower on a restricted budget was a challenge in a metro”, Ashfaq says.
To solve this problem, Bagmo shifted to Kochi and was incubated in Maker Village.
“Kochi assured affordable living and quality manpower,” Ashfaq says.
Bagmo has received support from Kerala Development Innovation Strategy Council and CMC Vellore.
Bagmo is not generating any revenue at present. “Revenue is expected from selling the device,” Ashfaq says. However, he refused to divulge pricing details at this stage.
By using Bagmo, each hospital will spend Rs 50 extra on each bag. The startup will provide two Bagmo devices (one for the mother bank and another for the container used for transportation) to each hospital along with software usage licence for a year.
The medical device startup is targeting blood banks and blood storage centres initially, and will then focus on other industries.
“We have also developed an affordable cold chain temperature logger for the perishable product cold chain. We are now researching a few more ideas in similar sectors,” Ashfaq says.
Market overview and future plans
According to Invest India, the Indian medical devices market size is expected to reach $50 million by 2025. Although there's no Indian startup competing directly with Bagmo, a few international players like Biolog ID (France, SATO America, and Terso Solutions (US) have similar offerings.
“Bagmo has a few advantages when compared to our competitors. We offer RFID tags, an affordable solution, less capital investment, and an advanced web-based app,”Ashfaq says.
Bagmo received another grant this year for conducting pilot study under BIRAC’s SBIRI scheme. It is in talks for equity-based investments with Axilor Ventures. "We have recently received permission from Directorate of Health Service, Kerala with the support from Kerala Startup Mission to conduct pilot studies in Kerala hospitals. We cannot wait to begin with that!” Ashfaq says.