In its fifth year, the Demo Day of Qualcomm Design in India Challenge showcased how Indian hardware, IoT and smart infra startups are solving for India
Diagnostics, a medical diagnostic device company, won the Qualcomm Design in India Challenge 2020. The chennai- based startup was awarded for its work in developing ‘Illuminate’, a first-of-its-kind screening device that helps to non-invasively detect and classify pathogens on wounds along with automated measurements in under two minutes. The solution enables early disease detection of skin and soft tissue infections, ensures that the first-line treatment is accurate and makes treatment affordable. Illuminate has the potential to create a strong impact in a country like India where prolonged diagnosis, increase in treatment cost and hospital stay, delay in wound closure, amputation and even mortality are not unheard of due to the absence of established wound management protocol. The startup was awarded a prize money of Rs 65 lakhs.
and Technologies were selected as the first and second runner up, taking home a prize money of Rs 50 lakhs and Rs 35 lakhs, respectively. While Planys was awarded for its work in developing an Internet of Underwater Things (IoUT) enabled platform for underwater drones for the marine industry, Wellnesys was awarded for its work in developing a smart yoga mat that offers a personalised wellness programmes based on users’ goals, limitations, past history, and various metrics gathered from the mat.
Virtual Demo Day of QDIC 2020
The three startups were among 12 startups that were part of the fifth year of the challenge. The other startups included - Aubotz Labs (), , , , , , Wellness, and .The startups received initial grant of Rs 3.2 lakhs each, went through an 8 month incubation, and collectively filed over 13 patent applications during this time. They received patent filing support and incentives, business mentoring, government connects, industry exposure and more.
Announcing the winners at the recently held demo day, Rajen Vagadia – VP & President, Qualcomm India, shared that the challenge continues to witness startup ideas with a potential to solve for India and revolutionise India’s digital economy.
In addition to the pitches of the 12 participating startups, the event also saw Qualcomm leaders reiterating the company’s support to the startup ecosystem and the larger vision they are working towards.
Qualcomm leaders reiterate their commitment to support startups
Alex Rogers, Executive VP and President, Qualcomm Technology, said, “Qualcomm is the world’s leading innovator of foundational wireless technologies and a leader in 5G. We know first hand that innovation has demonstrable benefits on economic growth.”
He pointed to data from the global innovation policy centre which indicated that countries that prioritise innovation and have a strong IP system produce 70 percent more innovative output on average. And companies and economies with advanced IP systems are 33 percent more likely to invest in R&D. “At Qualcomm, we believe this is the invention age. Through exciting programmes like the Qualcomm Design in India Challenge, we enable innovative companies to build on our foundational technologies and to join us in finding solutions to the world's biggest challenges.”
He noted that the startups are uniquely positioned to invent and implement breakthrough ideas and geographically relevant applications on top of Qualcomm’s foundational technologies offerings in 5G, AI, multimedia and connectivity, robotics, smart cities healthcare, automotive, agriculture and industry 4.0.
In his keynote address on Qualcomm’s Contribution to India’s Digital Transformation, Rajen Vagadia, said, “Indian startups have shown the potential to use technology not only to solve local problems, but have also developed solutions for the global market. That’s why identifying good ideas and investing in them has become important to help startups grow and scale. Qualcomm, being an ecosystem enabler, provides startups technologies and opportunities that helps them get there.” In his address, he said that the digital transformation in India offers opportunities to address deep rooted and far reaching social and economic challenges by using technologies such as 5G, AI, IoT, Blockchain among others. “The mission is to accelerate the pace of mobile innovation by investing in tech startups which have great ideas and providing them with resources and expertise they need to succeed. And, through Qualcomm Ventures, our investment arm, we invest in companies operating in diverse sectors - from dairy, transportation, defence to telecom,” he added.
Rajen gave an overview of the different initiatives under the Qualcomm Design in India Programme (QDIP), wherein QDIC, one of its key initiatives,, has grown to become India’s longest running hardware startup incubation programme. While he stated that it is hard to quantify the impact of the challenge in numbers, he said that 65 startups have gone through incubation since 2016 and the startups cumulatively have received a cash grant of Rs 12.3 crores under the programme. These startups have gone to file 85+ patents, launch 22 products, win awards and more.
Startup lessons from entrepreneurs and achievers
A fireside chat between Ankit Mehta, CEO,, and Varsha Tagare, Managing Director, QC Ventures India, saw the founder sharing his journey of building a successful hardware startup and carving significant breakthroughs in the B2G (Business to Government) and B2D (Business to Defence) domain. “When we started in 2006, there were hardly any hardware startups in India. While everyone appreciated us, no one actually understood us. So for the first 10 years, we did not find venture capital support, except for seed investments from angels. However, we were able to get the support of business incubators like IIM Ahmedabad’s CIIE and IIT Bombay’s SINE. In the absence of capital, we invested every penny in technology. And, the strength of the product and ability to market it allowed us to continue to build the technology that we wanted to and disrupt the market.” He also highlighted the significant role co-founders play and why it was important to hire co-founders with complementary skill sets and not competitive.``
A key highlight of the evening was a talk by Deepa Malik, India's first female Paralympic medallist. In her talk on ability beyond disability, she shared an honest and heart warming account of how she defied bias against disability, age and proved the naysayers wrong to achieve her goals. Drawing parallels of her journey to that of a startup, she shared how she had to package and pitch “disability” in an innovative way because no one wanted to believe in a physically challenged woman who wanted to become a biker, swimmer and a rallyist. Deepa also shared how her passion transformed into work and eventually helped her to reclaim her life. She said, “It’s not always proficiency, skill or knowledge about entrepreneurship which actually makes a startup successful. Passion, dedication and loving what you do and the goal behind what you are doing are what helps to achieve success.”