From robots to ventilators: How this Pune-based startup pivoted to help India fight COVID-19
COVID-19’s impact on the startup and manufacturing ecosystem has been well documented. While some sectors such as healthtech, edtech, and hyperlocal delivery received a boost due to the accelerated digitisation, others pivoted to survive and also aid India’s battle against the pandemic.
Pune-based Noccarc also has a similar story. Founded in 2017 by IIT Kanpur alumni Harshit Rathore and Nikhil Kurele as Nocca Robotics, the startup began its journey as a solar panel cleaning robots manufacturer.
However, last year, when the pandemic broke out, it pivoted to building ventilators to support the country in its fight against COVID-19.
Image Credit: Noccarc
Speaking with YourStory, Harshit says the duo initially planned to build robots for defence but it didn’t take off. Later, they decided to make robots to clean solar panels.
“The solar industry was growing at a rapid pace and there was a lot of visibility as well. So, we developed our first product, did our initial sales, and also raised Rs 12.4 crore from Indian Angel Network Fund. We were working on our second product when COVID-19 hit us. We had to stop our operations due to lockdowns. We began thinking how we could sustain our business and help fight the crisis,” he says.
Realising there was a drastic need to meet the increased demand for medical devices, the startup pivoted itself and commercially launched its ventilators within 90 days.
At present, it has a team of almost 150 and is looking to expand to 200 people soon.
Image Credit: Noccarc
From cleantech to medtech
The NOCCARC V310 ventilator device claims to provide a wide range of ventilation modes, including High Flow Oxygen Therapy.
Last August, the startup launched its high-flow oxygen therapy device — Noccarc H210 — for critical care treatment, including COVID-19. Both devices received their certification from the HLL.
NOCCARC V310 ventilator device [Image Credit: Noccarc]
Speaking about the shift from cleantech to medtech, the founder explains that the engineering of the solar products was designed in a way that other products could also be built using the same technology. He adds that the motherboard operating the ventilator is the same one that was being used to power its solar panel cleaning robots.
“A lot of technologies are common in our cleantech and medtech products. It has now further evolved but if we didn’t have our previous technologies, building the ventilators could have taken a lot more time,” he says.
Harshit adds that the solar panel cleaning robots are still available and are being further developed.
Business and more
According to an IBEF report, India’s medical devices market is expected to reach $65 billion in 2024 from $11 billion in 2020. Several startups such as Biodesign Innovation Labs, Aerobiosys Innovations, and Avyantra Health Technologies also launched ventilator technologies to combat the COVID-19 crisis.
Noccarc has a network of distributors in over 15 cities and a 24x7 call centre for queries and clarifications regarding its products. The startup claims to be working with close to 500 private and government hospitals across India.
“We were looking to raise external funds earlier this year but we didn’t need to as our sales increased due to the second wave. Last year, we clocked close to Rs 15 crore in revenue and we are hoping to close Rs 125 crore this year,” Harshit says.
Illustration: YS Design
According to the founder, each ventilator costs around Rs 4-4.5 lakh. While the startup supplied about 600 ventilators before the second wave in March 2021, it saw a rapid increase in demand. “To date, we have supplied around 3,000 ventilators across the country,” adds the co-founder.
At present, the startup is working on its business and expansion plans, looking at product expansion as well. Eventually, in the next three to four months, it expects to start looking to raise external funding.
Going forward, the startup is looking to achieve global certification for its products. Noccarc is also looking to expand its product portfolio.
Even after the pandemic, Noccarc aims to continue its work in the medtech segment. “We realised there are a lot of gaps in the sector and there is a huge scope for improvement. The idea is to go deeper into the sector and build not only ventilators but also other critical care devices,” Harshit signs off.
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