With audio innovation, Hubballi-based Rapture Innovation Labs looks to disrupt wearables space

Founded in 2018 by Navajith Karkera and Jagath Biddappa, Rapture Innovation Labs looks to stand out in India’s crowded audio wearables space with Sonic Lamb headphones that use proprietary technology to produce immersive sounds.

With audio innovation, Hubballi-based Rapture Innovation Labs looks to disrupt wearables space

Friday October 13, 2023,

5 min Read

The audio wearables market in India is thriving, with startups like boAt Lifestyle, Noise, and Fire-Boltt also setting international benchmarks. As per IDC, earwear exports from India grew 15% YoY in H1 2023.

However, Navajith Karkera and Jagath Biddappa want to push the envelope further and enhance the overall listening experience, believing that the audio industry has shifted away from its core value of improving audio quality.

“We realised that as humans, we perceive sound not only through our ears but also feel it through our bodies. Moreover, human hearing is far less sensitive to low-frequency sounds (which covers sub-bass and bass region) when compared to mid and high frequencies,” Karkera tells YourStory

While loudspeakers and home theatres use audio drivers across frequencies to produce accurate and realistic sounds, Karkera explains headphones falls short as they only incorporate a single driver in each ear up to produce the sound spectrum of 20-20,000 Hz. 

The mechanical and electronics engineers came together to start Rapture Innovation Labs in 2018.

With its flagship product ‘Sonic Lamb headphones’, the startup aims to overcome limitations in personal audio experience by enabling people to not just hear music, but also feel it.

Audio innovation

The idea germinated when Karkera and Biddappa were experimenting with hearing implants as a project at Sahyadri College of Engineering, Mangaluru. They worked on audio communication interfaces for safety helmets that use bone and skin to produce sound instead of ears. The helmet won several national innovation contests and innovators with honoured by the Confederation of Indian Industry, Department of Science and Technology (Government of India), IIT-Delhi, and KPIT Technologies.  

“We faced the challenge of reproducing sound without distracting riders. This led us to explore new ways of allowing users to hear sounds without relying solely on their ears,” explains CEO Karkera.

Sonic Lamb headphones

Sonic Lamb headphones

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The challenge in the audio wearables segment was to integrate a subwoofer for low frequency (bass) while maintaining accurate production of mid and high frequencies (vocals and instruments).

In early 2019, the duo decided to integrate the technology into headphones, combining air and body conduction to allow listeners to feel the music. Rapture’s patented Hybrid Driver Technology uses a precision-tuned full-range dynamic driver along with its proprietary impulse driver to produce immersive sound.

The Hubballi-based startup’s Sonic Lamb headphones use this technology to give audio clarity and bass response by emulating a full-range driver and subwoofer system. 

While the first prototype was developed for personal use, overwhelming reactions from headphone lovers, friends, and family encouraged the founders to go commercial.

“Word of our invention quickly spread, and we set up demo kiosks at a few high-footfall events, allowing people to try our product and share their valuable feedback. The overwhelmingly positive response confirmed our belief that we had something extraordinary on our hands and encouraged us to venture into building our very own audio company,” explains Karkera.

With a team of 10 people, Rapture Innovation Labs is supported by Deshpande Startups, SINE IIT-B, NID Ahmedabad (NDBI), T-Hub, Dept of Science and Technology, and Karnataka government. It was recognised as one of Karnataka's top 100 startups in 2022 by the state government and KITS.

It was also the only non-European startup selected for the SoundTech accelerator programme in 2023 by Soundhub Denmark—a sound-focused technology innovation centre that helps companies with developing, testing and refining their technology, product as well as business.

Business model and revenue

The global earphones and headphones market size was valued at $58.2 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.6% from 2023 to 2030.

Rapture’s products are designed, engineered and made in India. The headphones were earlier sold through the global crowdfunding site Indiegogo but the company has recently started selling directly on its website.

“Our proprietary impulse drivers are made and tuned in-house and the headphones are manufactured through a contract manufacturer,” states Karkera, adding that the startup sources many materials and components from vendors. It also has a contract manufacturer in India for mass production.

Rapture has received orders of 570+ units of Sonic Lamb headphones organically from 50 countries so far, with 60% of the orders from the US. Currently, the product is available in three colours—Obsidian Black, Ember Gray, and Moonstone White, priced at Rs 19,999. The first 1,000 customers can buy it at the inaugural price of Rs 15,999.

The startup has clocked a net revenue of Rs 1.1 crore in FY23 and targets selling 10,000 units by FY25.

Rapture has received Rs 60 lakh as R&D grants from SINE IIT-B, DST, MeitY, and the Karnataka government. It has raised a total of Rs 4.25 crore from Deshpande Startups, NDBI-NID Ahmedabad, and a group of angel investors including startup founders as well as former and current senior executives from Bose, Google, Qualcomm, IBM, and Microsoft.

The way ahead

Rapture’s ultimate goal is to become an international and preferred brand for immersive audio experiences while India remains its market of focus.

“As per the roadmap, we're working on new opportunities where our technology platform can be leveraged to enhance audio experiences in VR/AR headsets, professional and gaming headphones, and maybe even revolutionise the design and sound of loudspeakers,” notes Karkere.

The startup is initially only selling through its website but plans to expand its distribution network based on customer feedback.

While several homegrown audio wearable companies are dotting the Indian landscape, Karkere says what sets Sonic Lamb headphones apart is its unique approach to audio technology.

“Additionally, our headphones provide the flexibility of personalised sound based on music genre, user preferences, and specific activities,” he adds.

The company is looking for funding to scale the business and commercialise new products that are in the pipeline. 

Edited by Kanishk Singh