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This woman entrepreneur is building a seamless supply chain of lab products for life sciences researchers and scientists

By Tenzin Norzom
April 23, 2020, Updated on : Tue May 04 2021 11:48:03 GMT+0000
This woman entrepreneur is building a seamless supply chain of lab products for life sciences researchers and scientists
After an illustrious academic career researching how breast cancer cells work, Shambhavi Naik is now ensuring that life science scientists and researchers in India spend less time worrying about supplies and focus on their research.
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Scientists and researchers need all the time and attention to focus on solutions and innovations the world needs. 

 

Shambhavi Naik was a researcher too. After completing her bachelor’s in biochemistry from Ramnarain Ruia College in Mumbai, she moved to the UK to pursue a master’s in cancer cell and molecular biology. 

 

Subsequently, she pursued PhD at the MRC Toxicology Unit of University of Leicester, which she followed up with a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bengaluru, studying molecular pathways of breast cancer projection. 


CloudKrate




 

Back in India, Shambhavi felt a stark difference in the way processes were managed in the scientific world. While orders for lab products for research work in the UK would be delivered in a day or two, she found that in India, scientists had to wait for at least a couple of weeks. Delivery time for certain products would take anywhere from three to six months. 

 

Shambhavi recalls, “As a postdoc, I could see my work as well as those around me suffer because of this supply chain failure. I felt I had to do something to fix the problem instead of adjusting to delivery times. This realisation led to my starting up in this space.”

Leaving behind the wet lab research and the work she was well-trained for was difficult, but Shambavi understood “the problem was too huge and potential solutions could only come from within the scientific community.” 

 

After six to eight months of research she took the plunge and founded Cloudkrate in 2016, along with her co-founder Pushkar Potdar - to facilitate a more efficient supply chain of lab products. 

 

Parallel to starting CloudKrate, the researcher-turned entrepreneur she also pursued a postgraduate programme in public policy at the Takshashila Institution in Bengaluru where she continues to engage in life science related policy work.  

Navigating supply chain routes 

Shambhavi began interacting with key stakeholders – the suppliers and scientists – as she was wrapping up her postdoctoral work.

 

“We worked with interested laboratories and suppliers right from the ideation phase. Every new feature idea was discussed with a select cohort of early adopters and their inputs were used for product development. We outsourced the website development and had our early adopters provide feedback on wireframes,” says the Bengaluru-based entrepreneur, adding that they conducted an online survey to gauge the depth of the problem across India. 

 With enough data and banking on the popularity of the online medium, the entrepreneur went ahead with an Amazon-like marketplace for lab products only to see a poor adoption rate. 

 

“It took me a while to figure out that scientists did not have the time to shop online, or seek information,” she says.

 

Eventually, the founders switched to the current model of a ‘WhatsApp based quotation system’ where scientists can leave messages regarding product availability over WhatsApp and the startup would provide collated information.


The successful pivot, Shambhavi says, was the ‘eureka’ moment for CloudKrate, which hosts more than 100,000 lab products today. 

 

Working with over 150 life sciences research laboratories and more than 500 scientists, CloudKrate has recorded a rapid growth with a 200 percent increase in order value during the first three months of 2020 as compared to 2019.


The startup’s latest service, a vending machine for life science products is in its pilot phase and being tested at The Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology (IBAB) in Bengaluru.



Funding and future plans

Shambhavi says being an entrepreneur was challenging in the beginning, because of the lack of business knowledge and the fear of not having a consistent income. 


Bootstrapped for the first eight months, Shambhavi says she was lucky to be part of the IIMB-Goldman Sach’s Woman Start up Programme early in her entrepreneurial journey in 2017. 


Apart from a year’s financial support of Rs 15 lakh, the entrepreneur also gained access to business experts and networks. 


“In that sense, being a woman entrepreneur turned out to be a blessing with the help of many support forums. Through the AnitaB.org’s Women Entrepreneurship Quest (WEQ) challenge, I also got the opportunity to spend a week in San Francisco and had an enriching experience to be on the frontlines of the innovation industry,” she adds.   


Subsequently, the startup raised a seed round of Rs 15 lakh from NSRCEL in 2018. The following year, CloudKrate won the GoK Elevate Award and received Rs 30 lakh. 


Having started with the primary goal of eliminating delays in delivering lab products, Shambhavi recalls a ‘milestone moment’ in January 2020 when they completed a delivery within four hours, which is usually a week-long process in India. 


At the same time, the entrepreneur also believes that CloudKrate is an enabler in the life sciences ecosystem. When healthcare workers deal with shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the startup has made the best use of its supplier networks and has shipped over 3 lakh masks to healthcare professionals in India and across the world in the last three months.


Going ahead, Shambhavi hopes to leverage the Internet of Things (IoT) to digitise the supply chain in life sciences research. The founders have partnered with a leading research campus in India to test their IoT prototype. 

Learnings as an entrepreneur

As an entrepreneur, Shambhavi is happy that her reaseach training and sklls have been put to good use, as it has equipped her with analytical tools to take on challenges in the supply chain. 


In a LinkedIn post, the entrepreneur said, “Running a startup is not very different from how scientists perform studies; you observe a problem or gap in knowledge, you form a hypothesis of how the gap can be filled, you experiment to prove your hypothesis and then based on the results, you continue evolving your hypothesis to get the most accurate solution to the problem. I apply the same principles to CloudKrate.”

 


Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan