Meet these IIT-graduates who became entrepreneurs to solve real world problems
From addressing gaps in the electric vehicle space to monitoring air quality and repurposing machines to supply masks, these IIT graduates are putting their technical skills to good use by becoming entrepreneurs.
Studying in one of the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) is often seen as a ticket to high-paying jobs and a comfortable life. However, the tide has turned over the last decade with more and more IIT graduates taking to entrepreneurship, and the road less travelled.
Inspired by tech innovation and product development that are redefining the world, these women IIT graduates are making significant contributions to the Indian startup ecosystem and making a difference in people’s lives.
Pivot and Persist: Saral Designs repurposes sanitary napkin machines to produce masks amid coronavirus
Srujana Raghupatruni Patnaik, Cellerite Systems
An IIT-Delhi graduate and researcher in the field of power systems, Srujana Raghupatruni Patnaik felt that while most research work is appreciated, they are not implemented on ground. Noticing a dramatic rise in air pollution in her hometown Vishakhapatnam pushed her to take the entrepreneurial plunge.
After learning the pollution is largely caused by diesel-run vehicles and most people are apprehensive of adopting the electric vehicle (EV) due to difficulties in charging, the 35-year-old founded B2B startup Cellerite Systems in April 2018.
Based in Telangana with a manufacturing factory in Vishakhapatnam, Cellerite Systems manufactures and supplies portable chargers for two and three-wheeler EVs to five Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) clients in India. It claims to reduce charging time from eight hours to under three-and-a-half hours, with the price ranging between Rs 1,800 and Rs 10,000. A standard charger - of 48 volts and 15 ampere – costs Rs 3,200.
This woman entrepreneur is living the Make in India dream by bolstering EV adoption through a portable charger
Namita Gupta, Airveda
Air pollution, one of the most important factors affecting climate change, came at a heavy cost for Namita Gupta and her family, all dealing with asthma. After returning to Delhi, declared the most polluted city in the world in 2014, after 13 years in the US worsened the condition.
An MTech graduate in Computer Science from IIT-Delhi with work experience at corporates like Facebook and Microsoft, Namita took matters into her own hands by building an air quality monitor. Knowing air measurements in different areas helped her decide when to keep her children outside for play time and when to keep them indoors.
She would post the measurements on social media sites and request the residents in the neighbourhoods to not burst firecrackers during Diwali and received positive responses.
In 2016, she founded Airveda, an app-enabled air quality monitor to make the data affordable for all and started selling the portable device on Amazon and Flipkart.
Bootstrapped with an initial investment of Rs 50 lakh, it is also receiving international orders from Dubai, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Myanmar, Finland, Denmark, and Italy.
Meeta Sharma Gupta, Shumee
When 42-year-old Meeta Sharma Gupta, a mother of two, returned to India from the US, she noticed that most Indian toys were made from plastic, causing severe harm to the environment.
A BTech graduate from IIT Delhi and PhD in computer engineering from Harvard University, she started designing safe and sustainable toys using wood and cotton, and child-safe paints and polishes. Launched in 2014, Shumee offers simple, engaging, and open-ended toys, games, and activity boxes for children up to the age of six.
Gaining customer base through a strong social media presence, the startup delivers in India, the UK, Singapore, the US, Canada and Dubai through its website and Amazon.
Initially bootstrapped with an investment of Rs 1.5 crore, the startup raised funds through a small seed round in December 2017.
Suhani Mohan, Saral Designs
Former investment banker at Deutsche Bank and IIT-Bombay graduate Suhani Mohan co-founded social venture Saral Designs to ensure women in lower-income families have access to affordable sanitary napkins.
Venturing into the low-cost sanitary napkin industry with IIT-Madras graduate Kartik Mehta in June 2015, the duo developed in-house automatic and compact machine to manufacture sanitary napkins and launched the product in just six months.
Recently, the startup repurposed its sanitary napkin-making machine to manufacture three-ply surgical masks. It reached out to Anand Mahindra and worked from the Mahindra unit in Kandivali and successfully distributed more than a million masks across hospitals in Mumbai.
Priced between Rs 4 and Rs 10, the startup received a grant of Rs 40 lakh to ramp up production and distribute another million masks.
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)
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