This innovator’s smart wheelchair with assistive cleaning device won Rs 1 Cr funding on Shark Tank India

Sruthi Babu’s innovation is Sahayatha, a smart wheelchair with an assistive cleaning device, offers both convenience and dignity to immobile patients. She recently raised Rs 1 crore in funding on Shark Tank India.

This innovator’s smart wheelchair with assistive cleaning device won Rs 1 Cr funding on Shark Tank India

Monday March 20, 2023,

4 min Read

While pursuing a fellowship at BIRAC as a Sparsh Fellow, Sruthi Babu visited the Ganga Hospital in her hometown, Coimbatore, as part of the immersion programme, where she encountered a patient who was immobile due to paralysis.

Seeing his caretakers—his two daughters—struggle to take him to the bathroom and clean him led to an innovation that aims to bring a semblance of dignity to immobile patients. 


Sruthi Babu (third from right) bagged a five-shark deal for her innovation Sahayatha on Shark Tank India Season 2

The idea for Sahayatha, a wheelchair with an assistive cleansing device helping those unable to move or clean themselves after defecation or urination, arose from this incident.

Babu recollects, “The daughters of the man who was paralysed had to assist him from the bed to the toilet, but the toughest part was to clean him. One of the hospital staff came in to assist, but what the man said will remain with me for the rest of my life—‘It’s better to die than be a burden on my daughters.’

This experience led Babu to research specific devices that would clean an immobile person after defecation or urination. While wheelchairs with commodes were available, it was the cleaning part that needed innovation.

Further, for completely immobile patients, she had to find a way for them to use a commode and be cleaned. The idea had to lead to a wheelchair, which could also expand into a bed and used as a toilet.

Babu comes from a family of entrepreneurs. Her grandfather and father both had set up manufacturing units in the city. With an engineering degree in biomedical instrumentation, she worked at Technosoft for a while before deciding to apply for the BIRAC fellowship, where she gained experience in entrepreneurship innovation.

Convenience and dignity to immobile patients


The Sahayatha wheelchair

Her father supported her idea and both began iterating on different designs. They named their product Sahayatha—which translates to support—under the company Dhanvantri Biomedical Pvt Ltd.

It took 118 iterations and five prototypes to zero in on the final design.

Babu admits, “The initial prototypes were crude, and we were not allowed to bring it to hospitals because it looked weird. We kept asking doctors for suggestions. They asked us to bring it with a certification, and only then would they allow a patient to test it.” 

The company launched the final design on May 8, 2022.

Explaining the working of the two Sahayatha products, Babu says, 

“The S100 option is an attendant-propelled or self-propelled wheelchair with a defecation cleansing system. It can be reclined to an angle of 180 degrees (like a stretcher), especially for post-operative patients.”

“With one easy press of a switch, a jet spray cleans the patient. There’s also a bidet that can be removed from the rear end for easy disposal. The S200 option is a non-recliner product,” she adds.

She clarifies that these are mostly for immobile patients, but the level of assistance can come down from three caregivers to just one. While there are wheelchairs with commodes available, she points out, Sahayatha is the only one with a removable cleansing system and a commode from the rear side.

Babu says the company has applied for patents for both products and hopes to receive them soon. While the recliner product is priced at Rs 39,900, the non-recliner option comes at Rs 29,900.

The first prototype was tested at Ganga Hospital—the same hospital that led to the innovation. She also got specialised doctors on board to offer her both mentorship and advice on how to make the product better.

Babu and her father initially invested Rs 18 lakh in Sahayatha, following which she got grants from BIRAC, the Department of Science and Technology, and the Tamil Nadu Student Innovators Programme.

She is also supported by Startup TN, Startup India, and KIIT-TBI, Technology Business Incubator. So far, she has sold around 28 wheelchairs.

She works with a team of 10, and the wheelchair production is outsourced to a contract manufacturer.

Sruthi recently pitched at Shark Tank India Season 2 and won a five-Shark deal for Rs 1 crore at 10% equity.

“Our phones haven’t stopped ringing after my pitch was aired on Shark Tank India. We are looking at a stronger dealer distribution network after receiving many inquiries from all states in India and abroad. We plan to now manufacture 100 devices a month,” Sruthi says.

Her father, her biggest support and cheerleader, passed away last year, but Sruthi is determined to carry both their dreams of scaling the company forward.

“I hope that the combined expertise of all the Sharks (Namita Thapar, Vinita Singh, Aman Gupta, Anupam Mittal, and Amit Jain) will take Sahayatha forward, and, hopefully, when volumes increase, we can also bring its price down,” she adds. 

Edited by Suman Singh