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Saturday, 30 April 2016

Bangalore’s Rain-Catcher: The man who never paid for water

Monsoon rains in Bangalore may help raise water levels in dams that supply water to the city. But there is one man in the city who is unhappy.
“We should learn to keep the rains in our homes,” says A.R. Shivakumar, senior fellow and principal investigator- RWH, Karnataka State Council for Science and Technology, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
Shivakumar has his reasons. With Hesaraghatta lake, a manmade reservoir, and Tippegondahanally reservoir drying up, Bangalore’s entire population(urban and rural) has to depend on the Cauvery waters. Karnataka can draw only 682.5 million litres a day of Cauvery waters which it shares with Tamil Nadu. But the requirement for just Bangalore (urban and rural) is 1,400 million litres per day or 18 thousand million cubic feet (TMC).
“To meet this 18 TMC limit, rain water harvesting is the answer,” says Shivakumar. He put his beliefs into practice and tested the concept in his house 19 years ago. “Shivakumar believes your house should give you a return on your investment,” his wife, Suma Shivakumar says. “He managed to build this house for Rs 400 per square feet when the norm was Rs 600 per square feet in 1994,” she says.
Shivakumar has not had to pay a single penny to the corporation for water in the past 19 years.
“First, we listed the requirements for a house: energy, good comfort living, air, water,” he says. “We found to our surprise that the answer is with nature and not with the KEB (Karnataka Electricity Board), BWSSB (Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board), etc.,” he says.
He sat and mapped the water consumption by an average family by analyzing the water bills of residents in the locality. He found that it matched WHO norms — a family for four would use approximately 500 litres of water per day, which resulted in 1.825 lakh litres of water consumed every year.
After analyzing the water bills, Shivakumar dissected the rainfall data of his 40X60 plot for the past 100 years. “To my surprise, I found we were getting 2-2.5 lakh litres consistently in the last 100 years,” he says. The plot got 2 lakh litres even in the worst year of rainfall.
There is one catch: It rains 60-70 days in a year but the water should last for 365 days. Shivakumar found that the longest gap between two good rains was 90-100 days. “Within three months, there’s a good rain in Bangalore,” he says, “And if you take the daily consumption of a family, it is almost 400 litres of water per day and multiplied by 100, you need storage of 40,000 litres to meet the times when there is no rain.”

Rain water harvesting has almost come to mean ground water recharge for most Bangaloreans, where they send the rain water to the ground, but for Shivakumar it is just the beginning.
First, he built a roof tank with a 5,000 litre capacity. On the ground floor, he built another 5,000 litre capcity tank, which catches most of the rain water – no other tank catches rain water as this tank. On his portico, he built the biggest tank of 25,000 litre capacity, and then building his garage two-and-a-half feet above ground level, he built another 10,000 litre tank.
Each tank has a pop-up filter, which Shivakumar has a patent for. It is marketed as the Rain Tap Pop-up filter in Gujarat. This filter removes all the mud, muck and other particles from rain water. The overflow from the tank goes to the portico tank, which ultimately sends it to the garage tank. The garage tank is the only tank that uses electricity to pump water to the roof tank.
The entire house runs on the ground floor tank, which has a capacity of 5,000 litres, whereas the portico and garage tanks serve as storage tanks for water when there is a gap in rainfall. He also ensures appliances like washing machine reuse waste water.
Shivakumar has trained several architects and contractors to integrate such water systems in new constructions. In peak summer, at least five to seven tankers ply every hour in upcoming suburbs like Ramamurthy Nagar.

A water tank usually sells 4,000 litres for Rs 300-500, but when there is a shortage, the price goes up as high as Rs 900-1,600. Shivakumar estimates that there are about 13.5 lakh houses similar to his in Bangalore. If even half of them were retrofitted with water storage systems (it can cost about Rs 30000-50000 per house), Bangalore may never face a water shortage. And what goes for Bangalore goes for other cities in India as well.


Thursday, 28 April 2016

The call of home made this US-returned entrepreneur revive Kashmir’s apple industry

The famed Kashmiri apple – that luscious, crispy, juicy fruit, which envelops the entire Valley – is one of the prettiest vistas nature has to offer. Undoubtedly, the mainstay of the state’s economy, last year (2015-16), apple production touched 19.43 lakh metric tonnes, contributing to 65 per cent of Kashmir’s horticultural economy. The numbers itself are a testimony to how fundamental this fruit is to the rural economy. However, while the high production rates are definitely something to be delighted about, there is another side to the story as well.

Of the total produce, a mere 35 per cent qualifies for export quality as opposed to Europe, which exports nearly 80 per cent. Furthermore, approximately 10-25 per cent produce gets wasted due to lack of storage and processing facilities! In this scenario, how will the state, which has ambitiously set itself a target to increase the current Rs 3, 000 crore apple industry by five times in the next five years, achieve its numbers? Even if we keep this aside, the produce’s export quality and wastage have been the subject of an unhappy debate for decades now.

An epiphany, and he’s back with no plan
Khurram Mir, Founder of Harsha Naturals
Khurram Mir, 34, left Kashmir after high-school with a love for numbers, which took him to US. Equipped with a management degree in operations research, Khurram worked for almost five years in consultancy. He says, “I was a critical contributor in the organisation. Yet, I was dissatisfied because I was veering towards grassroots development and was unable to find a starting point.” Khurram started exploring the energy sector, something he had always found fascinating. But, somewhere along the way, he realised food was more important. And when his peers and mentors suggested that he go back to the Valley and start something meaningful instead of exploring an unfamiliar country, he packed his bags and came back – without any plan, and this time with a love for numbers, food, and Kashmir.

I told myself if I could create a vibrant economy in a conflict-zone; that in itself would be a great start. I was willing to fail young and gave myself a year to explore.

Starting up – Harsha Natural’s becomes the Apple of the Valley

Back in Lassipura district, an hour-and-a-half from Srinagar, Khurram started exploring the apple industry and its underlying problems. It helped that his father himself was a farmer, and one of the biggest fruit and vegetable traders of the region. Through his father, Khurram interacted with many farmer families and understood how the apple industry is suffering because of lack of storing facilities. This was leading to two things – wastage levels were increasing, and farmers were forcibly selling their produce at decreased costs. He says,

On an average, it takes 45 days for an apple to reach the consumer after it’s plucked. It has lost 15-20 per cent of its water content, becoming a soft fruit. It’s not a Kashmiri apple anymore.

So, in 2008, Khurram started Harsha Naturals with an aim to focus on the post-harvest aspect of the apple industry and set up a 2,000 MT cold storage facility. A ground-breaking initiative in the history of Kashmir’s apple industry, this meant that farmers could now store their produce in Khurram’s controlled atmosphere storage (CAS) facility.

Harsha Naturals’ Controlled Atmosphere Storage (CAS) facility
This is advantageous because – Once the apples are pushed in to the facility, they literally go into a coma for 7-10 months. A customer consuming the apple after 7 months of being plucked, would feel as though it was plucked a few hours ago. The freshness, juiciness, water and nutrition content remain intact.
Farmers no longer have to forcibly sell their produce if the market is showing signs of slowing-down or if there are political disruptions, which means farmers have to incur exorbitant costs to be able to push the produce outside the state as logistics suppliers are known to take undue advantage. They can decide when they want to sell and to whom.

Even though Khurram managed to bring international facilities to the heart of Kashmir, the first year of Harsha Naturals saw only five farmers availing this facility. Khurram says, “It was scary, I have to admit. But, there was no giving up.” Khurram then diversified the company’s offerings. Along with the CAS facility, he started offering farmers automatic sorting, grading, and packing of the apples, completely eliminating manual labour. He also introduced infrastructure that would help in efficient ripening and waxing of the apples, ready for sale. And finally, Harsha Naturals tied up with biggies such as Reliance Fresh, who would directly buy the produce, eliminating middle-men as well.

A farmer plucking apples from his harvest
Today, Harsha Naturals has grown from just five farmers to a consortium of 4, 000 farmers and boasts an 11, 000 CAS facility. In the last seven years of the company’s existence, farmers have seen an increase in net profit of between 15-60 per cent. Khurram has clearly created a dent in the apple industry.

Tackling the root cause – Root2fruit

While Harsha Naturals was picking up, there was a lot more to be done, something that Khurram was always aware of. Khurram says,

Post-harvest is only the tip of the iceberg. The real problem is the pre-harvest, which if tackled well, can transform Kashmir’s economy. Our apple yield is just one-sixth that of the US or Europe.

His idea was to increase the yield four fold and double the quality, so the farmer’s revenue increased six-fold. So, sometime in 2012, Khurram joined hands with Dr Abdul Ahad Sofi, Kashmir’s first doctor in Pomology who headed Central Institute of Temperate Horticulture (CITH). Dr Sofi handpicked a team of 20 experts who researched for two years across Europe to identify new orchard varieties that would suit Kashmir’s agro-climatic conditions. In 2014, the team set up a two-hectare model orchard in Kokernag village with eight different varieties of apples.

A high-yielding apple orchard
Khurram proudly says, “In just a year-and-a-half, we have our first harvest. Under normal circumstances, it takes at least a decade.” Through Root2fruit, Khurram is helping farmers build high-quality and high-yielding orchards. At the moment, they are in a position to supply around 60, 000 trees and the annual plan is to establish 10 new orchards across the state so that farmers can see first-hand the impact, and how increased quality and yield is possible.

Connecting farmers and consumers – Farm2U

Khurram’s love for numbers never left him, so he created an ERP solution under his brand, ‘Farm2U’. It’s a simple traceability concept connecting farmers and the buyers, infusing transparency. Khurram says, If a Bangalore-based customer buys a 2 kg Farm2U pack, it will have a code, which can be entered in our online system allowing the consumer to understand the farmer’s geographic location, contact details as well as how much money he made from the sold pack.

It boosts the farmer’s and consumer’s confidence in us, leaving no room for corruption.

An employee carrying a Farm2u packaged box of apples
To make Harsha Naturals, a 360˚ solution, Khurram also started InnoFinance – a farmer-centric financing model that works in a tri-partite setup comprising the farmer, bank, and the organisation.

It is clear that Harsha Naturals has introduced a series of innovations and is in the middle of reviving Kashmir’s apple industry. But what sets this one-stop shop apart is the flexibility it offers – farmers can chose one or all solutions.

Khurram’s impact on the apple industry

Thanks to Khurram’s introduction of CAS facilities, three more units have sprouted in the last few years (all initiated by local entrepreneurs), totalling the capacity to 22, 000 tonnes.But what Khurram is actually doing is setting up a world-class facility that can be replicated in other states such as Himachal Pradesh, the second-largest producer of apples or any fruit and vegetable industry nation-wide. Khurram says, In the US, 90 per cent fruits and vegetables go through processing facilities whereas in India, it’s less than one per cent.

Many lessons along the way

One can’t let Khurram leave without him giving us a few entrepreneurial lessons. So here they are –

1. Approach everything with an empty cup – “How will anyone pour anything in a cup that’s full”?

2. Respect Kashmir’s emotions – “Kashmir has been under conflict and turmoil ever since it was created. The people have and continue to go through a lot every day. We need entrepreneurs who can teach people how to survive and undo the intellectual and emotional bankruptcy we are reeling under. We need people who can empower our kids to work in a way so that tomorrow, when we die, they can proudly say, we were taught to thrive.”

3. Be persistent – There will be 99 people who will create obstacles in your journey. But there will be that one person who will push you ahead, who will be ready to give you a shot. An entrepreneurial journey is about finding that one person. Today, when I look back, I myself am an accumulation of many such people who put their bets on me.

4. You grow when you’re stretched – “Unless you push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will never know what you’re capable of. Keep pushing your boundaries.”

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

नौकरी छोड़ी, कार बेची और जुट गए स्वच्छ भारत मुहिम में...

स्वच्छ भारत अभियान के तहत लोग अपनी अपनी कोशिशों में लगें हैं, लेकिन एक शख्स है जो लोगों को ये बता रहा है कि चलती कार से ना थूकें, केले के छिलके या चाय के खाली कप बाहर ना फेंकें। इस शख्स का नाम है अभिषेक मारवाह। इतना ही नहीं कार से चलने वाले लोगों को महत्वपूर्ण सीख देने के लिए अभिषेक ने एक खास तरह के कचरे का डिब्बा डिजाइन किया है जिसे कोई भी अपनी कार में बिना किसी दिक्कत के रख सकता है और कूड़े को कार से फेंकने की जगह उस डिब्बे में भर सकता है। बार बार इस्तेमाल होने वाले इस डिब्बे को वो अब देश के कोने कोने में पहुंचाने में लगे हैं।

पेशे से इंजीनियर अभिषेक मारवाह ने दो साल तक विभिन्न कंपनियों में काम किया। करीब चार साल पहले उन्होंने एक किताब में पढ़ा था कि जो व्यक्ति कचरा इधर-उधर फेंकता है वो वास्तव में मानवता पर ये कचरा फेंकता है। ये बात अभिषेक मारवाह के दिल में घर कर गई थीं। इसलिए वो जब भी कहीं बाहर होते तो टॉफी के रैपर, चाय के कप और टिशू पेपर जैसी दूसरी चीजों को सड़क पर फेंकने की जगह गाड़ी में या अपने पास रख लेते थे इसके बाद सही जगह पर उनको फेंक देते थे। इसके अलावा उन्होंने महसूस किया था कि वो जब भी दूसरे देश में जाते थे तो हर चीज का इस्तेमाल सोच समझ कर करते थे और बेकार की चीजों को इधर उधर नहीं फेंकते थे, लेकिन देश लौटते ही उनके अंदर की ये सोच गुम हो जाती थी। तब अभिषेक को लगा कि अकेले ही सही उन्हें अपने आसपास के वातावरण में साफ सफाई का काम करना होगा।

अभिषेक ने देखा की अक्सर काम में लोग सफर करते हुए काफी कुछ खाते पीते हैं और उस दौरान सारा कचरा सड़क पर फेंक देते हैं। ऐसे में क्यों ना कुछ ऐसा किया जाये जो लोगों के लिये ना सिर्फ सुविधाजनक हो बल्कि वो अपना कचरा सड़क पर भी ना फेंके। इसके लिए उन्होंने लंच बॉक्स के डिब्बे में थोड़े बदलाव कर एक कचरे का ऐसा डिब्बा तैयार किया जिसे गियर के साथ लटकाया जा सकता है। लोगों में सफाई के प्रति जागरूकता लाने के लिए अभिषेक ने खुद एक वेबसाइट बनाई और सोशल मीडिया का इस्तेमाल किया। अभिषेक ने बताया कि कैसे उनका डिजाइन किया कचरे का डिब्बा गाड़ी में रख बेहतर इस्तेमाल किया जा सकता है। इस दौरान लोगों से मिली प्रतिक्रिया काफी चौकाने वाली थी। इस दौरान इनको पता चला कि लोग ये नहीं जानते थे की कार में कचरे का डिब्बा रखना कितना जरूरी है। इसके बाद अभिषेक ने अपनी नौकरी छोड़ दी और लोगों को ये समझाने में लग गये कि अपने आसपास साफ सफाई कितनी जरूरी है। अभिषेक का कहना है,
“अगर हम अपनी कार से बाहर कचरा ना फेंके तो सड़क का करीब 40 प्रतिशत कचरा हम कम कर सकते हैं।”

लोगों में सफाई के प्रति जागरूकता लाने के लिए अभिषेक स्कूल, कॉलेज और कॉरपोरेट ऑफिस में अब तक कई सेमिनार कर चुके हैं। इसके अलावा दिल्ली में होने वाले ‘राहगीरी’ जैसे कार्यक्रम और विभिन्न शहरों के नगर निगम को अपने साथ जोड़ने का काम कर रहे हैं। अभिषेक के मुताबिक 
“जब कचरे का डिब्बा हम अपने टॉयलेट में रखना जरूरी समझते हैं तो क्यों नहीं कार में उसे रखते।” 

इसलिए अब इनकी कोशिश कार के अलावा ऑटो रिक्शा में भी कचरे का डिब्बा रखने की है। फिलहाल ये इसके डिजाइन पर काम कर रहे हैं।

अभिषेक ने कार के लिये जो कचरे का डिब्बा डिजाइन किया है उसमें से केले के छिलके की बदबू कार में नहीं फैलती, उसमें चाय का कप रख सकते हैं। वो खास तरह की प्लास्टिक का बना होता है जिसे धो कर दोबारा इस्तेमाल किया जा सकता है। आज इनके डिजाइन किये इस कचरे के डिब्बे की डिमांड देश के विभिन्न हिस्सों से आती है। अभिषेक का कहना है कि स्वच्छ भारत अभियान का हिस्सा बनने के लिये लोगों का ये मानना होता है कि एक हाथ में झाडू होना चाहिए और उसके लिए कोई खास जगह चाहिए जहां पर ये काम किया जा सके, लेकिन हम फैसला करें कि हम कार से बाहर कचरा नहीं फेकेंगे और सफर के दौरान पैदा हुए कचरे को हम तब तक कार में ही रखेंगे जब तक उसे फेंकने के लिए सही जगह नहीं मिल जाती, तब भी हम वास्तव में स्वच्छ भारत अभियान का हिस्सा होंगे। उनका कहना है, 
"लोग अगर इस तरह अपनी आदतों में थोड़ा थोड़ा बदलाव ला सकें तो हमारा देश भी साफ और सुंदर हो सकता है।"

अभिषेक के मुताबिक देश में ही नहीं बल्कि विदेशों में भी लोग ये नहीं समझते कि कार में कचरे का डिब्बा होना कितना जरूरी है। वो बताते हैं कि दुबई जैसे शहर में कार से बाहर कचरा फेंकने पर कड़ा जुर्माना है, बावजूद इसके वहां के लोग नहीं जानते कि कार में कचरे का डिब्बा होना चाहिए। इसलिए उनका मानना है कि लोगों के बीच जागरूकता की काफी कमी है। अभिषेक के मुताबिक उनके डिजाइन किये इस कचरे के डिब्बे को कोई भी वेबसाइट, व्हट्सऐप के जरिये केवल 235 रुपये में ऑर्डर कर सकता है। इस कीमत में डिलीवरी लागत भी शामिल होती है। 

अभिषेक के मुताबिक, "इस काम को शुरू करने के लिए ना सिर्फ अपनी बचत का पैसा लगाना पड़ा बल्कि अपनी कार तक बेचनी पड़ी। मैं एक ओर जहां लोगों में गंदगी को लेकर जागरूकता पैदा करने की कोशिश कर रहा हूं वहीं अपनी वेबसाइट के जरिये लोगों से साफ सफाई को लेकर नये नये आइडिया मांग रहा हूं। अगर कोई आइडिया मुझे पसंद आया और उसका उत्पाद बनाया गया तो बदले में डिजाइन बनाने वाले को उसकी रॉयल्टी देने को तैयार हूं।"

Saturday, 23 April 2016

How a 23-year-old’s battle with cancer is transforming the lives of others

As a student of social entrepreneurship, 23-year-old, Sushanth Kodela was an average young man, full of hopes and aspirations, raring to make a difference in the world with his skills and training. But within days of enrolling in a Master’s programme in 2011, Kodela was diagnosed with adrenal cortical carcinoma, an aggressive cancer so rare, it afflicts 1-2 people per 1.5 million annually and real numbers of those diagnosed with it remain unknown. “Despite the initial biopsy report, I hoped that, somehow, given my age and the rates of incidence of the illness, I wouldn’t be one of those 2 people,” he says.

The tumour turned out to be malignant, bringing Kodela’s world crashing down. “I was shattered,” he says, describing that long, dark period of his life, “and began to sink into powerlessness and desperation.”

The real victory over cancer is what you make of it

After many gruelling sessions of surgery, Kodela is now in remission, but not before he and his family went through a harrowing ordeal. “Running around for doctors, diagnostics, reports, and treatment is an inevitable part of the recovery from cancer and a strong support system eased my journey,” he says. What was harder is the havoc cancer can wreak to your spirit. “With a desperate urgency, I began searching for cherished moments in my life when I had done something meaningful. Sadly, none existed.”

Once he came to terms with his condition, he realised something profound and powerful about it: “I realised that I didn’t have control over my cancer, but I did have control over my life and what I chose to do with it henceforth.” Thus, in his close shave with mortality, Kodela gained a newfound appreciation for life and that was the first step in his journey to real recovery.

Lifting the veil on cancer
But questions about what makes recovery challenging prevailed. Once he was back in college, Kodela and fellow cancer survivor Chiragkumar Patel began assisting other cancer patients to understand their illness better and arrange financial support for treatment. They were faced with inefficient, expensive, and compliance-ridden hospital management systems and inconsistent healthcare information, making navigating treatment a nightmare, even for the literate and financially secure. “We realised how such factors can compound the hardships of cancer and impede one’s recovery,” he recalls.

These early experiences, bolstered by Kodela’s social entrepreneurship background, led the duo to start unCancer India in 2013 as a support network for people facing cancer – as patients, survivors, or caregivers.

In the English language, the negative prefix ‘un’, besides meaning a lack or an absence of something can also denote a reversal of things or to an action not yet taken. Kodela explains unCancer India’s mission saying, “Cancer can be all-consuming, but we want to help people transcend their disease and undo the damage it has done. Without trivialising cancer, we want to empower people to be able to fight it like they would any other disease rather than be overwhelmed by it and quit.”

He adds, “Very often, people do not want to admit in public that they have cancer for fear of judgment, victimisation and abandonment by family and friends. Many fear losing their jobs, are apprehensive about finding life partners, or worry that their children will inherit their disease and find it hard to get married. So, the afflicted hide behind the disease.”

The importance of support networks in dealing with cancer

unCancer India is founded on the belief that the stigma surrounding the illness can be wiped out only if cancer survivors lead the conversation. Its core mission is to reach out and engage with cancer patients as they chart the path to recovery.

Studies on the role of support networks in overcoming cancer suggest that being amongst people with similar experiences can improve a patient’s quality of life and chances of survival. Such networks are a source of strength and companionship, and give patients a chance to voice and work through their challenges.

Once cancer patients/survivors/caregivers register on its online platform or Facebook page, they are connected with others who are undergoing or have had similar experiences and cancer types. It offers a safe space where people are nudged away from the strong negative conditioning associated with the illness and encouraged to exchange information, share lessons, and inspire others battling cancer. Cancer survivors too are actively encouraged to join the platform and share their experiences to help others battling the illness.

Once on the platform, members receive the personalised guidance of a survivor to support them whenever they need help in overcoming a hurdle. “We are also onboarding specialists in different areas of oncology who can address people’s questions about cancer,” says Kodela.

The team is also working on improving the interface and user experience of its online platform to make information more readily accessible.

WHO data is gruesome in its estimates that there will be 22 million new cases of cancer annually across the world by 2022. Given growing healthcare costs and an infrastructure that’s scarcely prepared to deal with this explosion, organisations like unCancer India will play a crucial role in providing patients with support that hospitals are ill equipped to provide.

“Our ultimate vision,” says Kodela, “is to build an entire ecosystem of care around each individual struggling with cancer – one that will address their concerns in real time, ensure positive outcomes in response to the challenges of living with cancer, and encourage them to become stakeholders in our mission.”

C for Champions

As a young student of social development, Kodela admits he was unprepared for the challenge ahead. “I started unCancer with a lot of unrealistic assumptions,” he laughs, “but DBS believed in our mission, invested in us and stood behind us all the way, doing their best to connect us to the right people and resources and learning from us in the process. Add to this the unwavering support of its incubation centre at his alma mater, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, and the duo were able to safely experiment with new ideas. “The interest and investment in social enterprises is encouraging and we hope this ecosystem to support social enterprises flourishes in our country,” he adds.

As part of the Livestrong Foundation’s Big C Competition, which awards innovative solutions to improving the lives of people facing cancer, unCancer’s business model was selected as one of the top five global innovations. Its solutions were recognised as highly impactful and the duo emerged runner ups in the global challenge. The exposure provided the fillip the fledgling startup needed to push ahead and bring a ray of hope to the lives of so many afflicted by cancer.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Latha, Rajini and Amudha: Three women who wrote their own script

River streams have their way. And just like they choose their own paths to flow, these three women carved their own destiny, not complacent with staying in the shadows of men who scripted greater success and fame.

Latha Rajan told her husband, K. Pandia Rajan, as they co-founded staffing solutions company Ma Foi in 1992, “If people in the office call me the MD’s wife one year down the line, I will quit.” She was a qualified chartered accountant and had established an independent practice. As Ma Foi rapidly took off by 1994, she took a more active role in the its growth, taking up added responsibilities. She feels people are her strong forte. “Managing HR in a HR company is not easy,” she laughs. She then went on to play a definitive role in social outreach programmes, some of which have grown to benefit a large section of the society.

From L to R: V P Rajini Reddy, Managing Trustee at Swarnabhoomi Academic Institutions; 
Amudha, Founder and Director at Canopo; and Latha Pandiarajan, Co-Founder and Director at Ma Foi Group

V.P. Rajini Reddy dreamt of being an architect. She chose to study civil engineering, an unconventional choice of engineering stream for girls, inspired by her uncle who was running a real estate business employing architects. She joined her uncle’s business just after finishing college. Before she could dip her feet, she got married to merchant banker G.R.K. Reddy. And it was after a short time in Delhi that Reddy wanted to shift to Madras to set up his own venture in merchant banking. Reddy then forayed into real estate, establishing MARG as a visionary brand standing out for mega projects. Rajini Reddy didn’t follow her husband into the business. Instead she founded a software training company, along with partners to start with, and then moved into the outsourcing business on her own. She now takes care of all the educational ventures of the group apart from running the outsourcing business.

Amudha, the eldest daughter of C.K. Ranganathan, whose CavinKare group is behind several retail brands that are household names today, studied visual communications, inspired by her cousin. She knew that she would end up in business and so she took to several projects and trained herself in retail sales, restaurant management, personal grooming and interior design, all within CavinKare group businesses. But she soon realised that she was not going to find her grounding in any of these businesses. Encouraged by her father at every stage of her experimentation, she finally decided that she would run a school for kids. The inspiration came to her from a school called Alphabet that she would longingly look at, on her way to college every day. Once she found her calling, she followed it without a second thought.

Shaping up

The trajectory these women have followed were shaped by circumstance and a desire to stand out. Rajini Reddy’s resolve was strengthened by a near-traumatic experience of G.R.K. Reddy getting kidnapped by a village mafia. Out of the blue, she received a phone call demanding a ransom for her husband’s release. While her husband returned safely after a five-day ordeal, Rajini decided to take more interest in the operations of MARG, in which she was a promoter-director.

Latha simply went through the grind of establishing Ma Foi. She was entrusted with the responsibility of internal operations of the company, while Pandiarajan took care of business development and customer acquisition. Ma Foi Foundation, the social responsibility arm of Ma Foi, engaged itself in several welfare projects, spearheaded by Latha. The underprivileged sections, especially in north Chennai, were the group’s primary focus. Empowering women was what Latha focussed upon keenly. That also propelled her to establish a micro-finance unit.

Amudha was advised by her father to train herself in different areas. She recalls, “When a new soft drink was launched by CavinKare, I was involved in the field sales.” She joined other selling agents of the company at 4 a.m. for a briefing and was set targets. When she was learning operations in the group’s restaurant Veg Nation (which has since been wound up), there was a flash strike by the kitchen staff at around 11 a.m. Guests were expected at 12 noon. Unexpected situations mean unconventional responses as well. Along with the restaurant manager, and a few helpful staff, she wore the apron and cooked a few dishes, having seen it prepared by cooks. “I learnt how to respond to unforeseen situations,” she says. Into their own calling

The sailing was not smooth for these women. It was grit and resolve that took Rajini to overcome adversity and emerge successful. Her first venture, Atlanta Software, failed, not because of the market but when the two co-founders decided to drop it to pursue something else. She took the burden of converting that company into an outsourcing business. RR Infotech was born in 1999 (later renamed Exemplarr in 2008) and was primarily engaged in medical billing and medical transcription services for US clients. Investment was significant, as were the operational expenditure, as it necessitated setting up a US office. She says, “It was a seasonal business and when there was work, it will pour.” Dry days were hard, as whatever was gained evened out during the low period. Though fortunes fluctuated, she stayed put. She expanded first into data entry and then into publishing outsourcing. This was also a seasonal business, but the going was better.

More importantly, bettering herself was Rajini’s priority. People at home always considered her businesses a hobby and thought she could shut it down when her demands increased in the family. She didn’t view life and her business as a hobby but as a path to writing her own story. She got enrolled in the Harvard Business School’s 10-week programme for business owners. Not content with the exposure, she also completed an executive MBA from Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. “People started taking notice of me and my stock went up in the family,” she says. To equip herself in handling finance, she took the ISB course for executives, a grind for 18 months, in which she visited business schools in the United States and Brazil. The exposure not only increased her confidence but also gave her a peer network through which she learnt greatly, especially how to manage finances.

Latha’s Ma Foi success took unexpected turns. Venture capitalists came in a bit later than the initial 273 investors. “My friends and Pandiarajan’s friends helped us with funds at the beginning,” Latha recalls. “People talk of crowd funding. We started our company through that,” she adds. Investment as low as Rs 5000 was taken and shares issued. When the Netherlands-based Vedior wanted to take a significant stake in Ma Foi in 2004, they wanted all the small investors to quit. Vedior gave a great comfort in operations as they were more of a confederate and did not interfere in the company’s affairs. But when Vedior was acquired by Randstad in 2008, everything changed. And the Rajans also exited the staffing business. But they made effort to retain the Ma Foi brand, and went into consulting, education and analytics in 2012. But Latha’s focus is firmly on the micro-finance business, Varam, through which 60,000 women have benefitted. She has invested heavily in the venture after exiting Ma Foi. “Loans worth Rs. 7.5 crore have been disbursed so far,” she says. The beneficiary women have taken to several micro-businesses and continue to earn their livelihood. For instance, flower vendors, petty businesses, and women rearing cows have achieved better livelihood, thanks to Varam.

North Chennai is the prime area of focus for Varam in Chennai Remote locations in Chattisgarh and Maharashtra have also been added now. Ma Foi Foundation also supports a rural healthcare initiative called Ekam Trust. Latha contributes to it significantly by providing financial and mentoring support. Finding that boys in north Chennai love boxing, Latha initiated steps to train the interested boys in boxing. A sports academy is up and running now to train these boys who have taken to winning prizes at prominent events, even at the national level.

Amudha spent her time researching about schools when she decided to set up a school for tiny tots. She travelled across the country to see for herself how children’s schools are run. She researched intensely on the subject as well. Canopo was set up in 2014. Through her learning, she designed a special curriculum that offered a unique experience to the kids as well as mothers. “Infants as young as 10 months are part of our programme,” she beams. Bonding with the mother is the aim of this training and slowly as the infants grow older, they are taught speaking and writing skills. Consciousness of the nature and the environment is given a special focus. By the time the kids are five-and-a-half, they would have undergone basic learning and would have imbibed a few special skills that enhance their thinking and movement.

Rajini is the founder-member of the organisation for empowering women in IT called e-WIT. “The networking opportunities for women are less. They can’t socialise as men do and if they did, that is looked down as not a respectable thing to do,” feels Rajini. The most important difference that e-WIT has made is empowering women professionals in the IT sector to taking up executive positions and senior management roles. Even within MARG, Rajni became a voice for women to play important and higher executive roles.

While underprivileged women and children’s uplift continues to be Latha’s muse, Rajini finds her moorings in women empowerment and in enhancing rural employability, for which she has set up a rural finishing school. The young, dreamy-eyed Amudha aims to expand the footprint of Canopo across India and eventually far and wide as well. And these ventures have no scent of super-achiever husbands of Latha and Rajini or, in the case of Amudha, her father, who wrote his own history in the FMCG business.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

‘Shooter Daadi’: This 75 Year Old Woman Regularly Beats Men In Shooting Competitions

75 year old Prakaso Tomar is such a good shooter that after she beats younger men in shooting competitions, they refuse to be photographed with her “You see my pictures. In most of them, there is no one else in the frame,” she told Yuvadesh with a big smile.

Her fame extends far beyond the village shooting range of Johri, her home. She is disliked by many of the men, and honoured by even more women in western Uttar Pradesh (UP). This region is North India’s badlands. Shooting is not a sport – its a life skill here. Guns are common, and so are gunfights to end arguments. And here, she is known as “shooter daadi”, who regularly wins medals and laurels across India.
At first glance, Tomar doesn’t look like a woman comfortable with a pistol. But a glance is all she needs to set a target and take a perfect shot.

Shooter Dadi aka “PRAKASO TOMAR”
How did she begin her tryst with the revolver?

She first visited the shooting range for her grandson, who’d expressed interest in the sport. Her grandson got her to the shooting range, and she showed a streak of beginner’s luck that made her coach believe that she was a natural. On her regular trips to the shooting range for her grandson’s practice, she began shooting with him. Soon, she was so good that her first few competitions saw her defeat a Delhi Police Deputy Inspector General (DIG). The cop was so embarrassed he left before the prize distribution ceremony!

Today, she’s a role model for local women in the male-dominated region, and there have been many stories of local women practicing shooting. In her words, shooting transcends the sport. “It is not a question of practicing shooting. It is a question of having the confidence to compete with men. For generations women here have had no voice. I am happy that my abilities with the gun has now forced the men folk in these parts to sit up and take notice of what we women are capable of, if given an opportunity.”

Shooting is today what the region is known for, because there’s nothing else of note. No pucca roads, no regular supply of water, and obviously a shortage of regular electricity. The shooting range came up in 1989, and was established by Rajpal Singh, honorary Sports Authority of India shooting coach. In the area’s love of guns, Rajpal saw the potential for marksmanship.
Over a 1000 people have been trained at the shooting range, most of whom are women today. Many of the great marksmen it has produced also seem to have benefited from the discipline involved. This includesRubi Tomar (Punjab Police), Seema Tomar and Varsha Tomar (Indian Army) and Shefali Tomar (University of Chandigarh), and Rajiv Jatav, the son of a brick-kiln worker (Central Reserve Police Force)

Monday, 18 April 2016

This 26-year-old doctor turned serial entrepreneur and investor has invested in 26 startups

26! Yes, you read that right. And yes, it does sound super-human. That’s not all, Ritesh Malik has been listed on the Forbes 30 under 30 in the Finance and Venture list (Asia) 2016.

Ritesh Malik, the 26- year- old doctor turned entrepreneur and investor:

Ritesh graduated from the Tamil Nadu Dr. M.G.R Medical University in 2013. While in medical school, he developed a keen interest in entrepreneurship. In 2010, he ‘bunked’ most of the semester and attended the Marketing Science 101 course at London School of Economics. There he learnt about how the Silicon Valley was booming and buzzing with startups and sustainability. In 2012, a major breakthrough came when Adstuck (a company Ritesh co-founded in his final year of medicine) sold its flagship product (ALIVE) to Times of India. After this feat, in 2013, Ritesh decided to study ‘Management of Innovation & Technology’ at Harvard University. Ritesh is a polymath with experience across sectors like, healthcare, information technology, management, entrepreneurship, angel investments, social entrepreneurship, and innovation.

Ritesh is also the Founder and CEO of Guerilla Ventures, an angel fund that was founded in 2013, with a focus on hardware companies. As per Forbes, one of the portfolio companies, Fin Robotics, a wearable gadget manufacturer, is the first hardware product company to raise Series A funding. Ritesh has invested in over 26 companies that include RHLvision, Wigzo, AddoDoc, Mashinga, and Flipmotion, among others.

Ritesh also actively collaborates with the Government of India to help build college entrepreneurship ecosystem in the country to champion ‘Startup India Standup India’ in the nether regions.

He adds, “Through project Guerilla, we take the President and Prime Minister to far flung colleges where no one goes. For example, we took the President to G. B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, which is the largest agriculture university in the world. We organised an innovation workshop for 10,000 students and also understood what they need to be able to innovate while sensitising them about startups. More than the hyper-evaluated startup market, we’re focussing on the small and medium size startup groups.”

“Money doesn’t motivate me”

Ritesh says that he has two clear goals right now – encourage more women to take up entrepreneurship, and serve the rural market’s needs, by leveraging technology. He says, “There are only about nine per cent of women entrepreneurs in India, and I hope to take this number to 45 per cent in the next seven years. I know that that is ambitious. As for the rural market, agriculture is the largest sector followed by healthcare and retail and not many are catering to the first one.”

Most people start investing only when they are in their 40’s, especially doctors. But Ritesh didn’t have to wait for so long as he had found his calling. So, has he bid farewell to medicine? He quips, “I’ve not left medicine, it is my first love, I just don’t practice it.” Ritesh also manages his father’s hospital (Radix Healthcare) and is chalking out plans for expansion. “I just feel as a doctor I could just reach about 100 patients a day, but by leveraging technology I can reach 100 million a day”, says the docpreneur and investor.

Success didn’t come easy

While studying medicine, Ritesh would often travel to IIT Madras, and that is where he met his first co-founder Abhishek Shankar. Abhishek was building a product in augmented reality and had a couple of patents under his belt. Ritesh suggested integrating augmented reality with healthcare and start an augmented reality platform for doctors, which would assist and connect doctors across geographies and get real-time guidance while performing surgeries in rural areas. The startup tanked because there were few takers, and the infrastructure to support such a platform wasn’t there. But, it was this failure that gave Ritesh and Abhishek the idea for ALIVE, which ultimately brought them appreciation and all the goodies galore.

Ritesh used the capital that he accrued from ALIVE’s sale to invest in other 26 startups.

In search of smart investment opportunities, especially in hardware, Ritesh turned to the startup village in Kochi. “The startup village today has 10 funded startups out of which nine are ours”, says the proud investor.
His investment mantra, pet peeve, and management tips
Ritesh believes that his investment mantra – to invest in people – is the most critical success factor. He says,

If the idea is too early and the market doesn’t exist yet, these factors can always be pivoted, but a good team cannot be pivoted.

He adds that he doesn’t believe in strong arming an entrepreneur. “All we do is suggest and the final call is always with the entrepreneur. Mistakes and failure are part and parcel. If you don’t fail, you’re not going to be able to make a valuable product.”

He talks about his pet peeve, I often ask entrepreneurs – What do you want to build. And nothing frustrates me more when they say a ‘$1 billion company’. The focus should always be about creating value, not valuations.

Ritesh started investing in companies at a very young age. So far he has invested in over 26 companies. We quiz him on the ninja skills it takes to keep an eye on all his investments, “It’s all my team. I look pretty with all the accolades, but actually it’s Vivek, Hemanth, Ankush and Russel from my team who deserve all the attention. I don’t understand technology deeply and, in all honesty, I have forgotten most of my medical knowledge as well. What I am now is just a people manager, I infuse dreams in them and give them the freedom to innovate and fail and get the best out of themselves. My dreams are aligned with their dreams.”
Of learnings and future plans
Not one to rest on his laurels, Ritesh is back in his entrepreneur shoes with Innov8, a co-working space in Delhi (launched in November 2015). His experiences taught him that the most vital aspect of a startup is community building and startups are all about tinkering. Ritesh adds, “They’re about meeting new people and interacting with them and synergising win-win situations to create growth hacking and disruption in the conventional business models. That’s how a unique idea of a business networking platform, Innov8 emerged. Innov8 is a platform to connect a community of freelancers, entrepreneurs, corporates, tech innovators and investors under one roof and in a social environment.” With his latest venture, Innov8, he aims to encourage product-based startups to be a part of the ecosystem and envisions to make India a product nation.

Innov8 gives women extra incentive to startup. “The step is called #innov84women. I personally feel women founders are amazing. Women manage businesses very well, they use investor money very judiciously. Much better than men! We give discounts to women and help them on their strategy and conduct events such as Women Who Code, Angel Event, etc.,” says Ritesh. He aims to build Delhi as the next Silicon Valley after SFO, Tel Aviv, and Bengaluru by setting up the flagship Innov8 property in Connaught Place in New Delhi.

Ritesh’s advice to fellow entrepreneurs and investors is to not invest in the current trends but visualise the products that will foray into the market and invest in those. Another pearl of wisdom from him is to learn the art of delegation. “People can do much better than you, just give them the freedom to execute and you’ll see results.”

Ritesh is proud of every mistake and failure. He says, “I celebrate failure. Those are the events which actually push you towards success and are the very building blocks of the person you become.” He laughs as he says,

I have had so many failures that it’s hard to choose the best one of the lot.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

The story of a woman who followed her heart and hopes to never find her destination

“I have come to believe that the best kind of walk, or journey, is the one in which you have no particular destination when you set out.” – Ruskin Bond

Sheela Lunkad at a curated makers’ market
This isn’t a story of woman entrepreneur who found her eureka moment, broke societal shackles and discovered a venture with sky-rocketing revenues. This is the story of a 43-year-old woman, who doesn’t have a pre-defined destination. She’s chosen to embrace her journey and create mini-destinations – to inspire people to simply, “follow their heart and find their calling(s).”

Delhiite Sheela Lunkad had been drawn to the creative arts for as long as she can remember. She was always encouraged by her parents, teachers, and friends to explore her creative potential. After a degree in architecture, she and husband Rajiv, who was her senior, started Just another Lemon Treewith four friends. She says, “We used to have a small workshop and we’d make diverse products (such as trays, mugs, baskets, and furniture). This was our foray into design and it released a lot of our latent interests.” They shut the company in less than a year to explore bigger, unchartered avenues.

Finding her passion for people, arts and spaces

Her first professional assignment was to create a living exhibition for the 2002 Smithsonian Folk Life Festival, in Washington, DC. Unifying over 400 artisans, musicians, and scholars from 24 countries along the Old Silk Route (Venice, Italy to Nara, Japan), the month-long festival “was an eye-opener, which allowed her to design 3, 500 metres of textiles as well as curate the space. She excitedly says, “I fell in love with creating spaces and doing them up. And I, who had studied things from a larger perspective, saw things bottom up.”

After three years, she managed the construction and interiors of Fabindia’s 8, 000 sq ft flagship store in the Greater Kailash in New Delhi. She has also helped build the stores in Jaipur, Chennai, Dubai and Guangzhou (China). She says, “I started out as the only in-house architect and later became the head of design. I also designed and developed their entire home furnishings – linen, upholstery and furniture. It was empowering and life-changing.”

This was when Fabindia was expanding and they decided to decentralise and set up smaller subsidiary companies across India. Next, Sheela moved to Jaipur as the CEO of Desert Artisans Handicrafts. She says,

I asked myself one question – how can traditional crafts such as jhunjunoo, bandhej, and bagru be revived to suit contemporary needs and percolate into every household?

And over the next two-and-a-half years, she was able to bring together over 2, 500 craftspeople and the company grew 300 per cent. Many artisan families became shareholders and grew with the company.

After almost nine years, Sheela decided to take a break – to travel, spend time with her sons, read and cook. Little did she know, her entrepreneurial journey was about to start.

Creating spaces to inspire the world and finding her next calling

She ventured into eco-tourism, which brought together her love for nature, crafts, spaces and people! She created the Turtle Beach Resort in Sindhudurg district, famed for idyllic beaches where Olive Ridley turtles nest in the season.

After sandy beaches, it was the mountains that beckoned, where she helped build Jilling Terraces – a boutique eco-hotel – amidst 100-acres of lush forests, tucked in the South Gola mountain range in Uttaranchal. The resort’s five rooms, inspired by local Himalayan flora such as wild cherry trees, bay berry, scarlet rhododendrons, bamboos and alder, use all these elements in the design. She says, A Jilling Terraces room from the inside completely made out of available local resources.

The idea was to create something rustic that would allow people to be in sync with nature and the locals.

Jilling Terraces during late evening
Jilling Terraces also caters to corporate off-sites for whom Sheela creates customised workshops such as ‘Going Vegan’ and ‘Sweat Lodge’ (A Mexican form of meditation). The entire resort is run by locals, something Sheela is proud of, “We had a couple who started out by just helping us but they are managers today. It’s heartening to see them settle.”

While setting up Jilling Terraces, she realised a vacuum existed in the Indian market. She says, “In Jilling, everything is handmade and customised. We had local artisans, with whom I have long-standing relationships, create masterpieces for us. But how many people have access to these craftsmen and vice-versa? This gap has spurred industrialization and mass production.”

And that’s how she found her next calling – Direct Create.Direct Create – An online community platform to bridge the gap between makers and consumers

Sheela says, “Unfortunately, industrialisation allows scale but not customisation. As individuals, we are all creative, but the lack of right platforms to engage with the right people is stopping us from unleashing that creativity.”

She further says, “Technology can act as a catalyst bringing the artisans and customers closer. Imagine, how lovely it would be if a Bhagalpur weaver gets a chance to work withMadhubani painters – because that’s the kind of customisation you want.”

Just a year old, Direct Create claims to be one of India’s first online community platforms that allows makers, designers and buyers to connect, collaborate and co-create. While it’s currently in beta and hopes to go live in the next two months, Sheela has already hosted multiple events under the banner such as curating marketplaces for the Jaipur Film Festival and INK Talks. By end of this year, Sheela will bring together 500 makers, 300 designers and 1,000 buyers on Direct Create.

She tells us about one of the artisans a young girl from Phugalia. “She had stepped out of her home for the first time and was extremely shy. But the minute a customer spoke to her, she would explain the entire process of her craft and the happiness in her eyes when someone bought her stuff was unparalleled. She also sought suggestions on how to be even better at her craft.”

The consumption of traditional handicrafts has undoubtedly gone up, but the effort to ensure that artisans are continually improvising is dismal. How many times will you buy the same ghoda and haathi? Celebrating Indian artisans isn’t about poverty alleviation; buying a product shouldn’t be because one feels sorry at their plight but because one loves art. That’s what empowers artisans to create better products, to innovate and ultimately build a new market.

Encouraging people to buy more from the maker community, Sheela explains, I say from experience that the one thing consumers get from the makers’ community is positive energy. Every product is handmade, with great detailing, and a sense of love and affection. Remember, they are putting years of traditional wisdom and creativity into a product and in today’s cluttered world where everyone is seeking something meaningful of their own, these products create a sense of belonging. Because, indirectly, you’re connecting to the goodwill of the people.

On a parting note, she says, I have always asked myself what it is I really wanted at a point in time, and have gone after it. For me, entrepreneurship is about finding with clarity, the core of what you want to do.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Bootstrapped and growing at 300 pc YoY – meet the Indian startup behind world’s first wireless charging tablet

We cannot imagine a life devoid of technology: smartphones, handheld devices and tablets today play important roles in our lives. But in 2011, the Indian market was just getting a sense of what has now become a technology overload. It was back then when Ravi Jakhar, Aditya Agrawal and Rohit Sharma came up with the idea of ICE X Electronics.

Today, ICE hasn’t only gone ahead and built one of the first wireless charging tablets, it has also been one of the first Indian companies to be featured on Amazon Launchpad. And moving from smartphones and tablets, ICE has gone ahead to build smart devices, drones and smart rings. Currently, ICE is available with Amazon in US, UK and other EU nations, apart from India.

“As the world is moving towards smart devices, it was important to take innovation to the next level and build a portfolio of smart devices. We expanded the design team to work on smart devices and it took us more than a year to develop the initial set of products,” adds 34-year-old Aditya.

Ravi, Aditya and Rohit in the early days
A run down memory lane

In 2011, when the trio had started ICE, they began with first working on the product and apart from building their own brand, they would make products for other brands. By 2013, they had clocked sales worth Rs 10 crore for their own brand and Rs 40 crore for other brands.

“We had wanted to bring in innovation in the tablet and smartphone space in India, and have been able to achieve several firsts,” adds Aditya. Thus, deciding to focus on building better products by 2014-15 the team decided to work only on their own brand and products and stop work for other brands.

They decided to launch their new products in the overseas market. Most of these devices involved substantial research and investment and hence due to higher price it made sense to sell them in an international market. They developed a levitating speaker and smart glasses and are soon launching smart ring and drones.

Apart from building value products, the team wanted to create something that is price-agnostic, wherein the customers perceive the value of the product based on innovation and utility.

“Ironically, some of our innovative products are not available on Amazon India and we are in talks with them to bring them to India soon,” adds Aditya. Internationally, the products sell at a run rate of close to $one million month on month.

However, the transition wasn’t easy. When the team decided to shift focus from other brands to building their own products, they had to forgo a significant revenue. The next challenge they faced were dealing with the regulatory issues of setting up scale in international markets. From sorting out the methods of revenue collection, payment, testing and overseas staffing, the team had to clear several stages.

Some products such as drones were not allowed to be imported in India and they had to test them entirely outside India. Operationally, they witnessed a sudden scale-up in work both in India and for US and Europe and had to cater to different kinds of products for different markets and clear new testing standards. “We managed all these problems by establishing an overseas presence and through better work planning and expansion of our R&D team,” adds Aditya.

ICE initially was available across online as well as offline channels. The team realised they had to keep up with the management resource demand as organisational needs had to be constantly restructured and finding new talent is also not easy.

“It helped as we stayed focussed on selected verticals and today we are focussed on e-commerce and TV-commerce,” adds Aditya.
Breaking different markets

India is a price-driven market. and it is difficult to bring the lowest price product all the time and at the same time maintain the quality of the product. So this meant keeping the margins tight and removing all the intermediaries.

“We have launched 4G tablet – ICE Ultima at sub-Rs 5,000, exclusively with Snapdeal. We are further building the portfolio of 4G devices for Indian market and would be soon launching a range of 4G smartphones at affordable price points,” adds Aditya.

Their international portfolio has grown from one to four products and the other two are slated to launch soon. In the last six months of their international presence the team has grown 300 percent and in India the team sells close to 60,000 tablets a month, projecting a 250 percent growth in the last year.

In terms of product, the future is all about wearables and ICE wants to be in every device that a person can use and wear. This includes tablets, smartphones and other wearable and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

“In terms of international markets, we are working on increasing the depth of our distribution in the countries we are already present. Apart from this we also have plans to launch in the Middle East. We want to build a global brand and we know that we would achieve our target by 2020,” adds Aditya.
The wearables and device market

It is no surprise that the world is at the brink of a device and wearable revolution. According to an IDC report, the market is poised to witness a growth of over 173 percent. In 2014 during a digital consumer service, consumers in India were ranked amongst the highest in buying wearable products and devices. These included tracking devices, smartwatches and eyeglasses.

There are going to be close to 80 billion connected devices by 2020. The past few years has seen a growing buzz in the space. In the mobile and tablets space, Indian player Micromax has captured a decent size of the market.

However, there were reports that Micromax lost close to 50 percent of its market share, even though the shipments of smartphones in the country is said to have jumped 29 percent, with 103 million units.

The reason for this drop is believed to be a rapid growth of Chinese mobile phones, that are affordable and of good quality. According to a report by Counterpoint research, these brands are believed to have doubled, to 18 per cent. It would be interesting to see if their Indian counterparts and newer brands can catch up.