In 2014, in a quiet shed within IIT Bombay, a handful of engineers who left their jobs elsewhere started working on innovative medical devices. Youngsters who wanted to take up challenges kept joining along the way. Gradually, a culture of frugal innovation was built at BETiC – Biomedical Engineering and Technology (incubation) Centre, which has started yielding success stories of ‘Made in India’ products.
Take the case of Adarsha K, who gave up a cushy job at L&T to join BETiC in 2015. His journey started at a medical device innovation camp at IIT Bombay when he met Tapas Pandey (who later left an electronics company to join the Centre).
They discovered the unmet clinical need for remote auscultation (listening to the chest sounds of patients in far-away places), where trained doctors are not available. They teamed up and solved the problem by developing a smart stethoscope to record and transmit sounds over mobile networks. Two years later, they founded their startup company Ayu Devices, and have already sold more than 600 devices.
The story of Dr. Vikas Karade is similar. He quit a corporate job to join BETiC and developed software to convert x-ray images into 3D models, which can be used for planning orthopedic surgeries as well as 3D-printing surgical tools.
This helps in reducing the time and increasing the accuracy of the surgeries. Vikas was part of PM Modi’s delegation to Silicon Valley in 2015, and his company Algosurg is supported by BIRAC, DST, and Y-Combinator.
Then there is Nishant Kathpal who declined an offer from blue-chip company Intel to develop a low-cost portable screening device to avert diabetic foot amputations.
His startup company, called Ayati Devices, is already getting inquiries from diabetologists and podiatrists as well as patients of chronic diabetes.
Adarsha, Tapas, Vikas, Nishant and many others are a testimony to the fact that 83 percent of the Indian workforce would like to leave their job and want to be entrepreneurs, much higher than the global average of 53 percent (Randstad Workmonitor survey).
Prof B Ravi, founder of BETiC explains, “An increasing number of engineering and medical graduates want to make a real difference to the world we live in. When they realize the constraints of the corporate workplace, they start exploring entrepreneurship through innovation labs like BETiC. Such facilities for product engineering along with comprehensive mentoring are accelerating indigenous development of affordable devices suitable for local manufacture and use. We are now witnessing a surge in healthcare startups across the country, next only to e-commerce according to some estimates.”
A key catalyst for the innovation eco-system is hackathons, such as the weekend MEDHA and week-long MEDIC organized by BETiC. These events bring doctors and engineers together to explore medical device innovation. They can quickly validate their ideas, identify team members, and obtain expert feedback. Budding innovators, entrepreneurs, mentors, innovation managers and faculty guiding med-tech projects can speed up their innovation journey in the healthcare field.
Dr. Rupesh Ghyar, SEO of BETiC adds, “Many new opportunities for research, innovation, and entrepreneurship lie at the intersection of conventional disciplines like biomedical, design, mechanical and electronics engineering. We are bringing together like-minded people through platforms like MEDIC to explore such opportunities, and find suitable partners as well as mentors to pursue their ideas further.”
The Randstad Workmonitor survey also reveals that the inclination towards entrepreneurship is highest among workers aged between 25 and 34 years – 72% of them favor entrepreneurship over service.
BETiC is supported by the Government of Maharashtra and the Ministry of Science & Technology, Govt of India. The 5th edition of MEDIC (Medical Device Innovation Camp) is scheduled from 28 September to 2 October 2019, in the Powai campus of IIT Bombay.