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Entrepreneurship

This Man Is on a Mission to Connect Indians Through Indian Languages

Even though bad luck and unfortunate incidents put him down, he found new opportunities to help Indians communicate better.

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Aprameya Radhakrishna. co-founder Koo App

Everyone wants to express their thoughts, ideas, and opinions, isn’t it?

And many micro-blogging sites in various countries came up to satisfy this need. These sites allow the users to connect with people and share their opinions and thoughts with a larger audience.

But, nothing can match the level of satisfaction that you get when you express yourself in your own language, right?

And that’s what ‘apna desi Twitter‘, Koo (also known as Koo App) would do for you.

This micro-blog is the voice of India in Indian languages.

Do you know who is behind this remarkable ‘Make in India’ product?

He is Aprameya Radhakrishna. He co-founded Koo with Mayank Bidawatka, in 2020.

But, it is not his first entrepreneurial venture. He has co-founded two startups named, TaxiForSure and Vokal, and has contributed significantly to India’s startup ecosystem.

He Always Wanted to be His Boss

Every graduate dreams of getting a high-paying job in the corporate world.

But Aprameya had a different plan. After graduating from IIM Ahmedabad, he spent his time understanding how a business works.

And then, he grilled his mind to find out what problems people are facing, and how he could solve them through his business.

It was during this time that he came across the cab-hailing problem and thought, “Why not save our people’s time, from puzzling with maps to figure out the correct bus to travel?”

And that’s how Aprameya and his co-founder, Raghunandan G., got the idea for their entrepreneurial venture.

Aprameya Radhakrishna and Mayank Bidawatka, co-founder of Koo App
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You may think that to get this idea, Aprameya and Raghunandan might have discussed for hours, sitting in Starbucks, sipping over their coffee.

But that’s not true.

The idea of starting TaxiForSure was an outcome of a drunken discussion between these two friends at Tavern pub!

Things happen in life most unexpectedly, don’t you think?

The growth of TaxiForSure is worth a mention. It began with a starting capital of 8 lakhs and reached a stage where it could produce a turnover of INR 1,200 crores.

A dream which took its baby steps in one city with 5 to 10 cabs, grew into an empire across 48 cities with 40,000 cabs!

What about the customers? TaxiForSure has ferried over 4 million happy customers.

When Their Rival Planned to ‘Checkmate’ Them

Aprameya and Raghunandan started TaxiForSure
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This ambitious duo was happy with how TaxiForSure was operating.

But these good days didn’t last for long. Ola Cabs, their prime rival, started their ride to be the top car-hailing service provider in the market.

Ola Cabs could raise the funding of ₹250 crores in July 2014. And hence started burning money to get more consumers and drivers on their platform.

How did they do it?

By reducing the rate of the rides and implementing the daily incentive scheme for their drivers.

Aprameya and Raghunandan were closely watching the moves of Ola Cabs. They assumed this trick would not last long, and they would get their rates back to normal after some days.

But Ola Cabs proved them wrong. They could raise funds again worth $210 million and continued with their strategy.

Now, for Aprameya and his team, it became the question of survival. So, they reduced the rate of the rides and kept the old incentive rates for the drivers.

It was costing them an immense loss, and they had little financial back up too. So, Raghunandan and Aprameya started looking for investors.

They could finalize a few investors too. But the luck and the time were not in favor of TaxiForSure.

An unfortunate incident happened with an Uber’s female passenger in Delhi. And a massive public outrage took place, raising questions on the security provided by the cab-hailing service providers.

And under pressure, the government announced the ban on cab services across the nation. Aprameya shared they received no official notice to shut down their service. It was making rounds only in the news and media.

Because of this incident, Aprameya couldn’t get the investors. They had to sell their dream to Ola Cabs for $200 million.

He Learnt From His Failure

Aprameya Learnt From His Failure of TaxiforSure
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The one who is open to learning will definitely succeed in life, they say.

And Aprameya moved ahead with the lessons he learnt from the failure.

He shared his few critical lessons with all the fellow entrepreneurs:

  • Consumers must be ahead of everything else when you run a business
  • Invest in the first few recruitments as the founders personally would not involve in hiring employees when the company expands
  • Be responsive to the market
  • Think out of the box

He Never Quit the Startup Ecosystem

Never Quit the Startup Ecosystem
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“When are you planning to begin your next venture?”

Aprameya would reply, ‘Not at the moment.’

However, he ensured to remain active in the startup ecosystem.

How?

By being an angel investor and advisor to the startups.

He would meet 2 to 3 startups a day, either as an angel investor or as a mentor.

Post TaxiForSure failure, within a few years, he invested in 12 startups including Goodbox, Unacademy, Vyomo, Daily Ninja, and YourDost.

New Adventures Were Awaiting Him

Koo and Vokal
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“There will be newer mistakes, and I am ready to make those mistakes.” These were the words from Aprameya when he launched his second venture, ‘Vokal’ along with Mayank Bidawatka in 2017.

Vokal is a user-generated content platform. It allows the users to learn from one another (desi alternative to Quora; you see!)

But what is unique about this platform?

It enables India’s non-English speaking masses to ask and answer queries through voice and text messages in the Indian languages.

Now, Vokal is available in 11 Indian languages to help fellow citizens to communicate and express themselves with no language barriers.

How cool is that?

Do you want to know the place where the idea of Vokal got stuck in Aprameya’s mind?

Was it a pub?

No, not again. This time it was a cafe in Indiranagar, Bengaluru, where Aprameya’s entrepreneur mode got kicked in.

After the successful launch of Vokal, the duo came up with another idea to become a voice for many Indians who want to express themselves in Indian languages.

This led to the beginning of the micro-blogging site, Koo.

Koo App came under the limelight when it won Digital India Atmanirbhar Bharat App Innovate Challenge and Google Play Store’s Daily Essential App 2020.

Through Koo App, Aprameya and his team aim to connect every Indian through the local Indian languages. And help non-English-speaking citizens enjoy their freedom to express themselves.

We, at TBM, wish and hope that Aprameya reaches his aim of uniting Indians through words. And may he contribute many more innovative products to make our India Atmanirbhar soon.

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Entrepreneurship

This Entrepreneur is Aiming to Rule the Consumer Durable Sector

Even the promotion couldn’t stop him from leaving the comfortable corporate life.

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Bharat Kalia, co-founder, and CEO at Lifelong Online

A lot of industries in India operate traditionally.

They develop the products based on the customer needs, market them through various means, and make the revenue.

But, there is an entrepreneur who didn’t want to follow this old-school path. Instead, he innovated an alternative method to run the business.

What is this method about?

It is communicating with the customers, understanding their requirements which are not fulfilled by the existing brands, and then designing the solutions to meet their needs.

How could he get this idea?

Any guesses?

It is because he could realize these 3 facts about the customers:

  • Their needs are evolving
  • They search for modern functional solutions for the age-old challenges, and
  • Look for great value for money

After thorough research, he delivered innovative products, crafted with care, at the best prices, to ease his customers’ everyday living; through his venture known as Lifelong Online.

Now you may be eagerly waiting to know the identity of this mastermind.

He is none other than Bharat Kalia, co-founder, and CEO at Lifelong Online.

He co-founded this venture in November 2015 with Varun Grover and Atul Raheja.

From Cushy Corporate Life to Unpredictable Journey

Lifelong Online

Bharat followed the same journey as any engineer-MBA graduate would do.

Prepare day and night for the interviews, clear it, get the job, work, and, umm… keep working (what else can an employee do in the corporate space, right?).

After getting into corporate life, Bharat worked really hard to make his identity. He reached a team manager position from an associate within 5 years of working at the management consultancy firm.

After this promotion, he could have continued his job and could have climbed the corporate ladder even higher… But, the year 2015, which saw the rise of e-commerce in India, brought a twist to his life journey.

While working  at Bain & Company, a thought got stuck in his mind: No development or innovation has taken place in the home appliances and consumer durables sector .

Wait! There is a reason behind his thought – he had been using the same type of home appliances (and of course, with the same issues) that his parents used for nearly 20 to 30 years!

Even you might have faced this situation, right?

Bharat realized that the primary reason for this lack of development was that this product category contains bulky and inefficient methods of manufacturing and distribution.

This convinced Bharat that the consumer durables sector needed a digital revamp. And he took this opportunity to begin an exciting yet unpredictable journey of entrepreneurship with Lifelong Online.

How Does Lifelong Online Work?

How Does Lifelong Online Work
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“Consumer data will be the biggest differentiator in the next 2 to 3 years. Whoever unlocks the reams of data, and uses it strategically, will win,” – Angela Ahrendts.

And Bharat realized this back in 2015, don’t you think?

Lifelong Online could create its identity in the consumer durable sector within a few years of its launch.

Do you want to know how?

By operating on the customer-centric business model.

Here are the business processes that Lifelong Online follows:

  • Identification of customers’ pain points through product review insights
  • Designing the product and optimizing the packaging and supply chain
  • Conducting the test launch of the newly developed product and collecting the feedback
  • Conducting market attractiveness check
  • Pre-launch quality testing
  • Product launch and distribution through D2C (direct-to-customer) model, and
  • Continuously managing and analyzing the feedback and improving every product

Bharat and his team started their journey by launching their first product – a mixer grinder.

And then there was no looking back for them.

Currently, it has a portfolio of products belonging to these categories:

  • Home appliances
  • Kitchen
  • Fitness
  • Grooming
  • Lifestyle, and
  • Accessories

Lifelong Online sells its products through its platform and e-commerce marketplaces such as Amazon, Flipkart, and Udaan. And became a fast-growing, digital-first consumer durable brand of India.

You may have one question in mind, “How is it possible for Lifelong Online to offer the products at competitive prices?”.

This is because Lifelong Online doesn’t own the factories that manufacture their products, but only lease them. Therefore, no capital investments and maintenance cost involved.

This asset-light manufacturing model with no requirement of middlemen in distribution (D2C model) helps Lifelong Online to serve the customers at the best market prices.

Pandemic Couldn’t Shatter Him

Pandemic Couldn't Shatter Him
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When there are no fish, anglers (fishermen) make nets, they say.

Because when again fishing begins, they would have more nets to catch the fishes.

And that’s what Bharat followed during the lockdown.

He destructed the team a little and repurposed them into product development. This made them have a variety of products to offer when the e-commerce market returned to normal.

A smart businessman, don’t you agree?

When the entire world got hit by the pandemic, do you know what Bharat gave the first preference to?

It was his team.

He made sure that every employee was working from home in their hometown during the lockdown. The graphic designers and finance team needed the desktops to continue functioning, and he arranged them too.

Hence, Lifelong Online could manage all the operations smoothly, even when the outer world was in chaos.

Richard Branson once said, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business.”

And Bharat’s Lifelong Online is the best example. We, at the TBM desk, wish Bharat and his team all the luck and success. And hope they solve many more customers’ pain points and serve them with incredible products.

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Entrepreneurship

A Young Mind Who Dreams of Bringing a Holistic E-mobility Transition

He wants to free India from depending on foreign technologies and resources to manufacture efficient batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage systems.

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Akhil Aryan, founder of ION Energy

There was a boy who applied life hacks early in his teenage life.

Do you know what these life hacks are?

In the Indian context, it is nothing but the ‘Jugaad’ (Now you got it!).

He could pay his rent when he was in San Francisco, he could figure out how to start a business with no funding in hand, all with the help of the life hacks.

Amazing! Isn’t it?

And these life hacks made him realize one thing: If he finds a problem, and he would take the ownership to find the solution for it, he would definitely be successful one day.

And that’s what made him one of the youngest successful entrepreneurs of India.

He is none other than Akhil Aryan.

In 2016, he began his venture, ION Energy, which operates in the space of Battery Management System (BMS), and battery intelligence. Hence, ION energy aims to build the technologies to speed up earth’s transition to an all-electric planet.

The Idea Behind ION Energy

The Idea Behind ION Energy
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Did you know the problem faced by electric mobility inspired the idea behind ION Energy?

Akhil had a keen interest in the physics of energy and software since he was a young boy. Before ION Energy, he worked as CPO at Haptik until 2015.

He started reading about electric vehicles and wanted to find out whether electric mobility would turn into a big thing in the future or not.

At the same time, his father decided to sell his Skoda Superb car.

But Akhil insisted his father not sell, instead, keep it so that he could convert it into an electric vehicle.

In 2016, as Akhil was reading about electric vehicles, he found that these get built upon one fundamental component: the battery.

He read more books to determine the methods that would convert the internal combustion engine into an electric one. He ordered components online to manufacture the electric vehicle battery.

As he was going through this process; he realized, there are few concerns associated with these Electric Vehicle (EV), and Energy Storage System (ESS) batteries:

  • These are very expensive (constitute 40-45% of the total cost of the vehicle), and that these are complicated components
  • These don’t last for a longer time if the user doesn’t maintain them carefully

And he also found out the significant factors of an efficient battery, which are:

  • Shelf-life
  • Safety, and
  • Performance

What would make an EV battery last longer and perform better?

Akhil has an answer for you: It is the installation of BMS that improves the performance and shelf-life of lithium-ion batteries that power EVs and ESS.

He soon found out that no players in the Indian market were into BMS and battery intelligence. And the Indian electric vehicle manufacturers depend on either European or American advanced technology.

He wanted to change this scenario.

In 2016, Akhil launched ION Energy in Mumbai, which supplies world-class products and technology to the EV manufacturing companies and ESS for renewable energy.

And guess what? In the following year, Akhil could acquire a France-based company, Freemens SAS, an 8-year-old company operating in BMS space. And currently, ION has offices in India and France.

An exciting and unusual first year for a startup, don’t you think?

What Makes ION Energy Different From the Rest

Startup ION Energy
Source

How does ION Energy stand out from its competitors?

It is their BMS technology that is easily adaptable to India’s roads and the environment.

In 2019, his team could deploy BMS technology in 30,000 auto and scooters in India and currently export products to 12 countries worldwide.

Akhil revealed that there are many similar technologies and products present in the market, but they do not satisfy the needs of the Indian situation.

These products are usually exported abroad, and their cost is very high, which makes them inaccessible to the local customers.

And this is where ION Energy scores. ION Energy’s BMS technology is available at a comparatively lower price and has already deployed its technology in a larger volume, helping them gain customers’ trust.

This BMS technology is a cloud-connected system that allows them to see how their batteries are being used. The cloud system then analyses this data to improve the performance of their batteries.

Akhil expressed he focuses on building relationships with Indian and international companies that desire to have their battery system.

He does this by approaching the battery components assembling companies to sell his BMS technology, which later gets transferred to the vehicle manufacturing companies.

How Does the Future Look Like?

How Does the Battery Technology Future Look Like
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Akhil has a vision of localizing the Research and Development (R&D) activities in India and manufacturing top-notch products for EVs.

Currently, ION Energy is operational in 12 countries, including India, France, Germany, and the UK. And he is looking forward to expanding it further by raising funds.

In the financial year of 2019-20, he could witness the growth of 400%, which he is expecting to remain the same for the next 2 to 3 years.

Akhil, who got featured in Forbes Asia 30 under 30, shares that one should know the ‘what’ of their life, and then should figure out or experiment with how to achieve them.

He also believes that if you have an idea, share it with others to get their perspective and feedback on your idea.

He advises the aspiring entrepreneurs not to break the head to find a million-dollar idea. Instead, look out for the problems or inefficiencies and then start the venture to solve that problem. We, at TBM, wish and hope that Akhil and the entire team of ION Energy make India proud by launching their incredible products and technologies in the EV and ESS space. And inspire young minds to find and solve problems through their entrepreneurship journey.

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Artificial Intelligence

An ‘Alexa’ for Doctors? Why Not? Said This Techie

He is the mastermind behind the clinical voice assistant tool. And he has a vision of having healthcare professionals with no burnouts.

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Suki, clinical voice assistant tool

Hey Google!

Hey Siri!

Hey Alexa!

Hey Suki!

We’re sure that most of you are aware of the first three voice assistants and are using those in your day-to-day life.

Now, you might be wondering what this fourth one is?!

Well, you will get to know about that in no time but before that; do you know, 

A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine states that physicians spend 27% of their time consulting patients?

And do you know where do physicians spend 49.2% of their remaining time?

It is in doing paperwork! And it also includes the use of the EHR (Electric Health Record) system.

The primary reasons behind physicians’ burnout could be:

  • No help available for doctors and physicians to do paperwork
  • Clinics and hospitals are reluctant to invest in clerical and administrative support

Well, it is! It is totally related to our talks.

There is a technology that can assist the doctors in the monotonous documentation work; saves the precious time of the patients’ as well as their own.

And that technology is Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Leveraging this same technology, a US-based startup founded by Punit Soni has developed a clinical voice assistant named Suki.

Suki app on appstore
Source

It is aiming to help doctors and physicians with documentation work, and create more time for doctors to treat their patients, which is indeed their primary job.

A brilliant move of technology into the healthcare system, don’t you think?

Also read: Top Impactful Crypto Projects in 2021

The Beginning of Suki

Suki Co founder, Punit Soni
Source

The co-founder of Suki, Punit, is a techie guy who has served as lead project manager for 8 years in Google, and chief product officer in Flipkart.

He was mainly into the development of mobile applications and games.

So, how did this nerdy techie get introduced into the healthcare system?

It was when he shadowed the doctors in a clinic.

When he was in the clinic, there was a stressful situation wherein many patients were getting treated, and many intense works were taking place.

In such a situation, the most distracted persons he could find were the doctors!

Why?

Because he found them immersed in the documentation work instead of treating the patients.

This was when he came up with the thought of creating a tool that can assist the healthcare professionals in doing the paperwork. And hence they could focus on their patients with more care and empathy.

And in 2016, Punit started his journey in the healthcare industry by launching Suki.

A Much-Needed Tool for Physicians

A Much-Needed Tool for Physicians

How does Suki work?

This clinical voice assistant records, transcribes, and organizes doctors’ conversations with their patients. And then, it completes the data entry that is required for EHR.

By taking care of this tedious documentation process, Suki has enhanced the relationship between a doctor and a patient.

As per a recent white paper published by Suki, this voice assistant has increased the time spent by the doctors with their patients by 12% by cutting down the note-taking time by 76%.

This is undoubtedly a win-win situation for both patients and doctors.

How?

When a happy and stress-free physician spends more time with the patients, treatment would be more effective. And that would cause faster recovery.

And for the doctors, the application of voice assistant brings a financial benefit of  $30,000 or more a year on average.

And hence, Suki, as a tool, has improved the healthcare system by  :

  • Structuring the format of the healthcare management
  • Happier physicians with no burnout
  • Increase in the profit of healthcare organization, and
  • A better outcome for patients

In one of his interviews, Punit expressed that the feedback from the CIO (Chief Information Officer), CMIO (Chief Medical Informatics Officer), and administrators were critical for Suki.

But what mattered to him the most was how Suki would help physicians work professionally and make their lives easier.

He is undoubtedly the rarest technology professional who realized that physician burnout is the most critical public health crisis that had to be addressed.

The Challenges He Had to Face

The Challenges faced by Suki founders
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The journey of Suki was not a cakewalk.

Punit, and his technology team, had little to no idea about how a day would be like in a physician’s life, or they couldn’t spare time to observe and study their workflow.

So, to get access to the data that would help him develop Suki, he took physicians onboard as his colleagues.

Was it an effortless task for him to recruit and keep physicians in his team?

No, not at all.

It became difficult for Punit to create a workspace that could be ideal for both physicians and techies.

But he knew that to make Suki a success, both technologists and physicians had to work hand in hand. Therefore, even though it was challenging to understand each other’s work culture, ethics, and process, it was all worth it in the end.

The next challenge ahead of him was getting permission from physicians to introduce Suki in clinics and hospitals.

But most of the physicians did not agree to use the tool that was built only for them.

Why?

Before Suki, the technology field had developed many tools for physicians but not keeping them in mind.

These tools, instead of easing their work, added more burden on them. They used these tools only because the system forced them to do so.

When Punit approached them with Suki, most of the physicians were hesitant. But he assured them, saying that, if they used it, from day 1, their time spent on paperwork would reduce by 50 – 70%.

And guess what?

Physicians and the healthcare system agreed to welcome Suki.

And hence, it got its entry into the healthcare industry.

Even after Suki’s successful launch, Punit had to address questions regarding his intention behind this tool.

“Are you going to replace doctors with Suki?”, many curious people couldn’t resist but ask him.

He replied with an explanation that Suki has no intention of replacing doctors. But only to assist them so that they could do their job of treating their patients in the best way possible.

How could anyone think of replacing our super strong-minded professional folks, isn’t it?

What’s New in Suki?

Suki gets constant updates
Source

“It was a tough job to make Suki a reliable, seamless, perfect and consistent tool for healthcare, where one can not entertain mistakes,” says Punit.

He has plans of scaling up Suki and making it even more reliable and efficient.

In this direction, Suki has come up with a newly updated platform that incorporates data collected by Suki and teaches the AI to respond to the users faster and accurately.

And that is S3 or the Suki Speech Service platform. With this new upgrade, doctors can communicate with Suki casually, without confusing it.

Punit has a vision of making Suki an invisible and assistive tool to the healthcare professionals, and hopes that many technologies would show up to upgrade the healthcare industry.

We, at TBM, wish the team of Suki all the best for future endeavours. And hope that Suki would bring a smile on each physicians’ face because they deserve it.

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