Ms. Richa SinghRead an interview with Richa Singh and team, who formed the website YourDOST. Richa Singh is the principle co-founder of this website, who converted her idea of healing melancholic people in the comfort of anonymity, without the person having to disclose his or her identity and run the risk of being stigmatized in the society as a mentally ill person.
Richa SinghInnovation: YourDOST
Interview with Richa Singh and team
YourDOST is an online platform that has experts counselling people with depression or any kind of mental anxiety or illness. Richa Singh the principal co-founder of this website converted her idea of healing melancholic people in the comfort of anonymity, without the person having to disclose his or her identity and run the risk of being stigmatized in the society as a mentally ill person.
How did the idea of assisting people with depression and other forms of mental illness, come to
The idea took birth out of a personal experience and therefore it is not just a business for us.
When our co-founder Richa Singh was studying at IIT Guwahati, one of her hostel-mates committed suicide due to apprehension of a bad placement. None of them around her had any clue of her suffering before she took such a drastic step. Richa felt this could have been avoided. Even though there were counsellors and experienced psychologists in the campus, hardly anyone used to seek their support/help.
When Richa started working, she saw that people around her were stressed due to job pressures and relationship issues. However again, most of these people were not willing to talk about their problems fearing social implications and for the fear of being called mentally ill.
And that's when she decided that a change is needed and it should happen through her. This is when she conceptualized the platform YourDOST - your emotional wellness coach!
Anyone going through emotional problems or anyone wanting to seek guidance or help on self improvement, or issues pertaining to relationship, career, parenting, etc. can chat with our experts anytime, anywhere, while being completely anonymous.
Through personalized guidance, our Experts help you develop:
- Healthy personal relationships
- A productive and satisfying work-life balance
- A more focused approach towards achieving your goals
- A more confident self
- The ability to deal with stress, anxiety, depression and pressures of all kinds & from many sources - personal, societal, peer, etc.
Not coming from the field of psychology, how did you get started with an initiative that involves
therapy of human melancholy?
Not coming from the field of psychology was a drawback initially. So we decided to approach many psychologists. We used to ask them about their cases and write blogs about it. We were fascinated, how helpful they can be only if people approached them.
Since then we thought about creating a platform where people can anonymously seek support. Richa initially shared this idea with Satyajeet, our other Co-Founder and he loved the idea. He also believed that through YourDOST, we will be able to help a lot of people. The day Richa shared her idea with Satyajeet, he started coding to make the YourDOST website, and within 24 hours we had it up! That is how the idea started shaping up into a technology product.
One thing we have learnt for sure is that - No matter how many hurdles come your way but you cannot afford to lose focus. Believe in yourself and keep moving, things will start falling in place.
How did you manage to raise all the money to start this venture?
We were bootstrapped for initial period of our operations but raised close to USD 400,000 ( ` 2.5 crores) in Angel round. Owing to the uniqueness of the idea, we were able to attract established entrepreneurs like Phanindra Sama (Redbus Founder), Aprameya Radhakrishna (TaxiForSure Founder), Aneesh Reddy (Capillary Founder) and many seasoned investors like Sanjay Anandaram (Seedfund), Venk Krishnan (NuVentures) etc to our investor portfolio.
How many people are now associated with YourDOST, and in what capacities?
We managed to attract some of the best talent in the market from premier institutes like IIT, IIM and from a few top companies like Flipkart, Mu Sigma, Vodafone, etc. Currently we are over 20 people strong (in house) working across counselling, Operations, Tech, and Marketing teams. We also have over 250 experts (which includes, counsellors, career coaches, mentors, etc) working remotely from across India.
What is your business model?
We have a 'freemium' model for our business - where primary features like text based consultants, live chat or messages are free for the user. A few premium features like Audio and Video calls are chargeable at a nominal amount of around Rs.500/- as opposed to the market price of Rs.1500/- per session.
Do you prescribe medicines? And, do you think online counselling can be better than in-person
No we don't prescribe medicines. We have not yet started involving psychiatrists and drug prescriptions in our offering.
Both online and in-person counselling have their own pros and cons. Online counselling has a major advantage of mass reach and anonymity/confidentiality. No one can spot you on your way to a counselling clinic and judge. Given the stigma in our society pertaining to mental wellness and seeking help, online becomes the main solution for that. With the improving technology and hassle free video calls, it is bound to make the online experience seamless and as close as possible to an in-person counselling session. This is why we chose online medium to start with.
On the other hand, if a case is very serious or requires clinical intervention, we prefer recommending them an in-person session. We do not want to take a chance of the lagging video becoming a deal breaker in such a scenario. This is especially true in Tier 2 and 3 cities where the internet bandwidth is a bit slow.
Vedant ThakerInnovation: Recycled Battery Power Source
Interview with Vedant Thaker
Vedant Thaker, an 11-year old boy from Mumbai built an innovative power-source using his father's
discarded laptop battery. After fitting LED strips to the power-source, it turned out to be a useful
house-lighting item, particularly for people in rural areas, where's there's no electricity. Further he has made the power-source solar rechargeable.
From early childhood Vedant used to open up electronic items to check their internal parts, and then reconstructed them. Ever since he was 5 years old, he used to break open many of his toys and dissected the parts. On February 18, 2016, he has been awarded the "SOCIAL INNOVATION & ICONIC LEADERSHIP AWARD" for his innovation on "Recycled Battery Power Source", by World CSR Congress & Global CSR Excellency. Here's an interview with the child prodigy.
For the understanding of our readers, could you describe your innovation on 'Recycled Battery
This is a power-source created by using discarded laptop battery. The disposed-off battery of laptops has lot of energy still remaining, which can be readily recycled and put to use for another purpose. I have used it for the purpose of lighting up LED lights. The LED light strips have been acquired from market. As these lights are particularly intended for people in rural areas, where there is no electricity - I have made the power-source solar rechargeable.
Tell us about how this idea of using discarded laptop battery for recycled usage came to your mind.
When my father's laptop suddenly stopped working due to a damaged battery back in January 2014, I took the battery and started opening it up. Laptop batteries typically consist of 6 to 8 cylindrical lithium-ion (Li-ion) cells. Upon opening-up the battery, I found that one of the six cells in that battery was damaged. Since cells are connected in a series, the power supply to the remaining cells was cutoff due to the one damaged cell. I used three of the functional cells and installed it in a dysfunctional CFL inverter lamp-and the lamp lit up. Taking cue from this, I thought of building a lighting system. My objective was to provide light to children in villages, who cannot study after sunset due to absence of electricity. So, I got LED strips from market that could be illuminated by my power-source.
My father went to a scrap store and got me a working solar-panel. I started working toward making the battery solar-power driven. A direct current output voltage line from the solar panel is plugged in the connector to charge the cell, supplying output voltage from the solar panel to the cell. However, there was a risk of reverse current flow from the battery. To prevent this risk at the time of the charging process, I added a diode to the circuit, between the solar panel and the battery. Now, I have sent two such LED lights to my friends back in our village, and they are happily using it to study after sunset
What kind of support do you now need to take forward your innovation to a market-ready state?
To further develop the innovation, we need support of laptop manufacturing organizations and solar power plants. Instead of disposing off their damaged batteries as waste material, if laptop manufacturing organizations can give them to us, we can manufacture many such power sources to light up LED lights, which can in turn be used by people in rural areas without electricity - for the purpose of house-lighting.
Also, if solar panel companies support us in manufacturing the solar panel for recharging the powersource, many people living in rural India without electricity can have light after sunset.
How long does a fully charged battery last? Also, have you thought about the pricing aspect?
A fully charged power source will last two days. If charged for 2 to 3 hours, it will last for 6 to 7 hours. The price can be between Rs 100 to 200. The bulk of the costing of such lights is that of the battery. Since, the battery that we are using is recycled, the cost becomes much lower.
What do you want to become when you grow up?
I want to be an engineer. I want to study at the IITs.
Mr. Nikhil KhuranaInnovation: Hybrid-electric retrofit kit for cars
Hybrid-electric retrofit kit for cars
Meet Nikhil Khurana, a 23 years old mechanical and automation engineer, a founder of a startup Folks Motor Corporation. He has designed a hybrid-electric retrofit kit for cars, which promises to cut down emissions and increase mileage of cars. The kit is both sustainable and environment-friendly. Let us know more about this innovation from Nikhil himself
For the understanding of our readers, could you please describe your innovation?
By definition, hybrid vehicles run on petrol/diesel and electric power, where the batteries get recharged through external power source or by regenerating electricity with regenerative breaking.
At Folks Motor, I have a patented innovation called 'Hybrid Regenerative Drive'. It is a process by which a car will regenerate electrical power and recharge its batteries each time the car slows down, or when brakes are applied. The batteries also recharge whenever drivers change gears or apply the clutch, which is a common feature in the urban driving conditions. The battery then releases the energy to the electric motor, helping propel the vehicle whenever the driver accelerates on electric power. The product offers two driving modes: the Engine Mode & the Electric Mode.
- If you drive your car for 10 km/pl on fuel, then our system recharges batteries & lets you drive the next 4 km on free electric power. The overall mileage in this case is 14 kms/pl.
- If you drive your car for 14 km/pl on fuel, then our system will let you drive the next 6 kms on free electric power. The overall mileage in this case is 20 kms/pl.
- With the first drive on engine mode for 70 kms, the batteries will be completely recharged for a 30-35 kms drive range on electric mode.
- For driving gearless on electric mode, one will need to use only accelerator and brakes, and switch the gear to neutral. The maximum speed one can reach on electric mode is 60 kmph.
Installing this product in your car doesn't affect its resale value, we don't disturb the car's engine in any way.
Tell us about how this idea of creating hybrid cars strike you.
Back in 2008, when I was in Class 10, I drove one of the first hybrid car that came into India. It was priced at Rs 22 lakhs and offered a mileage increase of just 15%. A non-hybrid version of the same car came at Rs 12 lakhs. Clearly, the product lacked the value proposition. That's when I sensed that the next era of mobility would be Hybrid & Electric Vehicles. This is when I got inspired to innovate a low cost and affordable, "Made in India" hybrid technology for all the car users.
I started my research for Hybrid Powertrain Technologies in Dec 2010 and was just 17 then. In the next 3 months, I was ready with my technology concept and in May 2011, we got into talks with several auto industry majors from collaboration for R&D perspective. We signed NDAs with them, as I didn't have patent for my innovation at that time. They found my innovation novel & interesting, but didn't go further since I didn't have any machine designs, computer model or a working prototype. Later, after filling for patents, I re-approached them. But couldn't go ahead since our system is defined as an all new hybrid powertrain platform & it would not be good for their business strategy.
What kind of support do you now need to take forward your innovation to the market?
The challenges we are constantly facing is to generate investor interest in automotive/auto ancillary sector, as all the Investors are interested in internet, healthcare & other service providing businesses.
Whereas our plan is to manufacture new age hybrid vehicles in India & compete in a dominant heavy industry sector.
Raising a hardware startup in India, especially in a heavy dominant industry like the auto sector & raising investor interest on this has not been very easy. Being neither from IIT or IIM, it was difficult to work out each and everything from money to resources, without any support from an institution. However now, with correct government incentives under FAME Scheme and the market being ready for a solution such as ours, we are getting interest from investors
What is the pricing aspect for such conversions?
At Folks Motor, I am offering hybrid car conversion service to convert standard petrol or diesel cars into a hybrid cars. This conversion will cost approximately Rs 1 lakh per car. It's a zero maintenance product and comes with a lifetime replacement guarantee for batteries. And for our first 500 customers, we offer free replacement of batteries whenever they go down.
Do you feel India has woken up to the need of Hybrid cars? How is the response for hybrid cars in India?
The need of hybrid cars was always there. If it wasn't, then Delhi wouldn't be the Most Polluted City in the world. From consumer perspective, India's auto market is very much price and value proposition sensitive. Until now, we just didn't have solutions in the market which deliver to their expectations.
Currently, there are only Micro and Mild Hybrid Technologies been introduced by Indian Auto majors which are gaining momentum as such hybrid cars exempted from Car Rationing Plan, Odd-Even Scheme applied in Delhi. Cars which are completely hybrid solution are not affordable to average Indians. Fact is, they are looking to buy a hybrid car within a budget of Rs. 5-10 lakhs.
Our Hybrid Retrofit Solution holds a great value in terms of features and affordability, and we have already received 250+ product enquiries.
Dr. Vishal RaoInnovation: Aum Voice Prosthesis
Aum Voice Prosthesis
What was it that prompted you to innovate the voice prosthesis?
India gets about 25000 new cases of throat cancer each year. 80% of these cases are detected in Stage 3 or 4 and a majority of these patients lose their voice boxes as part of their treatment. A typical voice prosthesis costs anywhere in between 30000- 45000 rupees. Being from low income groups, they are unable to purchase a voice prosthesis, thus leaving them bereft of essential means of communication.
One day, a throat cancer patient Mr. Sannathimayya from Chikkaballapur came to me for treatment. His voice box had already been removed. He had a very valid complaint that he couldn't speak because he couldn't afford a voice prosthesis. When I heard this, I thought that nature when it created us, gave us a speaking device at no added costs. Many of these patients were devoid of this essential mode of communication only due to cost constraints. So something had to be done. A few days later, my friend Shashank Mahesh, a co-inventor of this prosthesis come up to my room for a causal visit. He is an industrialist with a finance background. While sharing my desire to help patients through donations to procure a prosthesis, he emphatically suggested - "Why don't you develop one? I'll give you the industrial expertise and you give me the technical." This is where the idea of creating our special voice prosthesis started.
How does it work?
Most of us may assume we speak through our throats. Truth is, we speak through our brain. Speech travels to our ear, get analyzed as sounds in auditory cortex of brain. From there it goes to the Wernicke area, to Broca area and the speech cortex. It then instructs the vocal cords to vibrate and intercept sounds. How can a throat cancer patient who has lost his voice box speak then? Any obstruction or interception to air produces sound. In these patients, their food pipe vibrates and intercepts air producing speech as directed by the intact brain.
Aum voice prosthesis is implanted in patients undergoing laryngectomy enabling the patient to speak after surgery. Post surgery, a patient is able to speak even in the absence of larynx. The partial shutter relatively opens when the air is exhaled from the lungs and allows the air to pass through from the second end to the first end of the cylinder. This mechanism also prevents the entry of food particles into the second end, thus preventing fungal infection in the prosthesis and extending its life span.
Overall, our innovation is non-invasive and cost effective.
How long did it take for you to develop it?
It took us 2 years to work and rework on serial principles that govern the mechanic of this prosthesis. Needless to say, this was not a full time work. We used our free time to think various aspects of this invention.
What are the challenges that you faced while coming up with this innovation?
Key challenges that we faced were our own cynicism and mental blocks about feasibility of executing this vision.
What is the material with which it is made?
Aum voice prosthesis is made out of medical grade platinum cured silicon.
In which cases can the prosthesis be used?
Typically, a prosthesis replaces a missing body part that is lost through trauma, disease, or congenital conditions. Aum Voice Prosthesis is especially made for throat cancer patients to help them speak again.
What is duration of the surgery to fit the device?
Whether during an operation or an outpatient clinical visit, the prosthesis can be fitted in about 15 minutes time.
It is an extremely affordable innovation. Is the price currently subsidized?
It has always been our intent to reach this device to the needy at the most uncorrupted costs. Thus, there was a need to blend the best standards of functionality with affordability. This was feasible only because we did not charge for our time and talent. Nor did several of the manufacturers, suppliers, engineers, physicists and technical experts, who upon understanding the intent of this device came forward to spare their time and efforts. We all simply created a demarcation between necessity of life and privileges. Today, the device is priced at merely Rs. 50.
How many people have benefited from this device until now?
We are extremely proud to say that around 30 patients have benefitted from the device till date and several 100s are waiting to be fitted with it.
If sold in the worldwide market, the Aum voice prosthesis can be serious competition to existing products. Is a mass scale production and worldwide sale of the prosthesis planned?
We plan to take the product worldwide to reach out to needy patients who cannot afford costly voice prosthesis. We do not believe in competition. Our philosophy is making science accessible. We believe that science is incomplete if it remains a hope only for the future. It needs to be useful to the present, serving the needy or being accessible.
Have any NGOs approached you for spreading word about it?
Yes, a few NGOs have expressed interest to help us spread the word.
What was the significance behind using the word Aum?
AUM has 3 elements to it - A signifying 'creation', U signifying Sustenance and M signifies Annihilation. This is not a religious connotation, but represents a primeval sound that signifies 3 defining principles of this universe.
We aptly named this device AUM, since this prosthesis gives our patients a fresh chance to communicate once again. This resonates and resounds all aspects of creation. This prosthesis should come as a thanks giving to the almighty and help them serve other needy people.
What was the inspiration for creating the Sohum device?
One afternoon in 2010, I was at the child development clinic at AIIMS, New Delhi. Then, a man walked in with his five year old son and complained that the child doesn't speak at all. The doctor at the clinic examined the child and confirmed that it is unable to hear and hence, has not developed speech as well. However, it was too late to do any intervention and help him learn to talk. The question in my mind was, 'Why don't we have a technology that can help us identify this problem sooner?'
Research shows that, each year approximately 800,000 babies with hearing impairment are born all over the world. Of these, 90% are born in developing countries. More specifically, 150,000 babies with hearing impairment are born in India each year and remain speechless for lifetime because of late intervention. All these factors were compelling reasons for me to come up with a good innovation.
Can you please describe how the Sohum device works?
The device works on the principle of Auditory brainstem response in which three set of electrodes are kept on the head of the baby and EEG data is acquired to tell whether the baby can hear or not. The device takes less time and is ideal for mass screening.
The band which goes on to the head of the baby carries electrodes, fits different head sizes and is very easy to clean. The hardware box which carries the sophisticated hardware unit and can perform in noise because of the unique noise cancellation algorithms. The interface is designed such that it can be used by any healthcare worker. The results of the test are completely automated and will be indicated as Pass or Refer, If the baby is pass, parents will be given a pass report but if the result is refer, she will be referred to a nearby audiologist with the help of a centralized data system & telemedicine module.
How can early detection of speech impairment retain a child's speech?
Early detection leads to early intervention and child will be able to hear and acquire language in the first few years of life when the mind has the plasticity to learn sound and language.
How much is it priced at?
We have a dual pricing strategy, one for bigger hospital and the other for smaller hospitals. It is priced at one third the price of the currently available imported devices.
You have mentioned that you are working on reducing the product price further? How?
The device and technology is developed ingeniously and we have full control on its design and development. We have cross utilized the already existing platforms in hardware to control the price and using indigenously developed algorithm IP.
How are you making awareness about your innovation in economically backward regions of the nation?
We are engaging local healthcare workers and general physicians to increase awareness and providing the newborn hearing screening to babies born in resource poor setting of India. We are also collaborating with already existing government programs focusing on newborns.
How many babies have benefitted from your innovation till date?
Till date, approximately 300 babies have benefitted from Sohum device.
How are you training medical teams from across the country to use your innovation?
We have a training module which we are providing to the hospital. The usage of the device is very intuitive, making the device highly user- friendly. It requires minimal training for a healthcare worker to use this device.
How has the response for the product been from other countries?
We have installed 2 such devices in Guatemala in Central America. We have inquiries from African countries, Indonesia, Vietnam and China as well.
Mr. Biplab PaulInnovation: Bhungroo
What is Bhungroo?
Bhungroo in Gujarati language literally means a straw or a hollow pipe. It is well known in Asia and Africa as an innovative and efficient rain water conservation technique through usage of pipes. With this disaster mitigating and irrigation guarantee technique, storm water gets filtered, injected and stored underground for usage in lean periods. It also ensures sufficient water for irrigation and other sectors with zero water footprint. Bhungroo can help store approx.1-4 million liters of water using a space of merely 1 sq. mts. This is how the Bhungroo technique guarantees food security during rainy periods and crop survival in lean periods. In addition to this, it helps to supplement a community's household water needs as well.
How does it operate?
Bhungroo can be a tailor made solution with approximately 27 variables in place. To function perfectly, it needs a minimum of 4 inch height of water at its suction level. Also, the subsoil formation should ideally possess permeable layers within a depth of 130 meters. In the times of floods, multiple Bhungroo systems can be put to use with serial injections of water in the underground storage system.
Why is Bhungroo an ideal solution?
Marginal farmers make up about 50% farming community in Asian and African countries. Majority of these farmers follow rain fed cultivation practices. However, the monsoons can be completely erratic, inadequate and delayed. Leading to crop-failure, food shortage, economic loss and migration of farming community to urban areas in search of livelihood. Extreme weather conditions can aggravate desertification and soil salinity, which ultimately lead to infertile land.
Today in India, millions of acres of farming land have been getting affected by seasonal waterlogging and consequent infertility. With optimum utility, a single Bhungroo system guarantees productivity to 26+ acres of land per annum. It requires extremely low capital investment to be made just once and guarantees good soil fertility for up to 30 years. According to its innovator Mr. Biplab Paul, post the installation of the Bhungroo system a farmer can easily reach a breakeven point on his investment in approximately 2 years span. Interestingly, Bhungroo system works at about 10% of the bore well recharge technology cost.
Farmers from arid regions of Gujarat have been using this indigenous storm water harvesting system with a good deal of support from women from local communities. In fact, a Bhungroo is typically owned and managed by women. Till date, the system has irrigated a significant portion of agriculture land in approximately seven districts of Gujarat. Currently, 3000+ Bhungroos are operational and more are getting constructed.
About the Innovator
Mr. Biplab Paul is a grass root development professional and has been diligently working on innovative technical solutions for last two decades. His World Bank IDM 2007 awarded water technology is enabling poor women farmers towards disaster preparedness and lifelong food security in rural India; He has also been awarded as Ambassador for Peace, Ashoka Global Change maker, Change maker for India, Water Star, Best Contributor for State Development, etc.