This is what happens when passion meets profession. An idea, a team and a vision generates momentum to create a difference. 25-year-old Vivek Kopparthi- a US-based Indian-origin entrepreneur is using the ‘Make in India’ route to tie up with hospitals in Chennai and market a new portable, foldable device to treat jaundice in small babies.
Each device costs $100 to make but will be sold for Rs 399 in India, says this upcoming entrepreneur who leads a young team who visited India recently and were shocked when they saw how a stack of babies lying naked and sweating were treated for jaundice by a halogen tube hanging from a ceiling at a Delhi government hospital.
Vivek, when contacted in US told The Indian Express that it all started when he was travelling across India to do some market research for neonatal medical devices. At New Delhi they had an opportunity to visit one of the government hospitals where they saw that a stack of babies lying naked on the floor, sweating, dehydrated and were treated for Jaundice by a halogen tube hanging from the ceiling by a rope.
“This left a lasting impression and found that Jaundice is treated by phototherapy – a treatment that requires flashing light on the infants at a wavelength of 450-480nm for an average time of 4-5 days for jaundice to be treated. But definitely, the way that hospital treated Jaundice was perhaps, one of the most hazardous ways of treatments available,” claims Vivek.
Ever since that incident, Vivek and his team gathered more details about jaundice. Further research based on the Indian census report 2011 showed that India was one of the world’s largest contributor of neonatal deaths and jaundice is one of the prime reasons for these casualties.
Nearly 2/3rds of India’s jaundice casualties are only from Assam – reason being only 21% of the state having access to electricity and only 18% of the births are delivered in a medical facility. In other parts of the country, of a sample survey conducted, 69% of the devices compromised on efficacy and only 8.6% used the recommended lights.
While Vivek was a student at Arizona State University, USA, he applied to the Edson Student Incubator and was awarded seed funding, prototyping lab access, office space and other resources to build a solution that works in resource-constrained settings. In 30 days, Vivek and his team set up NeoLight, a socially conscious startup and built a small, portable, foldable device that runs on solar/battery/AC power. It can be carried in a backpack and can save 1000 babies in its lifetime (7 years), Vivek explained. Each of these devices cost $100 to make and they use LEDs, thus having a longer life than the traditional Halogen lamps used.
Vivek pointed out that they have developed two products – Skylife and Sunlife. Skylife, focused on the US market, will be the fastest treatment for Jaundice (40% quicker) and Sunlife, focused on India, will be an affordable and cost-effective device. We aim to employ a conscious capital model where for every Skylife sold, a Sunlife will be donated in under-developed countries like Africa.
Vivek who hails from Chennai’s Meenakshi Sundaarajan Engineering College is closing on an investment for $400,000 and a partnership with a group of hospitals to begin manufacturing these devices.
Vivek is applying for the Make in India funding and said “In a span of 8 months, with $7000 funding, I was able to build a $4 Million company. My aim is now to share my knowledge to the upcoming engineers and entrepreneurs in our country as they get lost working for a Rs 3-4 lakh job because it satisfies their immediate needs. They get lost because they all that they know is money is needed to start a business and that they don’t have whereas in reality, the concept, business plan, team and the strategy is important and money will follow,” says this upcoming entrepreneur.