Jai Vikram Singh Verma, a young entrepreneur, is quite proud of his ‘workaholic’ nature. “When I am working, I can forget to eat food and even go to the bathroom,” he admits. After passing out with an engineering degree from Vellore Institute of Technology, Verma, who hails from Jaipur, started an IT consulting firm, where he began doing python programming for US-based clients. It was a regular, smooth, good-paying work that often involved working for long hours. But for a workaholic like Verma, the long hours never mattered until the middle of 2015.
“My body just gave up. I began experiencing severe upper back pain because my muscles had swollen up. I couldn’t type on the keyboard because I felt pain in my shoulders. It was unbearable,” said Verma, who doesn’t want to reveal his age. The acute pain, which is unusual at Verma’s age under normal circumstances, forced him to stay off work for four months and go for regular yoga and physiotherapy sessions. Doctors proved ineffective.
After he got better, Verma began pondering about using technology to help people with back pain, especially with more and more cases being reported from youngsters working in the IT field. And that’s what led Verma to come up in a span of fewer than two years with Spiqi – India’s first posture improvement wearable.
At ‘Huddle Kerala, a diverse startup conclave organised by the state government in conjunction with Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) over the weekend at Kovalam, Verma’s efforts to raise a startup and come up with a unique hardware in the healthcare industry bore fruit. He won the second prize under IAMAI’s ‘IOT.in’ incubator programme and walked off with a Rs 5 lakh cash award. “It has been a super difficult journey. And the journey has told me never to give up. I am very, very happy right now,” Verma told indianexpress.com
The wearable, that Verma came up with, is compact, made of a combination of plastic and rubber that can be fixed to the back of the neck between the shoulders using a sticker. Spiqi has an advanced sensor that vibrates when the wearer slouches, reminding him/her to straighten up. It monitors the person’s back activity in real time, setting time-based posture goals and advising him/her to take regular breaks.
Verma claims his device uses AI to calibrate automatically to the person’s back movements, helping him/her to develop a habit of changing posture within a specified timeframe. It has to be electronically charged and runs for two-and-a-half days under normal temperature conditions. A mobile app has been developed which can be connected to the device to track posture goals. “If you don’t change your posture despite warnings, then a message will go to your wife or girlfriend,” laughs Verma, who has stopped his regular IT consulting work to focus completely on Spiqi.
Verma feels his aspiration of using technology to make a change in the healthcare industry is reaffirmed every time he hears young people complaining of spondylitis or joint pain. “Imagine 22-year-olds getting diagnosed with back pain. I mean, what will happen when they cross 30?” he asked. The Jaipur-based entrepreneur currently works with a team of two engineers, a business person, four physiotherapists and friends in mentoring roles.
Having pooled in Rs 25 lakh from his own pocket, mostly for the hardware, Verma’s next target is in attracting investors to take his product to the market. Over the next two months, he said the first batch of 100 products will go live on the Amazon launchpad for which he is anxiously awaiting feedback.