Powered by KSUM and with the Maker Village as its knowledge partner, Kerala: Driving India’s Hardware Startup Revolution by Inc42 Plus takes a deep dive into the hardware ecosystem of the state
The Top Performer in the second edition of India’s state startup ranking, Kerala has built a robust ecosystem for its hardware startups
The report looks at how the state is promoting entrepreneurship at the grassroots level and supporting the growth of its startups and budding entrepreneurs
The Indian startup ecosystem has proved time and again that it is ever ready to counter unprecedented challenges. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic bringing the entire world to a standstill, there had been an overall uptick in the startup space. Not only did the total funding amount between 2014 and H1 2020 grew to touch $63 Bn, but the country also saw the entry of 34 startups into the coveted unicorn club with a combined valuation of $115.5 Bn.
This ecosystem, however, is dominated by software startups. According to The State Of Indian Startup Ecosystem 2018 report by Inc42 Plus, hardware and IoT-focussed startups accounted for a mere 8% of the total market, and India’s contribution to global hardware electronics production stood at 3.4%.
Although these startups are now gaining popularity — mostly due to the developments in the electronics system design and manufacturing (ESDM) segment — very few Indian states provide an ecosystem that benefits these new-age startups. But among those states, Kerala has been consistently leading the list.
The southern state’s robust social and intellectual infrastructure focussed on innovation has also helped it secure the title of Top Performer for two years in a row in the Indian government’s state startup ranking.
It has been a journey of decades, though. What started in 1973 with Keltron — the manufacturer of a wide range of products from electronic components to sophisticated equipment — has now grown to house 2,200 startups.
According to a report titled The State Of Kerala Startup Ecosystem by Inc42 Plus, in 2019 alone, the state was home to more than 230 technical colleges where it ran its Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Centres (IEDCs), nurturing more than 10K aspiring entrepreneurs.
To recognise and acknowledge the state’s efforts and shine a light on the innovative hardware startups it houses, we are excited to announce the launch of Kerala: Driving India’s Hardware Startup Revolution report by Inc42 Plus. The report is powered by Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM), while the Maker Village is the knowledge partner.
Propelling India’s Hardware Story Through The Maker Village
The Kerala government has established an entrepreneurial culture at grassroots level to help aspiring minds nurture their ambitions. Beginning with the Startup Policy in 2014, it initiated a slew of activities in colleges to enable a conducive environment for budding entrepreneurs.
This dedicated push witnessed the making of such startups as Fin Robotics — which became the first Indian hardware solutions provider to raise Series A funding. Although Fin Robotics grew rapidly and rose to fame through its product line, the startup had to shut shop in 2017 for several reasons.
The Maker Village began its journey in 2015 to meet the infrastructure and incubation needs of the state’s startups.
It is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), the Indian government and the Kerala government, with KSUM as a leading partner and the Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management-Kerala (IIITM-K) as the implementation agency.
Housed at the Integrated Startup Complex in Kochi and lauded as South Asia’s largest innovation hub, the Maker Village has more than 82 Kerala-based hardware startups thriving across its incubation facilities.
The Maker Village guides these startups through its workshops and keeps them updated regarding latest market trends. The Kochi-based incubator also provides financial support to startups via loans, industrial partnerships and other schemes. It also connects them with experts to help them stay relevant and cost-efficient besides ensuring quality and productivity.
Since its inception, the Maker Village has worked on various initiatives to boost participation by startups and skilled individuals active in the state’s hardware startup ecosystem.
In 2018, the Maker Village helped four startups get support through the state-run Bharat Petroleum Corporation’s Project Ankur scheme. The next year, the Indian government chose the Maker Village for its Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDex) programme that aims to bring innovation to the country’s defence forces. Besides iDex, the incubator has rolled out a range of programmes in partnership with leading homegrown entities.
Innovations That Rescued Kerala From Crises
Be it floods, torrential rain, landslides, or registering the first case of the novel coronavirus in January 2020, Kerala saw its fair share of calamities in the past decade.
Although Kerala was the first Indian state to register a Covid-19 case and the initial graph of the pandemic in the state was alarming, it eventually handled the situation better than most states through some stringent measures and with help from the startups that came to its aid.
Here are a few startups that have helped the state counter the calamities throughout the decade:
Based in Thiruvananthapuram, Strava works with geospatial technologies. During the 2016 floods, the startup developed a product called Cyber Monkey to help rescue agencies identify points of distress. A cloud-based geospatial intelligence system, the Cyber Monkey transforms real-time data into a precise location. The startup provided its product as a service to support the state government rescue people stuck in flood-affected areas.
Also located in Thiruvananthapuram, GenRobotics has come up with Bandicoot, a manhole/sewer cleaning robot that can end India’s manual scavenging. In the latter half of May 2020, health experts also realised that Covid-19 tests on sewage samples could reveal the extent of community spread in a particular locality. GenRobotics helped the state with Bandicoot that removed the need for any human intervention.
Located in Kochi, ASIMoV has been part of the state healthcare sector’s support system since the Nipah virus (NiV) outbreak in 2018. With the advent of the novel coronavirus in the state and the spread of the pandemic, the startup decided to modify its flagship product and rolled out SAYABOT (also known as SAYA) to support healthcare workers. The company has deployed two robots in Kochi. While one robot provides all relevant information related to coronavirus, the other one carries out the sanitisation work, offering hand sanitiser to 600 employees of 40 companies.
After launching its water-based sanitisers in 2018 during the Nipah virus outbreak, chemtech company Aqoza Technologies has started offering a hypochlorous acid-based solution, claiming that its product can disinfect most viruses, including the Covid-19. It started selling its product exclusively at the airports in Chennai, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, and Kozhikode under the brand name Voyager, but soon ramped up its operations to offer its products for industrial and hospital use.
AI Aerial Dynamics
This startup builds unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and signed an MoU with the Kerala Police so that it could provide surveillance across areas under lockdown for containing the Covid-19 pandemic. Using thermal imaging cameras, the company helped detect any violation in crowd-control regulations. The startup has now developed new versions of its solutions, with features such as thermal scanning, which help collate and process data to detect potential Covid-19 cases from a distance.
VST Mobility Solutions
Originally an aggregator of transportation solutions, VST Mobility pivoted as the Covid-19 pandemic started to spread throughout the state. It teamed up with Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST), Trivandrapuran, to launch an automated mask disposal machine called BIN-19 and also developed a UV light-based multipurpose disinfectant called UVSPOT.
Both products are the first of their kind in Kerala and are aiming to fight Covid-19 and prevent environmental challenges.