From Engineers to Innovators
Krishna Ojha, Ekta Arora and Dhairya Patel, all students at the Indian Institute of Information Technology, Surat, started out with the aspirations of any other engineering student – a well-paying, stable job at the end of their degree. Then what propelled them to change their course?
“I’m a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” says Krishna, co-founder of KasperTech, “and I always wanted to build something like JARVIS (a personal AI Assistant). But that wasn’t my only motivation to innovate.” He continues, “It was during an internship with a tech startup that I saw and got inspired with their constant pursuit for innovation and improvement and realised what I really wanted to do with my life” says Krishna.
“I loved to code. The inspiration for me to innovate came from WMN, a women-centred Hackathon I attended in Bangalore where I got to see an unprecedented number of women coders and realised that my dream wasn’t that far-fetched after all” says Ekta.
“Technology has always fascinated me. Ekta & I were computer science students and we had already built websites. But once we were introduced to IoT, I was fascinated by how, with IoT, the hardware could directly interact with humans; which inspired me to become an innovator” Dhairya adds.
The first-ever home automation hardware they built was in their college hostel, which soon became an object of attraction for other students. “Inspired by our batchmates and seniors, we also wanted to adopt theoretical concepts we learned in class and implement them in real life. We started small & moved on to bigger things. Ekta & I built CORONtine, an autonomous patient scanning system that got a lot of media recognition in April 2020.” Krishna explains.
“As a student entrepreneur, figuring the financials was a huge challenge for us. We bought hardware with whatever we could save from our pocket money and internship stipends. Our work on home automation hit an indefinite halt when we ran out of supplies when COVID hit. We participated in the ACM Month of Code Competition, during which we identified that despite a good infrastructure, road accident casualties have snowballed owing to the fact that ready help is not available to people in the golden hour. Road surveillance was happening but the people monitoring the footage were scarce. To reduce the time taken to provide medical help to victims, we built UltraviZ. It automates the surveillance, detects accidents and sends alerts to concerned personnel. We won the challenge and generated a lot of feedback from places that made us realise the potential of our offering.”
In November 2020, we got pre-incubated at GUSEC, and leveraging the Student Startup & Innovation Policy (SSIP) Grant, built our first prototype and funded us enough to buy hardware, CCTVs and microcontrollers. Since we were an early-stage startup, we couldn’t hire any developers to build the UltraviZ interface, but were able to do that thanks to the SSIP grant. We have also filed for trademarks in two classes as well as a patent which became possible because of GUSEC & SSIP.
“With the government being so supportive, now is the best time to be a student entrepreneur,” Dhairya observes. “The Gujarat government is one of the most supportive governments in the startup ecosystem and is recognising the need to inspire students to become job creators” adds Krishna.
“For any entrepreneur, beginnings are the hardest. Earlier, people would tell us- ‘at the end of the day, you’re students. You should finish college, get a job and maybe then think about creating a product’. Their attitude towards us changed with us winning competitions and then getting incubated at GUSEC. We also stood as First Runners-up at EO’s Global Student Entrepreneur Awards this year. They have more confidence in us now.”
The environment you’re in can prove to be instrumental in how you become a student entrepreneur. For us, that environment came from our college campus which was the campus of NIT Surat, which was also IIIT Surat’s mentor institute. Many of our batchmates, our colleagues, seniors and faculties from both SVNIT and IIIT were innovators and were in the constant pursuit of building things. That encouraged us to take our idea forward. I hope every student can find the inspiration to push the boundaries of possibilities as we did.” says Krishna.