Published: 18th May 2018
His mother's illness pushed Siddharth Nair to create a medical device, now it's changing lives
Siddharth Nair's company creates medical devices that are specially designed to help patients with chronic pain. a highly ignored health issue
In a lot of great success stories, mothers are always attributed with at least a portion of the success. It's the same in Siddharth Nair's story too, but here his mother was pivotal to his success. In fact, she was one of the reasons he even set up Fyrsta, a medical engineering company that addresses chronic pain.
The first piece of equipment he developed was through an effort to help his mother who was suffering from diabetic neuropathy, a type of nerve damage that can occur due to high diabetes levels. The success of this equipment was what kick-started Siddharth's start-up. But his interest in medical engineering started at a much younger age, "After my twelfth standard I took a break to explore my options and decide what I wanted to do. I was interested in computers and even did some work in the area but it didn't excite me," he recalled. But biomedical engineering drew him in.
Academic side: Siddharth Nair is also pursuing his PhD from IISc, Bangalore
Siddharth grew up in different parts of the country so when it came to choosing a place to do his UG he chose Coimbatore, the city closest to his hometown, Palakkad, "I wanted to learn my mother tongue and also learn the culture there. But those days, the family's financial situation wasn't too great. In my second year, I had to leave the hostel and moved in with my uncle in Palakkad and travel to Coimbatore everyday," he said.
Like everyone else, Siddharth got placed in an IT company but his heart wasn't in it, "My mother assured me that I didn't have to feel forced to join Infosys because of our financial difficulties. She told me to do what I felt I should do. So I waited and got a job in medical engineering." During this time he also attempted GATE and cleared it. But his mother suddenly suffered from diabetic neuropathy and no medication or physiotherapy seemed to help. "My mother encouraged me to study further, so I joined the College of Engineering, Guindy. We had good infrastructure and lots of experts around, so I started to work on an equipment to help my mother," he said.
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He didn't have money to patent his device but he brought it to his mother to see if it would help her. And it did. "I set up the company with a few friends of mine who had also helped with the development of the equipment. But we only knew medical engineering, the business part of it, we had no idea about. So we made a lot of mistakes," he elaborated.
The business had its trouble with financing. Siddharth used his Masters stipend, his wife contributed to the company which was set up in his own house to cut costs. Soon, they started collaborating with hospitals, testing the equipment on patients and got a 90 percent approval rate, but their success was limited because they didn't find too many investors.
"There are 62 million Indian population affected by diabetes and 1157 lives are every year due to the same. This company is focused on affordable consumer medical devices and elderly care and the aim is to bring quality health delivery at the patient's doorstep and in the future with the aid of technology making this healthcare accessible to all."
- Siddharth Nair
Finally, Siddharth was granted a fellowship. "After the fellowship I decided I wanted to pursue more research and so got into a PhD programme at IISc. At the company, we went back to focusing on our USP - our work," he said. Siddharth's team started to look at telemedicine for diabetes management, "Diabetic foot ulcers almost always lead to amputation, we're working on customised treatment by developing a new concept to help such patients. We're working on personalised footwear for diabetic patients too. Most footwear are very boring looking and young people don't enjoy wearing them, so we're developing a footwear that is also fashionable to wear," he explained. The footwear will also calculate weight, pressure and other essential details.
"It's quite difficult to venture into the field of developing medical devices because there are few investors. But with better investment, health care can also become affordable," the 29-year-old said.