Published: 22nd September 2021
Here's how this student start-up from Vizag evolved their solution into a device that can minimise road accidents
K Pradeep Varma, K Gyan Sai and K Rohit are the three musketeers from Gayatri Vidya Parishad College of Engineering who have tirelessly been working on this idea. Check out what it's all about
When a school bus rammed into a divider on Beach Road in Visakhapatnam and it was discovered that the driver had his earphones on and was slightly sleepy, K Pradeep Varma became really concerned. "In the age of GPS and other technology, why is there no software that can detect when a person is falling asleep at the wheel?" questions the youngster who was then a BTech student at Gayatri Vidya Parishad College of Engineering (GVPCE), Visakhapatnam.
It was in the year 2019 that they started working on the idea and in 2021 that they were selected for T-Tribe
So, along with his benchmates K Gyan Sai and K Rohit, Pradeep started working on the problem by developing a mini prototype with a camera that detects if the driver's eyes are closed for more than two seconds and alerts them with a loud beep. It seemed viable and the trio started pouring more and more time into this project, which is now called Kshemin Labs, when they were in their fourth year. When their CGPA dropped, their parents panicked. But then came the awards. "At the International Innovation Fair 2018, South Zone, we won the gold medal from none other than former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Chandrababu Naidu. In this way, shields, awards and small cheques started populating our homes and that's what it took to appease our parents," Pradeep laughs as he shares.
K Pradeep Varma, K Gyan Sai and K Rohit | (Pic: Kshemin Labs)
But operating out of a small room at GVPCE wasn't enough, they needed to aim higher. That's when Pradeep shifted to Hyderabad in search of opportunities and signed up for T-Tribe, the capacity-building initiative of T-Hub, the innovation ecosystem. Picked up by the 18-week MasterClass programme, they are now actually in talks with Hitachi for product development and outsourcing. They are even speaking to a few international schools that can help them test these prototypes.
The three entrepreneurs graduated in the year 2020
The prototype itself has gone under a sea of change. "When we approached the market for feedback, we realised that people might not buy something expensive in preparation for an event that might not even happen, like insurance. If people still don't buy helmets even though they protect you, how can we expect them to buy our device?" asks Pradeep. Hence, they had to step up their game. Initially offering one driver-facing camera with AI, they added another road-facing camera enabled with IoT sensors and GPS tracking that warns the driver of forward collisions that might happen. "The data captured by the road-facing camera, like the exact location of potholes, can even be leveraged by the government to rectify their road infrastructure problems," mulls the 21-year-old.
Another challenge they faced was the semiconductor shortage due to the tense relations between India and China. A semiconductor that usually costs $3 to $4 was now costing them $22. Naturally, the device's cost went up too, which is another reason for the additional features. While the PCB (Printed Circuit Board) was developed by a third party, the IP is that of the bootstrapped start-up. While awaiting certifications of various kinds, they hope to release their products first and only then look for investors.
Road rash irrational
- In the Parliament, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said that in 2020, 1.32 lakh lives were lost to road accidents, the lowest in 11 years, thanks to the lockdown
- A World Bank report stated that India accounts for 1% of the world's vehicles and yet, 11% of road accidents around the world
- The report also stated that every hour, our country sees about 53 road crashes and one person is killed every four minutes
- In the last decade alone, over 13 lakh people have succumbed to road accidents and as many as 50 lakh were injured