Published: 03rd January 2022
Tired of the glucometer prick? This diabetic 20-year-old has made an alternative and it's Shark Tank India-worthy!
Duvvuru Varshitha, along with her Co-Founder Vimal Kumar, has been working on this idea for some time now and this is how far the duo has made it.
Prick, wince and check — all those who are diabetic and use a glucometer go through this process, a few go through it several times a day. Then there are the multiple questions they need to field from the public for using the device, especially if they are using it in public. Duvvuru Varshitha has been through the drill — sometimes five to six times a day — has seen the bills piling up (one prick costs about Rs 40, that's a hefty monthly bill for Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000) and has naively declared to her father that she will find a solution. On December 29, 2021, she along with Vimal Kumar featured on Season One of Shark Tank India and received funding for their idea from none other than Peyush Bansal, Founder and CEO Lenskart and Anupam Mittal, Founder and CEO, People Group!
Wondering what the idea is? It's a low-cost and easy-to-use non-evasive glucometer that is tiny and can fit into the smallest pockets. When coupled with your smartphone with their app, just the touch of the finger (no, there will be no blood!) and it'll provide you with all the actionable information you need. The device is called EzLyf and their start-up, which has been incubated at the University of Hyderabad (UoH) since December 2020, is called VivaLyf Innovations. Varshitha, coupled her experiences as a Type 1 diabetic, along with her MSc from The Tamil Nadu Dr MGR Medical University, Chennai, joined forces with the expertise of Vimal Kumar and launched this start-up in July 2020.
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Varshitha has been passionate about finding a solution to the prick of the glucometer for as long as she can remember. For this, she even decided to give up her IIT seat. "For eleven days, I was at the IIT pursuing a BTech in Biotechnology, but felt that a BSc in Biotechnology would hold me in good stead," shares the 20-year-old. She met now 25-year-old Vimal while participating in Smart India Hackathon 2019, where he was an organiser. With a BTech degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Government College of Technology, Coimbatore, he was working at Forge, an accelerator programme. He joined hands with Varshitha to take the idea of EzLyf forward.
Duvvuru Varshitha and Vimal Kumar
Compact, portable and economical are some of the adjectives Varshitha uses to describe the device that is capable of changing the mantra of diabetics from 'prick, wince and check' to 'connect, tap and test'. As small as a pen drive, all you need to do is connect the EzLyf device to your smartphone via a USB port, open the app and place your finger on the screen. The app records values using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIR). A beam of this light interacts with glucose molecules in your finger to calculate the absorption spectrum between the molecules and the wave. These spectrum values are filtered using their Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML) algorithm and the values are displayed on your smartphone's screen. All this may sound complicated but it happens in 60 seconds flat! "Giving the device a screen and buttons would make it heavier, the idea was to not make it attention-seeking. Look at it this way, the app is the management platform while the device is the monitoring platform," she explains.
The idea won at other places too! It was the winner at the TiE Women Global Pitch Competition, Hyderabad Chapter in 2021, which took Varshitha all the way to Dubai to participate in the global finals of TiE Women Global Pitch Competition 2021. It was also the second runner-up at EMPOWER - Women's Entrepreneurship Accelerator and is recognised by NITI Aayog's Atal Innovation Missions as well. Entrepreneur and angel investor Bhanu Prakash Reddy Varla is a part of the company and is the strategic mentor as well.
Instant blood glucose levels, HbA1c levels and other analytics that are customisable are presented to you on the app, which will also give you reminders as needed. "We are planning to have doctors on board who will be able to reply to the users' queries instantly," says the Nellore-born youngster who now resides in Hyderabad. At Shark Tank India, the team was asked to focus on the accuracy of the readings, which, at that time, was 89 per cent, and that's their focus area right now. "We want to get it to 94 to 97 per cent," she says. Currently, their idea is undergoing pre-clinical trials and, apart from Varshitha, there are 58 people at UoH who are testing this device. "I've used it in public spaces without grabbing any attention, one can use it quickly during meetings too and the idea is that the device should inflict no pain, not even a prick and should ask for no attention," she explains. And the device is certainly proving itself in both these aspects. Going forward, the duo hopes to explore problems related to cardiology, pulmonology and more.