Kitchen alert for gas leaks

KAVITHA SRINIVASA | Updated on April 28, 2011

Gautam Kumar, inventor of the ‘Suraksha’ alarm for gas leaks.

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A device that ‘smells' a leakage and sends a mobile alert — a Bhubaneswar entrepreneur's life-saving innovation.

A tragic incident of an LPG (liquid petroleum gas) leakage changed the course of Gautam Kumar's career. His was a sensitive reaction and the outcome was equally sensitive — a technological solution, appropriately named Suraksha, designed to improve safety levels in Indian kitchens.

The device has sensors that can detect the smell of leaked gas and immediately send alerts to five mobile phones registered with it through a SIM card and network connectivity. The buzzer or SMS alerts continue until the LPG quantity in the air reduces to a safe level.

“Suraksha has two variants tailored for individual and commercial use. For the commercial purpose device, SMS alerts go through a CPU (central processing unit) and get decoded during a leakage before sending out an alert,” says Kumar.

As kitchen accidents are common and even fatal at times, the 26-year-old IIT graduate's life-saving creation catapulted him into the list of the hottest technology innovators from India recognised by Technology Review, MIT's 112-year-old publication. Kumar received the Social Innovator of the Year award at their conference EmTech India, held in Bangalore last month.

The idea for Suraksha came to Kumar even as he was involved with manufacturing robots — “an exciting but not lucrative proposition” — at a company he cofounded called RoboticWares in Bhubaneswar. Describing the development of his life-saving device, Kumar has some interesting anecdotes to share. Such as the 13-year-old girl from Mumbai who knocked on his door frantically as her grandmother invariably forgets to switch off the gas stove after cooking. These inputs helped him fine-tune his product.

“Suraksha is a 10x8 inch product, which was launched last May with an LCD and keyboard. The telephone numbers could be keyed in by following instructions. The product was simplified to eliminate the LCD and keyboard. The SMS alerts were retained and users could key in numbers through the mobile,” he explains.

With several upgradations, Suraksha is in the R&D stage and undergoing tests in commercial kitchens. Kumar's home doubles as the beta testing pad; the kitchen is where all the action happens, giving anxious moments to his mother, who is nevertheless happy at all the successes achieved by him.

Kumar hopes that Suraksha will morph into a handy tool for diverse users such as LPG gas storage godowns, oil installations, hotels and hospitals, in addition to homes. The entrepreneur intends to tie up with stove manufacturers, besides approaching high-end commercial users. As Suraksha also has an in-built fire alert, he hopes to attract the attention of State forest departments.

Currently he has a small-scale facility manufacturing 4,000 units every month catering to the Bhubaneswar-Cuttack-Puri region. He is still undecided on whether to scale up the manufacturing facility or opt for the franchise mode to expand across the country. A retail outlet in Bhubaneswar is also on the cards. The product costs around Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 and the company is seeking government subsidy to lower the cost for the common man.

“The product is being augmented, with the logistics of a supply chain and pricing being worked out,” says Arindam Dutta of the HDF School of Management, Cuttack, who has mentored many start-ups. Dutta has watched Kumar and his team grow from college students to full-fledged entrepreneurs.

Like many teenagers, Kumar spent his spare time making robots that were presented at science fairs. The interest in robots continued into college and Kumar teamed up with likeminded friends Kushal Nahata and Gaurav Srivastava to set up RoboticWares.

With Suraksha, the company has reoriented its business. Today it has evolved into an embedded and Web services organisation.

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Published on April 28, 2011
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