Emerging Entrepreneurs

Nurturing entrepreneurs at the college level

N Ramakrishnan | Updated on November 26, 2019 Published on November 25, 2019

VIT-Technology Business Incubator helps new ventures in getting funds and mentors

Renaura Wellness Pvt Ltd, a start-up founded by two engineering students while still in college, has developed a hard-water shampoo and conditioner. Nishant Gupta was doing his electronics and instrumentation engineering and his partner in the venture, Palash Pandey, was studying chemical engineering at the same college.

How did they hit upon the idea of a shampoo and conditioner for hard-water? Well, says Nishant, 27, the water in the town they were studying in was hard and since there was no existing technology, he and Palash decided to take this up as a venture.

It got incubated at the technology business incubator at the college, thanks to which it was able to get grants and, more importantly, access to the laboratory in the college and guidance from a host of experienced mentors.

Abhijeet Chaudhari started working on his venture when he was doing his M.Tech in Energy Science and Environmental Engineering. His company, Enrecover Energy Recovery Solutions Ltd, has developed waste heat recovery systems at low temperatures. It got incubated at the technology business incubator at the college, giving the venture the boost in terms of availability to grants and mentors. It has got an order from Tata Steel for a waste heat recovery product.

A multinational company in the renewable energy space recently picked up a 40 per cent stake in Enrecover Energy Solutions for about ₹1.5 crore.

Madras Mindworks, another venture incubated at the same incubator as Renaura and Enrecover, has developed virtual and augmented reality solutions that companies can use for safety training and skill development. Srinivasan Krishnamoorthy, CEO and Co-Founder of Madras Mindworks Pvt Ltd, has a Bachelor’s degree in automotive engineering technology from Anna University and an MBA from Leeds University. Madras Mindworks has been involved in the archaeological excavations at Keeladi in southern Tamil Nadu. It has scanned the objects and created a virtual reality museum and also dug a digital trench to help in the excavations, says Srinivasan.

The common thread running through these three companies is that they were incubated at the Technology Business Incubator (TBI) at Vellore Institute of Technology, one of the large private engineering colleges in Tamil Nadu. All three have moved out now, one is under virtual incubation but that too will be ending shortly. The three founders say they got tremendous support from the VIT-TBI, not just the plug-and-play space that the incubator provided. The TBI put them in touch with excellent mentors and subject matter experts, because of which they were able to develop their products much earlier than would have been possible otherwise. They were also able to access various grants and funding opportunities that were available.

Renaura Wellness is among the student ventures to be incubated at the VIT-TBI. It has launched hard-water shampoos and conditioners under the brand Iluvia, which it sells to salons and through online sites. It is looking to expand its presence and also launch products for the retail market. Renaura and Araciv Technologies, which is into gesture-based human-machine interface, also incubated at VIT-TBI, had raised $100,000 each from angel investors.

Renaura Wellness, Enrecover Energy Recovery Solutions and Madras Mindworks are just a sample of the ventures that have either been incubated or are undergoing incubation at VIT-TBI. Housed in the uniquely designed Technology Tower, situated on Naipaul Avenue at the VIT Campus, about 145 km from Chennai on the Chennai-Bengaluru National Highway, the TBI has a host of other interesting ventures, says A Balachandran, General Manager, VIT-TBI.

Thrust areas

Established in 2003, VIT-TBI has tie-ups with various government organisations that help it get funding for the ventures undergoing incubation. The incubator is available not just for VIT alumni, but even other ventures that meet the eligibility criteria and a committee screens the ventures that apply for incubation. The thrust areas at VIT-TBI are ICT, biotechnology and medical devices. The type of ventures that are undergoing incubation is varied. There is Illuminify Technologies, founded by VIT students that is developing a Braille reader; Findmind Analytics, again started by VIT students that is working on fintech/AI driven legal minds products; Alfaleus Technology, a venture started by VIT students that is developing a field analyser for glaucoma screening; Prayastha 3D Inventions, which is into Bio 3D printing and prosthetic products for mastectomy patients; and, Bariflo Labs, a venture in the IoT-enabled aquaculture automation space.

Hands-on experience

A Balachandran, General Manager, Technology Business Incubator, VIT   -  N. Ramakrishnan

 

One of the biggest benefits of being on the VIT campus, says Balachandran, is that the start-ups can engage the services of the engineering students as interns for the project they are working on. The students too get hands-on experience in their respective fields. VIT’s Entrepreneur Cell organises events and helps start-ups in various ways.

Is not being away from a major city a handicap? Not at all, says an E-Cell volunteer. VIT, he says, is equi-distant from Chennai and Bengaluru and can tap into the expertise of both the cities. After all, Chennai is just under three hours by road and Bengaluru just under four hours, he adds.

Both Nishant and Abhijeet say that being incubated at the VIT-TBI was of immense help to them. They were able to get in touch with the right kind of mentors. It was thanks to Balachandran and VIT-TBI, says Nishant, that they learnt various aspects of running a business. Early on itself they were able to meet CK Kumaravel, founder of Naturals Salon, which was of immense help, he says and adds that even the research division of L’oreal, a global leader in the beauty and wellness space, evinced interest.

“We got many interns from VIT,” says Srinivasan of Madras Mindworks, on how being at VIT-TBI helped his company.

Not to mention the fact, he adds, of guidance from faculty experts and connections with the right set of mentors. During the initial days of product development, says Abhijeet of Enrecover Energy Recovery Solutions, being at the VIT-TBI was of great help because of the plug-and-play office space, the grants and other types of funding opportunities and most important, introductions to a great set of mentors.

Published on November 25, 2019
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