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PMI South Asia
Bharat Startups - Exploring the Unexplored
The Project Management South Asia Conference 2021 gave a platform to fast growing startups to showcase their disruptive innovation and tell their inspiring stories.
Hosted by Palash Gupta, Vice President - Professional Development, PMI Bangalore Chapter, the discussion shone the spotlight on the impact of deep tech startups in bridging the digital divide and enabling inclusive growth.
Devnagri is an AI-powered human translation platform with a vision to help businesses reach over 1 billion Indian internet users in their regional languages.
Marut Drones builds end-to-end drone solutions for telemedicine, farming, and mosquito eradication purposes by integrating artificial intelligence (AI), data science, and Internet of Things (IoT).
PaceRobotics is a startup incubated by the Society for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, and builds robots that complement human skills to enhance productivity in construction projects.
Prakshep is a satellite-based agri-monitoring platform that aims to enhance agricultural productivity with satellite imagery and machine learning for farm data.
What is the unexplored question behind your business venture?
Only 5 percent of the Japanese understand English but that has not stopped the country from becoming an economic superpower. In India, our regional languages have been neglected. I want everyone in India to harness the power of the internet in their own language.
The construction industry contributes 10 percent to India’s GDP but it has a big productivity gap. In India, 80 percent of construction workers are unskilled and not utilized in a decent manner. I want robots to improve productivity and give workers a life of dignity.
The company grew out from my interest in studying satellite images and how I can use satellite images to help farmers. Today, we can proudly say that we are monitoring one-fourth of India and will grow into covering half of India soon.
Delivering critical medicines on time is a problem in India, especially in rural or remote areas. On the climate change front, tree planting is important. We envisaged use of drones for medicine delivery and rapid reforestation as an effective solution for a sustainable future.
It is often said that project managers are mini- CEOs. How do CEOs become good project managers?
CEOs are nothing but CWOs or Chief Whatever Officers. We are expected to deal with whatever comes our way. Project management is about asking the right kind of questions. Only with the right knowledge can you clear the clutter in your head and get clarity of vision.
Even if you are a CEO, every small problem comes to you. At times, it becomes difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. Ask questions to bring clarity and spend some time alone everyday to introspect and figure things out.
What makes you focus on a product-intensive business?
As startups, we see ourselves as problem solvers. Being in the construction industry for the past 14 years has helped me understand the problems to some extent. We believe that if our product is good enough to address the market needs, the market will grab it with both hands.
I come from a tier-2 town and a middle-class background. So my focus was always on building something that impacted the masses. At Prakshep, we see value in empowering farmers that perfectly fits our vision of helping India grow and prosper.
How did you find the first customer and ensure product-market fit?
Everything started with research to understand the feasibility of the product. We interviewed a lot of people, ran a proof of concept to validate the thesis, and verified whether someone is likely to pay for our solution.
Building a product and testing it out is costly in the hardware space. Even a basic prototype would cost us a few lakhs of rupees. So we created a video of our prototype to capture actionable insights and feedback from potential customers.
What have been your top learnings?
My top learnings are to remain calm under pressure, and to realize that what may appear as a huge problem may not really be so big; it’s often big only in our mind.
Actively hunt for problems because solving problems will make your product better. Ask for help wherever possible, and build partnerships and networks.
Most of the problems get solved by talking, so discuss and resolve issues.
What is that inner calling that you are seeking to fulfill?
I want Indians to get comfortable with their native language. This can go a long way in empowering the upcoming generation of rural children who will play a crucial role in the future of India.
We want to see the application of robots in the construction industry as a standard norm, and not as a premium feature in big projects.
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