Small town big stories: Chronicling the passionpreneurs of Belagavi – Part 01
Among the easier words that the pandemic generated, was ‘bio-bubble’ which was cited frequently in the media for the most part of last year. Few knew that the India-England Test series, the one days, the T-20, and the Road Safety World Series (RSWS) was safely possible in India because of this unique solution provided by Belagavi based company SenseGiz, an IoT (Internet of Things) based startup founded by Abhishek Latthe in 2013.
The Belagavi lad holds a Master’s degree in Mechatronics from the University of Southampton. When I first met Abhishek at the Startup Conclave that I had initiated at Bharatesh Global Business School, IoT seemed much like Sci-fi. SenseGiz took off pretty soon after it started.
The Financial Express quoted last year that in 2015, the company raised Rs 3 crore in funding from Karnataka Semiconductor Venture Capital Fund, and again in March 2019, it raised $335,000 from Keiretsu. “SenseGiz has posted 100% growth in terms of numbers for FY19-20 and has tripled that in FY20-21. The company’s revenue is growing rapidly even during the year affected by Covid19,” says Abhishek, adding, “We aim to be a Rs 100 crore revenue company in the next two years.”
The bio bubble that became the talking point, was basically a safe and secure isolated area meant to protect the players of sporting events (including the US Open) held in closed environs, only to be enjoyed by audiences via broadcast. The bubble is a virtual world where a player, support staff, and related members enter after being screened for Covid. Once in, they are deemed within the “bubble”.
Speaking to Abhishek Latthe, Founder and CEO of SenseGiz and Kuldeep Rane, Marketing Head, one can get a feel of what it would have been like to keep the players in close supervision for long durations. Players cannot leave the bubble until the tournament is over.
At times, they have to be reminded to wear the gadget. “Normally, players prefer to go home between matches” says Kuldeep, adding that “this time, they had to spend close to a month inside the bubble. Matters became bearable during the Road Safety World Series tournaments (RSWS-The Legends series) when the players were at Raipur in Chhattisgarh where they spent their time inside a sprawling resort that provided all the amenities and recreation facilities”.
The IPL wasn’t so and hence despite the bubble, some players got infected as they had to travel between destinations. The bubble is functional only at limited places where the solution is set up, like the hotel where the players stay, the bus they travel in (through SIM-based wi-fi devices) and the common areas they use like the gym, café and dining hall. During IPL, Players were exposed to air travel which made matters tricky and moreover they didn’t include every single person in the bio-bubble like ground staff and few players were leaving and entering the Bio-bubble to visit hospitals for scans etc. which broke the sanctity of the bubble.
The SenseGiz team spent the entire month, between 1st and 21st March, when the RSWS matches were played in Raipur, ensuring that the whole system worked seamlessly.
What is the Bio Bubble
Abhishek and Kuldeep explain about the bio bubble that is much in the news today. It comprises of a system of hardware and software integrated together. What the bubble does is to help track violations and contact tracing in case of infection.
SenseGiz already had a hardware called ‘FIND’ which was an example of wearable tech, a wristband with unique ID. It could be used as a pendent attached to say, a pet, mobile phone, bunch of keys or even worn by an elderly patient of Alzheimer’s who doesn’t remember his location. The team decided to use this same technology in a tweaked avatar to ensure SDCT (Social Distancing and Contact Tracing, which was the basic protocol for Covid prevention).
COIN is the other part, which is a battery-operated hardware the shape of a coin, which can be placed or fixed at intervals. When the FIND is being used, all employees/members have to wear it. The fixed COINs catch any violations between people wearing the FIND, and passes on this info from one COIN to the other, forming a mesh network thereby capturing the violations based on certain parameters set by the admin, such as 1 meter for social distancing, overcrowding, geo-fencing, etc. When such violations happen, it gives a sound, a buzz and flashes a light (one or all three as you wish). COINs are installed across the facility which helps transmit data in real-time to the cloud via the Wi-Fi Gateways and can be accessed by the admin from any location. The greatest payoff of wearing the FIND is that people start being aware that there will be a beep if they violate the distance and hence adhere to social distancing strictly. It also helps track who met whom, when and where because each FIND has a unique ID.
The entire hardware including the design, development, PCBs are done by SenseGiz in Belagavi by a team of 55. The team was scattered earlier at several locations but since most of them were from Belagavi, they decided to consoldate the workforce and got them to Belagavi at a larger office space.
In the first wave of Covid 19, SenseGiz was approached by 8 to 10 large scale companies including five-star hotels and popular international food chains like Dominos who just wanted business continuity and required systems to ensure that no violation happens. Once SenseGiz understood that what they are doing was similar to what companies were using as the bio-bubble, they approached the sports franchises in India and one thing led to the other when they got the RSWS as the client for their Raipur event. Soon, BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) got wind and SenseGiz came on board for the England test series in Chennai, one day series in Ahmedabad, Pune and the T-20 among other things before being deployed for the IPL.
The SenseGiz solution was an entirely ‘Made in India’ product and worked economical for BCCI. The SenseGiz team handled the entire execution in Raipur and Kuldeep reminisces his experience of over a month there.
The Belagavi story
Abhishek feels that Belagavi is full of talent. What’s happened of late is that a lot of professionals from big cities (originally from Belagavi ) started coming back or looking to come back to Belagavi. It’s the reverse brain drain that has already begun with hundreds of professionals coming back to Belagavi, either working from home or permanently seeking opportunities here. The only issue with Belagavi companies, with due exceptions, is that they don’t yet have the bandwidth to offer the salaries that are on par with their Bangalore counterparts, owing mainly to the limited exposure of these companies in marketing. But things are definitely set to change.
SenseGiz’s FIND and COIN are great examples of how technology can be used to solve real-life problems. Once the Covid waves subside, the same hardware can be used for other use cases such as asset /people tracking, condition monitoring and perimeter security. In fact, the system eased the burden of checking the temperature of the 2500 odd members of the IPL by simply including temperature sensors in the FIND device. In the future, the FIND can be used for other aspects as well, like access control and attendance monitoring in large organizations.