This is a story of two girls who decided to help the hearing impaired world become smart. Their startup journey started when a college project on design for special needs came across. BleeTech Innovations is a startup created by two women entrepreneurs; Janhavi Joshi and Nupura Kirloskar who build devices for hearing challenged people that can communicate with them through vibrations.
Co-Founder of BleeTech Innovations, Janhavi Joshi has done her graduation in industrial design from MIT Institute of design, Pune.
Janhavi did not really started working on Blee with the intention of starting a company or a business. It was more about the problem that Janhavi and her friend Nupura, Co-founder, BleeTech were solving.
In college, they had a course called ‘design for special needs’. In that course, the girls were asked to select a problem for a niche set of users and find solutions.
Janhavi in the interaction said, “We selected the problem of special dancers. Since they cannot hear the music, conventionally they look at their instructor who sits in front and continuously gives them visual clues about the music. So they are completely dependent on these clues, they are continuously looking at the instructor and do not enjoy the art form as much as we all do. So we developed a prototype for a wearable which gave them rhythm pattern of the music through vibrations to make them more independent and confident”.
“We took this project as our graduation project. So while working on this in depth, when we started talking to the unhearing community, their parents and the teachers, we realized that the same concept of conveying sound through vibrations is something that could be used in a lot of other ways in order to simplify their daily routines.
We started applying on different platforms, got very positive feedback and validation and this is how finally we entered the space of technology without having a technical background” added Janhavi.
Janhavi Joshi shares her story:
“Our main current focus is on identifying the right business model to be not only sustainable but profitable in the space of disabilities with a technology-heavy product. We really feel that there needs to be a right balance of impact and profit”.
“Yes we do have men working for us, but fortunately, we have not yet experienced any inequality till date”.
Women facing challenges:
“There are a lot of challenges of course when you start something new from scratch in an unconventional space.
But I am not really sure how many are them just because we are two women in the top executive positions trying to run a company.
We look at this as a package which comes with some advantages and disadvantages. Being one of the very few women founders, we get a lot of special attention in the start-up space which definitely helps us spread the word about our work and get connected to great people. But also sometimes it’s difficult to make people take us seriously, right from some of the investors to potential partners. But as I said we everything comes with its own pros and cons”.
Motto of life:
“My motto in life is just to learn as many new things as possible and give my best shot at whatever I attempt.
Bleetech has taught me a lot of things. I had no educational background in technology or business, but just that drive of problem solving that I got from my design education has lead me here where I am working in this totally new but exciting space of entrepreneurship and impact.
Coming out of your comfort zone and trying out new things is the most important thing that I have learnt will follow throughout my life.
I also truly believe that if we are fortunate and empowered enough to do whatever we want to do, and have a particular set of skills, they can be used best if used to empower or impact more lives around you”.
Some of the achievements that BleeTech has been able to get are:
*Blee was a part of MIT (Massachusetts) Global Start-up Labs and had won second position.
*One of the top 10 entries in CHI 2015, Seoul, South Korea.
*Winner of Gandhian Young Technological Innovation Awards in the category of socially relevant innovation. The award ceremony was held at ‘Rashtrapati Bhavan’.
*Winner of India Innovation Growth Program 2015 organized by Department of Science and Technology, in partnership with Lockheed Martin, Stanford University, University of Texas, TiE Silicon Valley.
*Participated in a fully sponsored trip to Silicon Valley by Lockheed Martin and Indo-US science and technology forum.
*Participated in ‘Start-up Konnect’ by NASSCOM in San Jose, also attended by the honorable Prime Minister.
*Sankalp Global Innovations Challenge, Top 10, 2016
*Got a chance to visit Sillicon Valley on a sponsored visit through Rajeev Circle fellowship to get exposure in May 2017.
Love being start-up founder:
“The best part about being a start-up founder is that you do not have a particular routine! Even though you wake up at the same time and get to work every day, you can never predict what can happen during the day. The day is filled with exciting leads coming up, great customer feedback, amazing partnerships, and great brainstorming sessions. Or it just could be a day when you are just clueless and trying to figure out how to take the company forward.
So my routine is to get to the office at 9 in the morning, start with the list of tasks planned for the day”.
“I can never predict when the day can end because there could be n number of things that come up beside the set of tasks assigned for the day. Since we live in Mumbai, travel is a big part of our lives, and it is almost is dinner time till we get back home and wait for the next day to start”.
“I love dancing and sketching. I have been trained in Kathak dance for 13 years and dance is a big part of my life. In fact, that is something that leads me to solve the problem of deaf dancers in the first place. On weekends or whenever I get a couple of free hours, I go for the dance rehearsals.
It is the best stress buster for me! Being an industrial designer, I am also into sketching and painting. You can see several pages of my work notepad filled with product doodles and sketches”.
Bond with Nupura:
“Nupura and I apart from being co-founders are great friends. We are working with each other since our college days and are great together. We never get bored of each other’s company. We stay together, work together, so are together almost 24*7, but surprisingly there are never moments when we want to be alone or we never run out of topics to talk about! We share the same vision and set of ideals in life and for the company. I think our friendship and chemistry is one of the major strengths that will help us grow our company.
Both of us are into performing arts. Nupura is an Indian classical singer. Whenever we get a chance, we love to attend theatre, dance shows, movies. In fact, our first big project in college together was a musical, where we had managed a team of 30 people and won several awards for our college. We lead this activity for consecutive two years.
Working in space of deafness and disability, I am pretty sure that I would love to work in this space for a long time now. We have identifies so many other gaps and problems that we could address through design and technology. Career wise i have found my path at least for a few years from today that is to work towards accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities, which is also the vision of Bleetech Innovations.