In this column, we bring you the stories behind how startup founders got their business idea, and the things, events, and actions that eventually led them to their big eureka moment. This time, we feature the developer of a personal fitness and safety product.
‘After Nirbhaya case, I wanted to do my bit for personal safety’: Raj Neravati, CEO & founder, Hug Innovations
THE IDEA: To build a smartwatch that incorporated personal safety and fitness tracking
EUREKA MOMENT: In 2012, Raj was living in the US, comfortably settled into a life in the IT industry when the Nirbhaya gang rape shook him up. “I was very disturbed and wondered what I could do. A Facebook post seemed like a futile exercise. Eventually, I decided to work on a solution that would help women in distress and moved back to India,” he said. In February 2014, he set up ADR Software.
EARLY DAYS: He wanted to build a wearable device that incorporated women’s safety rather than just a mobile app that people would download and forget. “Our primary focus was to build a wearable device that would be accessible and handy when one was in trouble,” he says. In the beginning, he invested around $1.4 million by bootstrapping and getting funds from his friends and relatives.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: How to market the device as he did not want to brand it as a distress aid. He decided to develop it as a lifestyle gadget. “We built in elements such as fitness, heart rate monitoring. We wanted to do something different and came up with a gesture platform that can read hand gestures. With this smartwatch, you need not press buttons or touch it. You can do everything from change songs to fly drones with a flick of the wrist,” he says.
WHERE I AM NOW: The company has launched three products — Hug smartwatches, My Buddy (a child tracking device sold directly to a pre-school chain) and Hug Elan (an IoT enabled fitness band) — and plans to leverage the gesture platform for new business opportunities. “We have patented our gesture platform and plan to open it to the developer community,” he says. Recently, the startup clinched $5 million in Series-A funding at the TiE-Hyderabad Guardian Angel’s instant funding event. It plans to launch two new devices.