From the outset, Sunil Kumar Maddikatla, founder and CEO, BlueSemi, was clear about the objective of founding a startup in the HealthTech space. He aspired to enhance the quality of life of India’s masses by building innovative healthcare solutions to address day-to-day problems. He sought to achieve this goal by staying true to promoting sustainable products that leverage environmental-friendly practices and technologies.
The idea behind BlueSemi
The R&D focused startup, BlueSemi, was founded in 2017, the word ‘blue’ signifying innovation and infinity. According to Sunil, BlueSemi was founded with the vision to leverage innovative, cutting-edge technology that promotes responsible disruption in Health tech AIoT through their proven expertise in product development.
Aside from family and friends, the startup’s initial support came from Sunil’s network of contacts who worked at T-Hub, CIE at IIIT-Hyderabad and NASSCOM 10K Startups. BlueSemi is presently seed-funded with USD 350,000 invested by leaders in the IT industry. The company is in the early revenue phase and is seeking funds towards launching a disruptive HealthTech IoT product in the coming months to scale further. It is also funded by government ministries, such as DST (Department of Science and Technology) and MEITY (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology).
BlueSemi has on boarded 30 B2B clients and is working towards acquiring close to 100 new customers by end of the year. The company’s marketing strategy is led by market trends and feedback. Its social media channels educate clients/ partners and the ecosystem at large by being responsive to user feedback.
At the forefront of the pandemic
The startup was a part of the first cohort of T-Hub’s flagship Lab32 program and has led from the front during the pandemic by designing breakthrough innovations.
When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, Sunil and his team brainstormed on the different methods that were available at the time to identify the virus and its symptoms. The team observed that the thermal gun was being extensively deployed at airports and other entry points to check a person’s body temperature. However, they were skeptical of the accuracy of the device and the method employed by the security personnel to read the body temperature. “The personnel maintained only a foot’s distance from the person,” says Sunil “It was evident that this was going to be one of the major causes of a spike in cases. Imagine an infected security person coming in close contact with thousands of people on a daily basis and its exponential effect!” The BlueSemi team was also concerned about the lack of data on temperature tracking during the early stages of the infection.
Leading by innovation
Sensing an opportunity to address the gap in the market, BueSemi decided to be a gamechanger during the pandemic.
The startup developed SENS, a contactless and wireless thermal scanner that leverages AI to detect body temperature. The highly secure device can be attached to multiple checkpoints in the premises to measure accurate temperature within 5 seconds and from a distance of 15cm. SENS can be used by organisations to keep track of their visitors and employees’ temperature on a single intuitive dashboard. It can work for large-scale temperature monitoring by connecting unlimited sensors to a single dashboard.
BlueSemi has been developing a flagship, first of its kind consumer HealthTech AIoT product and is currently performing clinical trials for the same. The product will be launched soon.
Sunil recounts multiple challenges that he has faced as an entrepreneur.
“The most common challenge I have faced is the industry’s lack of trust and belief in young founders and startups,” says Sunil. “We had a hard time convincing people about the advanced technology that we were building at BlueSemi.” He adds that the recent years have witnessed a positive shift in perception about the company’s powerful technologies and the founding team’s capabilities. “We built quick functional prototypes for people to believe that what we are saying can be brought into reality,” he elaborates.
Sunil adds that another challenge materialized while trying to establish the team and its processes. He had to ensure that the team followed strict delivery timelines and remained customer-focused at all times. This led to stressful situations in managing team dynamics. Over time, he realised that a team that is aligned with the vision of the company is passionate about their area of work will perform at its optimum levels.
The learnings from such challenges helped BlueSemi streamline the hiring process and cherry pick employees. The startup endeavours to keep the team size compact as Sunil believes a small and highly efficient team will contribute to the company’s growth in the long-run. The company wants its employees to educate everyone in their own domain and drive the growth of the organization.
Since BlueSemi is committed to a ‘Made in India’ vision, it has encountered multiple hurdles while dealing with vendors. “Most of the vendors lack the clarity to understand our quality requirements and timelines,” he says. “This was a painful process that we went through in building a consumer-facing product.” Eventually, the startup ensured that it worked with only the most quality conscious and professional vendors who understood BlueSemi’s long-term vision.
The pandemic marked a milestone in BlueSemi’s journey. Sunil shares his pride in building a world-class product in Hyderabad by aggregating the best available SME vendors during the first lockdown. The product was made in India against all odds—there was no communication, imports, and the world was completely shut at the time. He acknowledges the support BlueSemi received during those initial years of struggle. According to Sunil, the struggle was worth it as the product is available for sale in 5 countries and has received favorable reviews from customers who believe the product, packaging and functionality resemble Apple.
Lessons in entrepreneurship
Sunil’s mantra for entrepreneurial success include:
- Never compromise on the quality of the product you are building, even if a client asks for a low quality version of the product. My commitment to building a world-class organisation has opened new doors of opportunities and learnings for me.
- Always try to find a good mentor or two. It’s important to have someone give constructive feedback based on their real life experiences. Try to find someone who is preferably an investor-turned-founder.
- Never present a half-baked product to the world. It’s like baking a cake, everyone wants to try their hands at it and add their own flavor. Like they say, ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’.
- Never reveal everything about the product or the company unless legal paperwork is in order.
- Invest in proper research before, while and when the product is in the field as UX is the heart of business. This is one of the factors that differentiates a bad product from a good product.
- Learn to say ‘no’ almost all the time.
The road ahead
BlueSemi is focused on making innovative products to disrupt the healthcare industry by leveraging AIoT (Artificial Intelligence of Things) and is looking to acquire 10 percent of the serviceable market in the next 3 years with its growing range of products.
BlueSemi is currently setting the stage to launch a disruptive and exciting consumer healthtech AIoT product in coming months.
The company has drawn a robust product roadmap and is getting into several strategic partnerships and MoUs to strengthen its market reach and financial capabilities so that such an ambitious growth can be achieved.
“The journey of an entrepreneur is like a roller coaster ride. There will be ups and downs every single day, but isn’t this the fun that we have signed up for?” he sums up his entrepreneurial journey.