In Conversation With Ganesh Sonawane On Using Technology To Create Independence !

ganesh sonawane interview

Arcatron is building the next generation of devices to enhance lives of people with limited mobility and elderly care needs. The motto “Purpose Driven Innovation” steers Arcatron to apply technology for solving unmet needs in focus segments.  The products are designed to enable the consumers to lead more independent and active lifestyles.  Incepted in 2015, Arcatron specializes in Innovative Devices, Medical Devices, Assistive Devices and Mobility Devices.

They aim to build products that live upto their name “Arcatron, which alludes to ‘accelerating wheels’ and is a not so subtle nod to the Ark of Moses, which possessed unlimited power. Let us get in conversation with Ganesh Sonawane, CEO & Co-founder of Arcatron on bridging the gap between ability and disability.

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  1. What is the future of Arcatron Mobility?

To talk about the future of Arcatron, We are more focused about our mission of enabling our consumers to live a safe and active lifestyle rather than focusing more about the products or the company and we’re confident that our future will also be focused on this mission. Our focus consumers are elderly and mobility impaired. We are into development of mobility devices and we adopt a problem centric approach towards the development of our products. Our mission is broader in perspective, we are also working on integrating IOT applications in our product, yet our main focus is on bathroom safety of our consumers. There isn’t much awareness in India regarding the mobility devices, even prime hospitals do not spend on these devices or foresee these devices as an solution to overcome the problems faced by the impaired patients. The lack of right devices is where our focus lies.

2. On the acceptance of Arcatron Mobility from the point of view of common consumers and hospitals in India?

There is an excitement among the target on what we want to do rather than what we are doing right now. We are at present focusing on specific segments among our entire focused group. The one we offer in market is a pilot product. When you read about the product it is just seen as a product, there is a need to explain about it. Initially, we received a lot of feedback regarding the changes that can be done to the product but now we have surpassed those stages and have reached a stage where people are loving our products and the way it has been designed. There is a need to market the products, right now products are selling through circular reference. Even from rehabilitation centers physiotherapists have started to recommend our products.  We are receiving excellent reviews from Sahyadri group of hospitals, but we will not be able to cater to the huge demand as the entire elder care and almost all hospitals will require these kind of devices. Hospitals like AIMS also lack in these kind of devices to conveniently transfer patients. The demand is too high, but we are not proceeding with the products that we have now, we are planning to interact with the consumers and build our products that can be catered not only to Indian Market but globally as well.

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3. The space is currently dominated by Chinese manufacturers, your take on the prevailing  competition in the market?

The Chinese manufacturers are more like a push model in the market.  There is a network of retailers across India which is run through a group of distributors. When you are in search of dealers, one can google and find out 100 physical equipment dealers in Pune and 500 in Mumbai, as more than 8000 dealers are spread across India. They directly get in touch with consumers and pitch in the products. More than 90% of the market are not aware of the existence of these kind of products. Our products can be very well differentiated from the Chinese products. The alternatives from China does not really serve the purpose, The 50 products we sold would not be preferred if the Chinese products are foreseen as an alternative, they would have either preferred imported ones from the U.S or would not have made the purchase as well. The products we served were entirely different from the products of our competitors.

4. Keeping India’s rough terrain in mind, how is Arcatron planning to take up the outdoor challenges?

Right now we are focusing only on bathroom safety as the elderly and impaired are in a need to safe and hygienic access to bathroom facilities. The challenges that we are going to face in India is more of Indoor rather than outdoor. With the way the bathrooms are modeled, the Indoor seems to be more challenging than outdoor as the bathrooms are too compact. We do not construct as per the right dimensions that would facilitate proper bathroom safety for all, even prime hospitals have not designed their bathrooms in such a way. They lack of space to accommodate these kind of products is a barrier for foreign players.  But this is an opportunity for us to design based on the space that is available to tap the market. This gives an unique edge and the Chinese will not be able to compete because of the huge difference in the unique proposition. The products that we are working on are available in two different price range in U.S. between 100 to 1000 USD whereas the Chinese products are priced from 100 to 200 USD. When people buy Chinese products that have to compromise on quality not all can afford to buy the U.S products. Moreover the challenges in the Indoor are serves as an advantage as we can cater to the demands of the indoor.

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5. Your views on Deka’s collaboration with Toyota?

We are open to all forms of support that help us to achieve our mission. Deka’s products are best suited for outdoor whereas our products concentrate on the Indoor. Sooner or later we will tap the need for outdoor products as well. For instance, take IPOD or an exoskeleton, these products cannot be used in bathrooms as they are not designed for it.  Bathroom safety is really important for the elderly and impaired and we fail to realize as it is is not challenging task for us. The impaired and elderly have to depend on someone else for their basic bathroom needs and there are many unsafe transfers and caretaker injuries involved in it. We need design a device to overcome all the safety issues involved. A chair that is built with a watch that can give a alert to others in case of emergency, even accelerometers can be used but that will not hike the price on a larger scale. The adoption rate will increase if one feels the safety of using the product. There is a norm that alarms should be fixed in bathrooms as the elderly and impaired in order to access in case of emergency. These fixed alarms are things of past as it can be replaced by watches that are waterproof.  We are working on these on the perspective on solving bathroom safety. The hardwares are to be complimented with a series of censors.

6. What were the challenges involved in raising funds and how do you plan to use it?

The funds we received will be used to obtain patents for our technology and we are looking to raise the next level of funding. And regarding the automative, Pinnacle Industries are one of our associates and they have invested with us and help us manufacture our products. And the CEO of Pinnacle Industries is our mentor and investor. The fund raising was a bit challenging as we did not have any other competitor with a sample business model. So building a business model was challenging as it is important in raising funds. We have refined our business model and we are in comfortable position to pitch in. Investors liked our idea but where hesitant to invest, this is because the space is so raw. We have been receiving consistent feedback and by the end of this year we are looking forward to raise an angel round.

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