Inside the research lab of IIT Gandhinagar, Prashant Mamtora scaled up his robotics start-up which helps teach children between the ages of 6 to 13 — electronics, robotics, IoT, and programming. In only a year since its inception, the start-up earned global recognition when it was shortlisted for the seed programme by Stanford Graduate School of Business (Stanford GSB), in 2022.
Imagine a nine-year-old kid creating a smart toy car with parking and anti-collision sensors. Or making a smart stick for the blind that beeps when the person is close to an obstacle on their path. These Do-It-Yourself (DIY) solutions are made using Havi Inc’s electronic blocks developed as robotic toys for learners.
“It is lego but with electronics. Just like how you make bridges and houses using blocks while playing lego, you do the same with electronics and robotics. We have turned electronic circuits into electronic blocks. This encourages users to focus on creating models with different applications using these blocks,” says 38-year-old Mamtora. The company has obtained a patent for the product and hopes to make learning fun for children and augment creative thinking.
A recent policy thrust on developing effective and meaningful methods to connect with learners and the government’s Atmanirbhar mission for toys is fuelling new research and innovation in gadgets and toys for engaging children. In this backdrop, India’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Maths) market is slowly opening up against well-established markets in Europe.
Founded in 2020, the start-up secured ₹25 lakh as seed funding from the founders and IIT Gandhinagar provided the much-needed R&D infrastructure to make the product commercially viable. An IT engineer from Bhavnagar, Gujarat, Mamtora sought assistance from IIT Gandhinagar to transform his idea into a marketable product with the infrastructure and talent at the institute’s research park.
IIT Gandhinagar’s research park allows industries to set up their research offices at the park to carry out R&D activities and take benefit of the talent and expertise available on campus. They get access to laboratories, high-end equipment and other resources.
“What is unique to IIT Gandhinagar is the multi-disciplinary approach in handling research with our inter-disciplinary team. Entrepreneurs can switch easily between multiple disciplines. They can also seek guidance from the faculty members as well as take assistance from the students at different levels of product development. We provide this flexibility and seamless operations with single-window functioning,” said Nirmal Jha, Advisor (Industry Partnerships) at IIT Gandhinagar.
“Now with our selection to Stanford seed programme, we seek to connect with global players, get insights and exposure, build useful networks, and explore partnership synergies,” says Mamtora, who has just started selling the product through e-commerce platforms, such as Amazon and Flipkart.
The current sales are mostly focused on households even as there is a greater opportunity in institutional sales through schools. “We are looking for distributor partners to tap the institutional market,” Mamtora said, seeking IIT-like assistance in accessing the wider market.