QUEEN’S ROAD: Ostrich Mobility, a Bengaluru-based company that specialises in manufacturing electric wheelchairs, is gearing up to bring out a wheelchair that could double as a petty shop.
Ostrich was started in 2004 by a group of people to help provide wheelchairs that could navigate Indian terrain. “Imported electric wheelchairs are not only expensive but also get damaged while running on our roads,” says Archi Serrao, the company’s CEO.
In 2007, it was registered as a company, one of the only manufacturers in India of patented electric wheelchairs. “Our aim has been to serve the lowest economic strata, so when we spoke to differently-abled people from that section of the society and asked what they would like, they said they want to be self-sufficient,” he says.
The team took about a year to conceptualise Sunny Splendour, their most recent project, which helps people who have lost mobility and the means to be self employed. Covered on three sides and on the top, the wheelchair moves at a jogger’s pace.
“Even if you have a wheelchair and are employed, you have to think about how to take it along with you. So this was our solution,” says Archi.
Currently, two people who have lost mobility have been given Sunny Splendour. Thippaswamy, a resident of Hebbagodi who lost his right leg a few years ago, says that the vehicle has granted him a second lease of life.
“I had studied horticulture, and had to do gardening. But I have a daughter who’s mentally challenged so someone has to be with her at all times. Now, I take her in the vehicle and sell cut fruits in and around Electronics City,” he says. And his wife walks along and sets up a tea-coffee-cigarette stall alongside.
Serrao hopes to launch this project by the end of the year. “We want to have another five people try it out before we go big,” he says.
However, one of the company’s chief concerns is that as much as they would like to cater to the economically backward, their lowest-priced wheelchair costs `59,000. They have eight standard models, which are customised for every order since they believe ‘wheelchairs aren’t like cars’. “Every person with disability will have different requirements. Some are completely immobile from the waist below, so we have a button that tilts the seat to improve circulation in the lower part of the body. We offer a year’s warranty and free doorstep service, and they can purchase an additional 10-year warranty,” says the CEO.
So now the company partners with NGOs to help get financial aid through CSR activities to cater to customers. So far, according to Serrao, the company with an annual turnover of about `3.5 crore has served over a thousand customers directly and through dealers in Hyderabad, New Delhi and other parts of Karnataka, rather than through other means of publicity and marketing.