Gayatri can now pick up her child with both her hands. Vivek is successfully pursuing MBA at IIM-
Bengaluru. Ravi runs a fast food centre. What is special about such routine tasks, you may ask. Until some months ago, all three were among the 5.6-million orthopaedically challenged people in India. Today, thanks to the Hyderabad-based startup Makers Hive and its bionic arm, life is better. The prohibitive cost of prosthetic implants prompted co-founders Harsha Reddy Ponguleti, Pranav Vempati and Suren Marumamula to develop affordable prosthetic arms.
“Makers Hive was founded in 2018. We believe that no person should ever be deprived of an opportunity because of a disability. We can achieve our dream using technology and innovation,” says Vempati. The startup launched its bionic arm—KalArm—in December 2020. “We have received a phenomenal response,” says Vempati, who was recently featured in Forbes 30 Under 30. His startup is now tying up with all major hospital chains and P&O (Prosthetic and Orthotic) centres across the country to benefit as many people as possible. It is also in talks with several NGOs to provide their creations free of cost to those who can’t afford them.
Most of the latest bionic hands available in the market are priced between `30-65 lakh. Makers Hive’s product costs one-tenth of the price because it is developed locally. It is fully functional and customisable to an extent. The mobile app-enabled KalArm is named after Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. Ponguleti throws up some disturbing statistics, “In 2017, 57.7 million people were living with limb amputation worldwide. Globally, a patient’s hand is amputated every minute. With the research we’ve done, there are about 50,000 to 1,00,000 amputees in every state.”
But the company’s journey was far from easy. Its first challenge was to put together a team of purpose-driven like-minded engineers and designers “To have been able to build such a team is still one of our greatest achievements,” Ponguleti says proudly. But then came the pandemic. “At Makers Hive, we believe that collaboration is the key to innovation. Being an R&D company, it was a little tricky to continue our work in the present scenario.
We had to face a lot of issues with regard to procurement and supply-chain. But we overcame all those hurdles and finished developing the product,” adds Marumamula. Despite such odds, the launch was a success. The huge number of amputees rushing into BIRRD Hospital in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, to register for the arm, was an overwhelming sight. “We had hundreds of pre-order post the launch. This kind of response was the game-changing moment for us,” says Marumamula. The startup next plans to venture into advanced bionics, exo skeletons and other innovative products such as bionic eyes, Parkinson’s gloves, etc. “Futuristically abled” is their motto.
● Named after Dr Kalam
● The KalArm is 10-20 times more affordable than any other bionic hands
● It has 18 pre-defined grips that are very carefully curated to help the amputees perform any task effortlessly
● There is also an option to add six custom grips in the KalAssist Mobile app
● It also has unique features like Wireless Firmware updates and Performance Monitoring on the mobile application
The startup next plans to venture into advanced bionics, exo skeletons and other innovative products such as bionic eyes, Parkinson’s gloves, etc