Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Innovative Technology with a Pune Backstory

“A city is not just a place in space, but a drama in time”: Patrick Geddes

From once being the apex of the Maratha Empire, then simmering down to a tranquil retirement home for the old, to reinstating its importance in the last two decades as the powerhouse of India’s technology revolution, life has indeed come a full circle for the city of Pune. Growing in the shadow of its giant neighbor Mumbai, it was only a matter of time before Pune itself became the bustling city we now know it as. Pune has always been a place of strategic and commercial importance to the warring kingdoms of the past, and the corporate dynasties of the present. Pune’s industrial landscape has companies from various sectors including information technology, automotive and manufacturing. Today Pune is a $50 billion economy and also one of the fastest developing cities in India.
In the recent years, several impressive innovations across various sectors have grabbed the headlines. Let’s look at some of them.

While Bangalore gave us India’s first electric car, Pune stole the thunder by unveiling India’s first electric bike. Pune-based electric bike maker Tork Motorcycles has unveiled India's first all-electric motorcycle - T6X. In 2009, a group of engineering student developed an electric bike that eventually became the first Indian bike to not only feature in the world championship of electric bike racing held at the Isle of Man but also secured a podium finish. Thereafter, there was no looking back. The bike is a product of 7 years of arduous research and comes packed with a 4.3” TFT screen with apps and cloud connectivity, a top speed of 100 kmph and a mobile charging station.Save for the lithium-ion battery,it is a completely indigenous product. With every single charge, one can enjoy a carefree ride for 100 km. For a country with an average income of less than a lakh, Tork T6x might not be the most affordable bike in town, but the lifecycle cost of the vehicle makes it an excellent value-for-money product!

India’s robust growth is backed chiefly by its agrarian sector. Agro Star is an innovative startup that helps farmers purchase farm inputs at an affordable rate by eliminating layers of middlemen between the end users and the manufacturer. The entire purchase cycle is triggered by a single missed call from a farmer’s phone. AgroStar calls them back and registers their order. Their product offerings include the complete array of farm inputs from pesticides to fertilizers. The order is delivered to the consumers at their doorstep. Since its launch in 2012, Agro Star has been able to sell INR 6 Crore worth of goods till date.
Arcatron Mobility was established to design and develop smart wheelchairs to aid the disabled carry out their daily chores without any hindrance. Their primary product is a self-propelled shower and commode wheelchair which helps millions with mobility impairments to access public or private toilets. Arcatronhas recently attracted an undisclosed amount of funding from an angel investor, proving that investors’ have started taking notice of this ‘next big thing.’

Indigenously produced high-quality lithium ion batteries are hard to come by. ARAI and ISRO have come to the aid of automotive companies by initiating development of lithium ion technology capability indigenously.  India shall have its very own lithium ion battery building technology ready by the middle of 2017. ARAI will then scout for technology partners for knowledge and technology sharing to commence commercial production of automotive batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles. Once available commercially, companies like Tork, can put out a ‘pure’ Indian e-motorbike and make it more economical for the average frugal Indian.

2016 witnessed a bunch of students from College of Engineering, Pune (CoEP) literally aim (and shoot) for the stars! Aptly named ‘Swayam’, this students’ satellite took off with ISRO’s CartoSat-2C satellite on 20th June 2016 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. It had been under development since 2008 with a corpus of INR 50 lac. Like a family heirloom, knowledge and technology was passed on from senior students leaving the institution to freshmen entering the college. Weighing just about a kilogram, Swayam’s chief objective is to develop end to end communication even in the remotest of locations. Basking in the glory of Swayam’s successful launch, CoEP has signed another MoU with ISRO for a yet unnamed project.

Pune’s technology eco-system is growing at a galloping rate. In the past two decades, Pune has seen a massive influx of domestic and international funding and looking at the present trends, this is unlikely to change. Pune has become a city of choice for enterprising individuals around the country. A city’s prosperity lies not in the abundance of its resources, but the way it is put to use. Pune has blitzed through India’s technological landscape at a breakneck pace and it may soon climb to the very top of the innovation heap

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