An interview with Chakshu Saharan of Ignius
A couple of weeks ago, I was on an International Women's Day panel at the Tech for Good Meetup in London, where I heard a short introduction to Ignius, a company working on Internet of Things products for social good. I reached out to Chakshu Saharan, the founder, who kindly agreed to answer a few questions for the Other Valleys:
Please tell me a bit about Ignius, the team and your background. What led you to start the company, and when was it started?
We are a team of three. I am the founder and look after the product vision for Ignius. I am passionate about bringing the advantages of connected technologies to address some of the most compelling ‘use cases’ for IoT, primarily in developing countries and for underserved demographics. Before starting Ignius, I spent a number of years working as a management consultant. The other members of the team are:
Ben Luff – Ben is the Creative Director responsible for product design, research and user experience.
Rajeev Nandan – Rajeev is Commercial Director responsible for market strategy and partnerships.
The company was set up fulfil a dream - to use the power of IoT and connected devices to address some of the biggest challenges in countries where the need is great but resources few. We believe that IoT technology with robust service design can be a game changer in addressing some of the most obvious yet burning issues globally.
What are some of the projects you've worked on that you've been most proud of in your career and why?
As a management consultant, I have worked on a number of high-stakes projects, albeit for large corporations. However, setting up Ignius with its ethos of creating useful technology driven products at the lowest possible prices so that it is accessible to users is what I am the most proud of.
As you mentioned at the Tech for Good meetup, Ignius is working on an IOT prototype that has been field tested in Delhi, and is meant to help women stay safe. Could you tell us a little about why you think existing solutions in the market (various apps, for example) are not good enough, and why women in India - or Brazil, which is the other target market - might be more likely to adopt this product compared to other solutions?
Existing solutions are mostly app dependent but phones can be very hard to access in a threatening situation and are often taken away from the victim, making the solution unreliable. Other wearable products on the market have constraints around high device costs, and technical challenges such as short battery life. Our solution has been developed keeping the female user in mind, as well as understanding the current security infrastructure and landscape in target markets. Our user-centric approach increases the likelihood of our solution being adopted over others.
Is your device meant more for developing nations - especially women living in rural and urban slums - or is it suited to the professional working woman in developed markets as well?
It is meant for women in both developed and developing nations, as the issue of sexual violence is a global one. Women across the world experience it in varying degrees. However, our first target market is India where the issue of women’s safety is a burning platform that should have been resolved yesterday! 97% of women in a city like Delhi have experienced some degree of sexual harassment or violence. To begin with, we are focusing on working women (especially those working in shifts) and students.
What existing solutions for people's safety do you think are doing a good job? What inspired you to focus on this prototype?
Currently, I think women rely a lot on their mobile phones for safety – by providing regular updates about their whereabouts to their loved ones or pretending to be on the phone whilst navigating an uncomfortable situation. Mobile phones, though reliable, are conspicuous and in most situations are the first thing taken away from the victim.
The fact that there wasn't a discreet, affordable, robust and reliable solution on the market inspired us to build our device and road test it in the UK and India.
When can we expect to see the product in market?
All going well, the product should be in the market in early 2018.