Sridharan Mani, a native of Chennai doesn’t shy away from sharing geeky jokes. He has completed Bachelors degree in Physics worked with NIIT, Mahindra BT spent 10-12 years of his life in Atlanta, USA. Sridharan is passionate about reading spiritual books, writing poems in tamil while travelling round the globe. Team Danvantri have made it to the top 10 amongst 300 participants in Qualcomm XPrize Medical Tricoder Challenge. Sridharan is Director & CEO at American Megatrends India (P) Ltd.
FA: Firstly we’d like to thank you for taking your time and speaking to us. We really appreciate it.
SM: No problem! The pleasure is mutual and I am happy to be speaking to FineAI.com aswell.
FA: We’d like to congratulate you for making it to XPrize’s Mobile Tricoder finals – it’s an incredible achievement.
SM: Thank you, but actually the whole team which has worked together. We’re especially happy to represent India at XPrize.
FA: What inspired whole team to work on XPrize project?
SM: We started working on the project way before X Prize. While in India & US I used to work with lot of Hospital Chain. In India we were looking at doing rural health care. Looking at Doctor vs. Patient concentration, most of the doctors live in urban areas and not villages.
I am a big fan of Prevention over Cure. Because cure is expensive, and doesn’t give you full life – it takes a part of your life. Initially a lot of people focused on Telehealth care but it takes lot of resources and better connectivity. Requirement of the day is getting vitals as opposed to being able to teleconference with doctors, which is required but not sufficient.
As a Patient you might miss certain symptoms, at the same time you might exaggerate something. Body vitals give a true picture for diagnosis. We went to the market and looked at existing devices that could be integrated with Mobile which will eventually be shared with doctors. We soon concluded that none of the devices could be integrated with ease. Accuracy and cost were some other factors that discourages us during this evaluation process. On one hand clinical grade devices had accuracy that was desired, consumer grade products lacked on accuracy. Power was another critical factor for our evaluation – half of the rural India doesn’t have AC power connectivity.
Given our finding bundled with the fact that American Mega trend’s background in hardware and software we decided to venture on this journey in 2012. We discovered about X Prize via LinkedIn, team quickly had an agreement to join the competition. Competition was never the only driving factor for us, having an opportunity to make a difference in country of more than one billion people also motivated us.
FA: During the course of competition, what did Team Danvantri learn from XPrize’s point of view?
SM: We learned that whole healthcare eco-system needed change. Building a device that would help capturing body vitals is less than 1% of what needs to be changed. Our entire focus was providing complete eco-system by knowing current state of health and taking corrective actions – including diet, meditation and exercise. Users generally don’t understand and interpret vitals like doctors do. Summarizing health from vitals thats easier to understand also became a key thing for the project.
We’re aiming to take clinical level devices and trying to put it into consumers hand at affordable price.
FA: Along the way were there any surprises?
SM: During our journey we came across a university publication in similar domain. We tried to replicate the device, initially we thought we would be done within a weeks time. To our dismay we didn’t get it to work with much accuracy. When we contacted the author of the publication about the issue, surprisingly we got asked “Did it really work?”
We concluded, its going to be a longer journey. A weeks worth of effort actually took us through journey of couple of years of research and development.
FA: Any interesting anecdote you’d want to share from product development phase?
SM: First version of product that we’ve released is called AMI BOLT, we hired independent marketing company that did usability testing on our behalf. What got to us as constant feedback was: Can the correlation of these numbers (vitals) give me more meaningful messages?
We took various vitals and came up with Happiness meter: 3 stage measurement (All is Well, Could Be Better, Needs Attention). Could be better implies some changes in lifestyle are required. Needs Attention suggests user to seek immediate medical attention.
FA: Given current state of law in India, were there any issues in procuring components or testing it on fields etc?
SM: All our devices and offerings are non-invasive in nature. Having spoken at couple of trade shows where representatives of Medical Council of India were present - safety was key issue. Even Though India doesn’t have tougher laws compared to western counterparts we went ahead and got our device CE certified for European Union. We’re also in process of getting FDA certification. We wanted to ensure clinical superiority on consumer grade products as well.
FA: High mortality rates in India is a big issues. Do you plan on creating similar device for Infants?
SM: Our current product works with childrens. Getting vitals from Infants is challenging, the way to get blood pressure from their bodies is way different from how its gotten from adults. Its not in current works as of today, but we’re working on anemia probe which works with pregnant women. In future we do plan to work on it.
FA: Do you plan on reducing form factor for AMI BOLT?
SM: We’re working on a new pocket sized product AMI VitalsFit: that measures Glucometer, Blood Pressure, Oxygen Saturation, ECG, Pedometer and Urinary analysis which comes with rechargeable battery.
Our objective is to have chronic-free India.
FA: What would be an interesting problem that you’d want to be solved by 2019 (for people working in similar domain) ?
SM: What I’d want to see is people visiting hospitals rarely. Care should be given to patients at home – which implies preventive health care will allow people to lead happy & prosperous life.
FA: Managing diverse team can be difficult, what kept team motivated during the entire duration?
SM: Passion: It was the driving factor for our team. In everyone’s life we’d have a loved ones lost to chronic disease. When we have an opportunity to work on something that will have major impact and put your name on it, thats worthy. I don’t drive my team at all, they drive me. I consider my role as facilitator. The whole team list is on website – there are more members working on the team behind the scenes.
The questions is never about having big size team, I’d rather go for right balanced team with the right sized team. So marketer is equally important as lawyer and an engineer on team. When we’re sitting in a meeting we need to ensure product is meeting regulation, is affordable and meets requirement along with accuracy.
FA: Would you like to comment on any closing comments?
SM: There is saying in Tamil which translates to having good health equates to infinite wealth. This is probably where ‘health is wealth’ comes from. My mission is to have India that is free from disease. I would love to have everyone having fun and enjoyable life – I could be spending all the health care money on pleasure and creating memories.