Social Hardware is providing a solution to a unique problem in the country. What was the inspiration behind starting a company that manufactures prostheses?
On an average, 23,500 Indian citizens suffer upper limb amputation every year adding to the existing growing number of 3 million arm amputees across the globe. Increasing geriatric population with a high prevalence of chronic diseases, rising accidental incidents amongst developing communities is another ascending problem. Even though almost 70% of India’s population lives in rural areas, where the highest rate of amputation occurs, the prosthetics available does not focus on hygiene, durability, distribution and cost-effectiveness. To counter these problems, I and Cameron Norris, Co-founder, began Social Hardware. Cameron has a background in open-source hardware and digital marketing for tech start-ups, while I have a background in biomechanics and human engineering learning.
What were the challenges that you faced during the initial years of your inception?
We began our journey in late 2016. For the first year of the project, we were entirely self-funded and had bootstrapped our way into constructing a proof-of-concept prototype. After the proof-of-concept prototype was completed, we applied for incubation at iCreate International Centre for Entrepreneurship and Technology in Gujarat, which provided us with the support and investment needed to set up Social Hardware.
What all technologies and processes are involved in this process of ensuring low-cost manufacturing and free-of-cost end product being fitted on to the amputee?
Our goal is to develop a high performance durable upper-limb prosthesis arm designed to be affordable and sustainable in tough working and living conditions using concepts of soft-robotics combined with miniature analogue sensors. The prosthesis is being designed using Autodesk Fusion 360 3D CAD software, which has made it incredibly easy to prepare the product for prototyping and design for manufacturing. We work in collaboration with centres to provide a four-stage rehabilitation package, which involves various rehabilitation procedures and co-designing workshops.
What according to you is your biggest success till date?
Social Hardware holds two design patents over the course of two years, along with being featured in several publications. In the quest to make the product more life-like, we collaborated with Furio Tedeschi, CG Artist for Transformers, & BumbleBee. Initiation of our partnership with Autodesk in 2017-18 has been a huge success for us, they have supported our ‘Democratisation of Prosthetics’ initiative and offered access to the Fusion 360 Indian community environment. Till date, Autodesk has provided us with inputs on design optimisation and manufacturing effectiveness whenever required. We have also partnered with several prime non-profit rehabilitation centres across the country, including the Association of People with Disability, Karnataka and Nevedac Prosthetic Centre, Punjab. Our positive approach with strategic technical insight has allowed us to be ‘technical partners’ for the Association of People with Disability.
What is the main aim of Social Hardware? What are your objectives for the next five years?
Social Hardware believes in the power of frugal innovation. We work with non-profit organisations in APAC countries to provide assistive devices and disability rehabilitation programs to underserved communities in remote or rural areas. Amongst variety of product delivery approach, we also plan to sell our product to the organisations working in the assistive device space while helping them to raise money as well whilst providing the end product to the user free of cost. Our goal for the next five years is to provide in excess of thousand prostheses across APAC regions along with providing appropriate care and services through our care & service centres which have been lacking in the prosthesis industry.