Samarth Mungali, 26, a graduate from the Delhi College of Engineering, worked with IBM as a software engineer for two years before applying to the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, for a course in strategic design management. There he met Bhavna Bahri, 25, a commerce graduate who had worked as an accounts assistant with a Dubai-based firm and moved to graphic and Web designing before enrolling herself at NID. Bahri had initially chosen the graphic design course, but switched to the strategic design management course, with the aim of starting an entrepreneurial venture after graduating. The duo thought his engineering skills and her background in graphic design would make them a strong team, so they decided to start a venture, No Formulae, together.
Colourful jab: Samarth Mungali (left) and Bhavna Bahri’s toy-like cases for syringes are targeted at children. Amit Dave / Mint
Mungali says he always had an interest in designing and creating things: “I remember tinkering with small gadgets and circuits when I was young.” He was later fascinated by his family’s woodworking unit, and experimented with creating products. “I appreciated the way an object’s shape influences its use. That’s when I realized that design is ubiquitous—some thought has gone into the design of every object we use.”
The Philips Simplicity Challenge was the catalyst for Acceptor, the child-friendly syringe project. The electronics company was looking for simple, innovative, original business ideas. The Mumbai-based duo remembers reading that the disposable syringe was the big simple business idea of the last century. “My own fear of injection syringes helped me appreciate the need for the product. That was what gave us the idea to try to change the look of the syringe,” says Mungali.
The duo tried to use distraction therapy, by designing a brightly coloured toy-like case in which a syringe could be fitted. The case comes in the shape of a butterfly or a juice bottle and the syringe is barely visible. “We wondered: If the look of the syringe was changed to sidetrack the child, would it help her forget the pain or trauma that generally comes with an injection?” says Mungali.
They started on the challenge and sought help from friends at the college’s design institute who helped with some aspects of the design. They went on to win the Simplicity Challenge, and the prize money went towards designing proper prototypes which they showed doctors for testing. They conducted a market survey in five cities to see how parents and doctors reacted to the product. Mungali also made a trip to Sweden to present it to the medical fraternity there. Danderyds Sjukhus, a hospital and medical institute in Sweden, has certified it as a feasible concept. Acceptor has just received a grant from the Union government to make working prototypes for large-scale medical testing in India. The duo hopes to have the syringes in the market in about eight months.
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They feel they’ve come a long way from the first idea, and are currently running the last lap of the race to get Acceptor into the market as soon as possible.
Along with Acceptor, Mungali and Bahri have several other ventures under No Formulae, the parent company. This is a service design firm that marries design with business. In fact, they did not take on any campus placements after their course, so they could be free to start No Formulae. They have conducted research for an ice-cream company, helped an organic cosmetics and food company rebrand itself, and finished a project for a real estate firm trying to market luxury apartments during the downturn. They are also looking to commercialize the syringes and are on the hunt for partners.
“What pushed us was a craving to achieve things we could only dream about. My dream was not staying in a job and working for IBM or a firm. I always wanted to do something of my own,” says Mungali. “I didn’t mind working 24x7 and 365 days a year for myself, but I didn’t want to be stuck in a nine-to-five job, working for someone else.”