Mumbai: The technology heads of many a company have tried to cut down electricity costs by convincing employees to switch off their computers when they finish using it for the day. With little success. To address this need, Enpower, the winner of Eureka 2009, the annual business plan competition organized by the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B), came up with a simple solution.
Young entrepreneurs: The finalists of Eureka 2009 business plan competition at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. Their entries were selected out of 1,800 business ideas received this year. Ashesh Shah / Mint
It developed a software for enterprises that can remotely switch any computer terminal connected to a central server to a low-power mode when a user is away from the desk. Result: power savings of anywhere between 30% and 90% compared with an inactive system in full power mode, says the team at Enpower.
“When an employee is away from the system, a lot of power can be saved by ensuring transition into a low-power state, either by turning off the monitor or sending it to standby mode, but we found compliance to be very low,” says team member Noel Sequeira.
He and fellow engineering students from Mumbai University, Sameet Singh and Amith George, first worked on a software that does this for the Microsoft Imagine Cup, a developers’ conference organized by Microsoft Corp. last year (and stood tops there as well).
The trio, which won Rs5 lakh prize money and another Rs1.25 lakh for best entry in the clean-tech category, plans to turn the idea into a full-fledged business.
Eureka, which claims to be Asia’s largest business-plan competition, received 1,800 ideas this year, which were narrowed down to eight finalists in two rounds of elimination. The final round conducted over Friday and Saturday was held as part of E-Summit, an event focused on entrepreneurship and organized by IIT-B’s student body E-Cell.
Reflecting the mood change from last year’s boom time optimism to more utilitarian ideas in the current slowdown-marked market, energy conservation was this year’s popular theme, compared with gaming in the finals last year.
Three of the eight finalists submitted ideas in this category, including third place winner Delta Climate. The team, with students from IIT-B and the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) at Bangalore and Ahmedabad, are working on a Web-based system combined with a hardware device to monitor and control carbon emissions generated by firms. It will offer use of the software as a service and customize solutions for each company.
Another concept that caught attention at this year’s event was Acceptor, designed to remove the fear of needles among children, which took the second place. The student team from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, had developed toy-like encasings for regular medical syringes shaped like aeroplanes and butterflies to make them visually appealing.
“Children fear the needle even before it is injected, so the idea is to make it look like a toy and drive their mind away from the pain,” says Samarth Mungali, who has been working on the product for a year along with fellow student Bhavna Bahri. The team has conducted a market survey for the product with 250 parents in five cities and is currently testing prototypes with a hospital in Europe that the duo declined to identify.
The plethora of business plans impressed those sifting through them. “We were expecting mostly IT (information technology)-related ideas, but found very diverse plans. We gave more weight to whether a plan was venture fundable while choosing winners,” says jury panellist Pravin N. Narwankar, chief technology officer and investment manager (India), Applied Materials Inc.
Other ideas that made it to the finals included wind turbine design outfit Vertosys; rural arts and crafts production company Parichay; a platform for shared transportation, GoCars; pet grooming service Maverick; and Phoenix, a steel plant acid regeneration system. Prizes worth Rs21 lakh were distributed among the teams, up from Rs14 lakh last year.
In addition to Eureka, an investor pitch was organized by E-Cell to connect firms looking for funding with early-stage venture capital firms. Thirteen companies pitched to investors from funds such as Bangalore-based Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ) and IDG Ventures and Mumbai-based Blue Run Ventures. These included audio and video indexing software firm Onion Technologies, voice and telephony services company Simmortel Voice Technologies Pvt. Ltd and online game developer Amoeba Studios.
“From a VC (venture capital) perspective, one out of five ideas was interesting, but it was good to see that most are in revenue stage, from a few lakhs to a couple of crores,” said Mohanjit Jolly, executive director, DFJ, after a pitch session.
At other sessions, the tone was cautious. At a session on “What not to do before starting up”, Russell Stamets, director of accounting and regulatory firm JCSS Consulting Pvt. Ltd, advised a roomful of budding entrepreneurs not to hanker after venture money. “Don’t be enamoured by VCs (thinking) my Cinderella days will be over. In fact, you’ll be back to working mops.”