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Botrio, which has a six-member team and a few part-time consultants, was started by Shanmugha with the prize money he won in various college robotic competitions. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint (Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint)
Botrio, which has a six-member team and a few part-time consultants, was started by Shanmugha with the prize money he won in various college robotic competitions. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint
(Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint)

Promoting hands-on learning among students

Botrio Design Labs bridges the gap between what is taught in engineering colleges and how to apply it

Many corporate executives and hiring managers often complain that college graduates are thoroughly unprepared for the practical aspects of work in any given field. Looking to bridge this gap between what is taught in classrooms and how things are actually done in business by giving hands-on training to college students is a Bangalore-based startup called Botrio Design Labs Pvt. Ltd.

The company, which was incorporated in August 2011, ties up with engineering colleges such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) to offer modules on robotics, aero modelling and other related subjects. Students pay 800-1,550 for 14-16 hour workshops. Botrio has some 22 clients, all engineering colleges.

“The vision of the company is to promote hands-on learning by building science and technology-related modules. Students are not up-to-date with what’s happening outside," founder Shanmugha T.S. said. “During our workshops, students understand concepts and get hands-on experience. We give them a launch pad, after which they can decide what interests (them) and start working on it. We want to make them industry-ready."

Botrio, which has a six-member team and a few part-time consultants, was started by Shanmugha with the prize money he won in various college robotic competitions. Shanmugha says he won some 3 lakh from such competitions and got another 2 lakh from his parents—after much convincing. “I started when I was in my second year of engineering. At that time if I had gone to my dad and mom for 5 lakh I don’t think that would’ve happened. To convince them, I started taking part in competitions held at IITs. Fortunately, I was able to either win or be runner up in most of these competitions. It was also a challenge to get people because most engineering students want to work at a Google or a Microsoft," he said.

The first few members of his team were people he had met at these competitions. All his team members have engineering degrees and at least one year’s work experience in software or other businesses.

Shanmugha is himself a final-year engineering student at the Dayanand Sagar college in Bangalore. How does he convince people that a company led by a student can deliver coaching that is suited to the business world?

He says Botrio is tying up with technology companies to help it tailor training modules to the needs of businesses.

“We’ve tied up with Cypress Semiconductor who is giving us their modules through one of their design partners with whom we will be conducting classes. So after the course, students will have to take an online test based on which they will be getting certificates. We are trying to get more organizations so that we can make our courses industry-driven, so that when we approach colleges they will see much more value. We are also in talks with Texas Instruments and others for a tie-up," he said.

Though Botrio trains only engineering students currently, Shanmugha has much more ambitious plans.

“The road map that I have is that from a services company we want to move to a product company so that we can have courses online, students can buy the platforms we create and make it trainer-independent. We want to create an ecosystem where whatever students are building, they can share it and also train other students. Training for engineering happens for 6-8 months. So it’s more like a seasonal business. We want to continue that because it is our bread and butter. But slowly we will have a separate team working in training and the rest will move to the product space," he said.

To help them get there, Botrio has signed a term sheet for a fund infusion of 50 lakh, Shanmugha said. He declined to name the investors but said the deal would likely close by the end of the week.

Shanmugha and his team have already started working on a new mobile robotic platform for students in the 8-14 age group. This product will be released within the next six months, he says.

On weekdays, Shanmugha usually works after his classes. “I have a good timetable. Classes get over by 1-2pm. Even if I start work at 6pm, I will have ample time to work till 10pm. My first few co-founders were really helpful and they understood the business, so I was able to operate through them," he says.

Mint has a strategic partnership with National entrepreneurship Network, which hosts the Tata First Dot competition.

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