The story of JioVio and how its founder Mr. Senthil Kumar gave Madurai the recognition it deserved

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Entrepreneurs are born out of curious minds. The mind of an entrepreneur is always looking for answers and solutions. One such mind is the founder of JioVio who has and is working relentlessly to solve problems that come his way.

Mr. Senthil Kumar, an engineer, and innovator always wondered why tech experts and developers didn’t choose Madurai as a city to develop a tech ecosystem. He saw people and students who were intelligent and capable eventually move out of the city and sometimes also the country. In this quest of finding answers, he innovated and ideated a lot of solutions one of them being JioVio, a healthcare company working towards creating a smooth pregnancy experience for pregnant ladies through an innovative device. JioVio is based out of Madurai and Singapore and delivers pregnancy care for mothers irrespective of their location. Here’s everything he shared with Team Sociobits.

Team Sociobits: From quitting your high-paying job and then coming up with Jio Vio, how did the transition from being an employee to an entrepreneur begin?

Mr. Senthil Kumar: I previously used to work as a senior engineer at Qualcomm, and I have almost seven years of experience in similar companies like Samsung in different roles related to hardware development. During this period, I got the opportunity to be among NASSCOM’S Top 5 Technology Explorers as a part of the TechNgage Event. Because of this, I got a chance to travel to 40+ different countries. I traveled the lengths and breadths of the world where I met different people from startup ecosystems which enabled me to acquire global experience.

This is when I found that a lot of people that were at the top positions in the company, belonged to Madurai. I asked them whether they will be willing to come back to their hometown and they said yes but the only thing they pointed out was that they didn’t find a good developer ecosystem in Madurai.

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This is when I found that a lot of people that were at the top positions in the company, belonged to my hometown, Madurai. So, I got curious and I asked them whether they will be willing to come back to their hometown and they said yes but the only thing they pointed out was that they didn’t find a good developer ecosystem in Madurai. This is because most opportunities are available in tier-1 cities like Chennai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad. And people from cities like Madurai work hard and eventually go to these cities and also put more effort, finally settling in the Western countries.

So, eventually what happens in tier-2 cities is that if they need someone to solve a local community problem, they don’t have any developer there. That’s when I thought if I could do something in my hometown to attract these companies to set up their offices and provide general as well as technological job opportunities to the locals. This will also work in the reverse way i.e. it will help people to come back to their hometown and I set this as my vision.

In 2013-14, I started traveling back to my hometown during the weekends and with the help of my younger sister, I onboarded 200 women to train them in technology because I noticed most of the males had moved out of the cities but the females who were school toppers or highly talented were still in my hometown. Basically, my idea was to demonstrate that the city has potential. I initially taught them how to build mobile apps and websites, and solve local problems, but I realized that a lot of people were doing that and it ended with certification. Anyway, they didn’t use the certification because their main goal was to teach their kids. Their primary goal was not securing a job so I thought of ways that I could brand them to show the city has opportunities and also potential.

There is a global competition called Technovation where women identify a local problem and using design thinking and appropriate tools, build a product out of it. I started training them for this competition instead of training them in a traditional way and even if they could participate and complete their deliverables, they would gain recognition.

This portrayal of villains from the city and showing that they carry swords with them and kill people have led people to believe that Madurai is a dangerous city.

In order to look for a local problem, I started brainstorming the reason why companies don’t come to Madurai. If you notice, in movies, the hero is always generally from Chennai and the villain is from Madurai. This portrayal of villains from the city and showing that they carry swords with them and kill people have led people to believe that Madurai is a dangerous city. So, even if companies think of expanding from Chennai, they don’t choose Madurai as it is thought of as an unsafe or dangerous city. I set my mind to change this and portray to the world that the city is one of the safest cities on the planet.

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My next step was to interact with local police officers and know the basic problems that are faced by the people. They pointed out a couple of issues and I thought of creating a digital platform for the police which will alert them as soon as a security issue is reported by someone.

I started using all my resources to create a solution for this problem statement. One of the features included a facial recognition feature that could identify whether a person is a criminal by using the criminal database. Another one was, that anyone could trigger an SOS using their phones in case of an emergency. Police could also ensure that there is no burglary in houses where people have gone to visit some other place by digitally monitoring it.

All this was done by the girls, I taught them and I was satisfied that out of 200 girls, almost 50-60 were really committed to building the final prototype. But I was extremely surprised to find out that the top 10 winners of the competition were from my team. This was because the problem was authentic and unique and they also aptly solved it. This created a positive PR among the locals and parents started believing in their girls, and husbands started believing in their wives.

I didn’t end this at the competition. I went to the police officials and corporations in Madurai and demonstrated the product to see if we could actually implement it in the city and they accepted it too. We built the Madurai Kavalan App.

I went to the police officials and corporations in Madurai and demonstrated the product to see if we could actually implement it in the city and they accepted it too. We built the Madurai Kavalan App.

Team Sociobits: Could you point out some features of this App?

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Founder: We developed two apps, one is Madurai Kavalan and another is the Cops Eye app. Cops Eye is a facial recognition application. Track Alagar is a feature that lets people track the ‘Lord Kallazhgar’. There is a huge festival that takes place in Madurai every year where almost 20 lakh people gather and the problem faced by the cops is that they are unable to manage the crowd. So, through the technology that is enabled in the application people can track the god and they can also talk to the god. So, people can track the procession while it travels the city and this helps to reduce the traffic and congestion. This was very successful and it was also recognized by the CM.

Through the Facial Recognition app too, 40 high-rated criminals were recognized which drastically reduced the crime rate of the city to less than 2% only after a year of its deployment. Madurai was then awarded as one of the safest cities and the police of the city also received a digital police award from an Asia-Pacific competition.

Team Sociobits: After getting a taste of entrepreneurship, what led you to found JioVio and become a full-fledged entrepreneur?

Founder: So, all of this happened only on the weekends when I used to visit Madurai and I was not pursuing it full-time. Through the whole process, my sister got married and she got pregnant. During her pregnancy, the biggest challenge that she faced was that the hospital was too far, and even for regular checkups, she had to spend the whole day there.

One day my mother called me to let me know that my sister was missing her regular checkups and I was still unaware of the specifications and complications that can happen during pregnancy. When I researched what will happen if pregnant women missed their regular checkups, I found that there can be complications during the delivery. And if we identify this earlier, we can prevent their unavoidable death.

I convinced my sister that the checkup is mandatory, and that’s when she pointed out how tiring and painful it is to sit and wait in one place. Then, I visited the doctor to know why it takes so long to attend to a patient. So he explained all the parameters and the specifications about the long wait time. I asked the doctor if he got all the parameters ready, will he be able to take the consultation digitally? He said yes!

As an engineer, I quickly built a prototype and bought all the devices that measure heart rate, blood sugar, etc. where I added a small Bluetooth interface. I informed my sister how to operate it and told the doctor that he will be receiving a link that will show him all my sister’s vitals and reports. He can then proceed to consult about it. And if she needs to be taken to the doctor, I will take a token number of the hospital and immediately also book a cab with the location of the hospital. She can also skip the queue and directly jump for the consultation.

After the delivery of her child, she told me her entire experience was effortless and smooth. She pointed out that whenever we feel sick, we have a habit to check Google and naturally it gives us a lot of anxiety but because of this efficient mechanism, I felt that my doctor was always connected with me and if something is wrong my husband is also notified and similarly, my travel is also taken care of.

She pointed out that whenever we feel sick, we check Google and naturally it gives us a lot of anxiety but because of this efficient mechanism, I felt that my doctor was always connected with me and if something is wrong my husband is also notified and similarly, my travel is also taken care of.

The word spread out and my sister’s friends started requesting the device. That’s when I found out that there is a need for this device. And I had already been meeting and encouraging people to become entrepreneurs. So, I thought this is the right time to quit my job and enter the world of entrepreneurship. I started a company in Madurai and my objective: to portray to the world that my city has potential and that we can build a globally recognized company too, remained the same.

Team Sociobits: Could you tell us more about JioVio?

Founder: I started in 2016, and when I started researching, I found out that in the world, India has the highest percentage of maternal deaths. Around 800 pregnant women die because of pregnancy complications per day. Similarly, every two minutes a mother dies due to delivery complications.

I started looking for the reason and I visited the places where this number was high. Most of these places were in tribal areas, remote areas, somewhere in the mountains, or so. I started interacting with them and I met someone who told me about a woman who was pregnant with her second child and had lost her first one. I wanted to know the reason behind it and for this, I enquired the primary healthcare center. Surprisingly, the report said that the baby was successfully delivered. I became more curious due to the difference in their stories so I took a copy of it and went to their house again. They told me that they are not aware of it as the hospital is 20 km away which involves an 8km trek from the mountain to the location.

When I didn’t know whom should I believe, I went to the District Officer for two years of dateline data about how many women were pregnant, how many delivered their babies, and a few more statistics. He redirected me to the local hospital where the person who attended me manually manipulated the data in front of me and presented it to me. He/she also mentioned that the boss had instructed that if anyone from the government, WHO, UNICEF, or any NGO asked for this data, I have to follow the same procedure.

I became more curious due to the difference in their stories so I took a copy of it and went to their house again. They told me that they are not aware of it as the hospital is 20 km away which involves an 8km trek from the mountain to the location.

I got that this is not the real data and to help these people I started educating them about the same device that I gave my sister, and we started with SaveMom. It was a package in which we ensured that the mother was getting checkups available at their doorstep and we could identify mothers with high-risk pregnancies at an early stage. We also gave them assistance and consultation and hence JioVio was born. :)

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We got our initial investment from Singapore with that we started developing a commercial product and we are around five years old now, protecting and reaching more than 36000 mothers mostly from the tribal and rural communities. Our digital tool enters the vital data that it has captured and no mother misses their visit. It uses AI and IoT technologies. We also provide virtual consultation.

Team Sociobits: Since you visit women from the tribal and rural areas, who are usually not well versed with technology, how receptive are they to use the device? And how do you convince them?

Founder: This is the biggest challenge that we faced! Initially, when I approach people, they don’t even talk to me. So I came up with an idea for the community to open up. There are empty schools in these areas where kids visited but there was no teacher. I used to go and teach, show certain videos and make it interesting to show that I mean no harm to anyone and I want to do something good for the community. These kids went back to their homes and started talking to their families.

So, one of these communities head started talking to me and he understood that I am not using them to get money or have any other intentions of that sort. That’s when I got to interact with the community and understand the pain points.

Team Sociobits: We have also noticed that the wearable device has Rudraksha on it. Is there any particular reason for the same?

Founder: The initial model that we started off with was that the mother will receive a wearable device and I designed it in a way that a woman will like, so I made a gold-colored bracelet. The model starts with onboarding pregnant women on the platform along with this, an Asha worker will be onboarded with a mobile and medical device and they will visit the lady’s home every month and collect the data required for the checkup. This data will be sent to the doctor and after reviewing, the doctor will give feedback to the mother.

But then we faced another hurdle when we received the data. Some of the data suggested that a pregnant woman was walking 100,000 steps a day, and jogging, and we were wondering why is she exerting herself. We went to the home to convince the family members that she is eight months pregnant now and that she should stop doing it. That’s when we came to know that the woman didn’t have the wearable device in the first place. She said her husband told her that you don’t need a smartwatch since you are at home so give the watch to me.

Another woman who didn’t have the device complained that the bracelet looked so luxurious that if she wears it outside the house, everyone in the community will stare at her. I noticed that many people were wearing something that had a Rudraksha in it so I suggested if I could give you something similar, will they be willing to wear it? And they seemed positive about it.

Even for health workers, it is difficult to carry 6 – 7 healthcare devices and trek mountains, visiting door-to-door. It is a painful experience. So, our device is portable and comfortable for them to carry too.

Team Sociobits: When you send a report to the doctor, how long does it take for them to review and send the feedback?

Founder: After the device is synchronized and the data is collected by the Asha Worker, on day 2, we ask the doctor to go through the data and sort which woman has a chance of high-risk pregnancy and which one has low-risk pregnancy.

This has to be done within two days and on the fourth day, the worker will visit their homes again. The feedback and recommendations with some dietary instructions and ‘dos and donts’, the worker instructs a high-risk and low-risk pregnant woman separately.

Team Sociobits: Since you have been in the business world for some time now and you have also traveled to a lot of countries, what is the difference between the global startup ecosystem and the Indian?

Founder: I have noticed that the global startup ecosystem is very powerful and the investors understand what you are talking about. On the other hand, the Indian startup ecosystem is developing and improving a lot but on a global level, raising capital is actually an easier component.

There is also a difference in the mindset. A global investor understands the concept and process of building a startup and business. India is still an e-commerce-driven model, innovation is minimum. They largely build a platform that forms a connection between customers and suppliers for a product. Many healthcare startups for example can deliver medicines to your home but this is not an authentic grass-root level problem that requires an engineered solution.

Team Sociobits: You have worked in the presence of women and you are working for women. What are your thoughts on Woman Entrepreneurship?

Founder: I feel that women are super humans and in spite of what they do, they don’t get proper recognition. I want women to enter the world of entrepreneurship because they understand our community problems better. Men generally want to move out but women want to stay there and try to solve a local or a problem faced in their community. The mind of a man is apt for solving global problems but if you go back to the roots, woman entrepreneurship won’t fail.

Women are entrepreneurs in every house! So, if they choose to be entrepreneurs, it will be a boon to the community.

Mr. Senthil Kumar enlightened us with the real problem that is being faced by pregnant women. With the next step as expanding JioVio to other global communities, JioVio is set to save mothers-to-be with its end-to-end solution.

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