An innovator, entrepreneur, speaker and co-founder of a company at 24, Susant Pattnaik’s achievements count more than his age does. Hailing from Bhubaneswar, this wonder kid has gone a long way to become a social tech entrepreneur with more than 15 innovations and six patents to his name with three among them running successfully in the market.
Co-founder and MD at InThinks, a next generation technology company, he is working to realise his vision of reaching more than 50 million users in the next five years by creating a socio-revolutionary impact with its products.
Add to it, he humbly claims to be a speaker by accident after having spoken at about 60 seminars worldwide in the last two years.
Currently, he is into developing an artificial intelligence system or virtual secretary module called ‘Miraculous’ – similar to ‘Jarvis’ of the Iron man series- that could revolutionise the working techniques for corporate as well as personal users.
Excerpts from an interview
You were pretty creative for a high school student. So were you always naturally innovative?
Yes, I always had an innovative spirit. I grew up in Bhubaneswar, living with my parents. My childhood used to be pretty boring. Meanwhile my restlessness to make life interesting led me to research on technology. So while kids my age would be marvelling at the functioning of new gadgets like a phone, TV, laptop, computer or a remote control car, I would already be at work dismantling it and then trying to fix them back. Though most of the times, I would fail in successfully mending them, I gradually learnt from practical experiments. This sparked my dream and passion to invent new technology for the world to see.
How did you come up with your first innovation? Was it a culmination of any real life experience?
My first innovation has been the Breath Sensor Apparatus, recently being called as the Enabler. It is a physical assistive device for the disabled that operates via sniffing commands that enables the disabled to do their day-to-day activities independently, from operating their wheel chair to other electrical appliances. It is like a boon for the physically disabled.
It turned out to be a successful innovation that I designed while studying in 10th Standard. I had once accompanied my father to the doctor for one of his regular health checkups. There I was moved by the sight of a disabled person completely dependent on a nurse to assist him in his daily activities. He had lost his vocal power and was not able to speak. The nurse could barely understand his gestures. That provoked me to design an apparatus that would help people like him overcome such difficulties. Since breathing is a common phenomenon between the normal and the disabled people, I started to work around it and came up with the product, Enabler.
How was your journey from being an innovator to an entrepreneur?
During growing years, I started my journey as an inventor, inspired to solve problems of day-to-day life. Many of the innovations were successful and I have been a recipient of the President’s award quite a few times besides many others. But it was in 2012 that I realised that any amount of innovation isn’t good enough if it doesn’t benefit the society. That is how I extended my vision to be an entrepreneur and started to form a team with my co-founder. We began a start-up in Bhopal which was all about making our innovations reach our target customers by creating a socio-revolutionary impact. We officially incorporated our start-up as ‘Intuitive Scientific Research & Evolutions Pvt. Ltd.’ under the brand name ‘InThinks’. Though initially we managed funds from our previous earnings, we are better off now attracting investments and trying to take the start up to the next level.
As of now we have finalised our vision to reach 50 million users globally in the next five years through our innovative products.
What are the products that your company has launched?
With the help of a talented and experienced team, our company now has three in-house products- namely Enabler, She Watch & Miraculous which we will be soon launched in the market by the end of this calendar year. These products are in pilot testing phase now.
What thought usually goes behind your products?
My innovations and products are always based on the thought of using technology to make life convenient along with doing something good for the society.
Share with us the challenges that you faced playing both the roles.
Although it goes unsaid that investment and finance pose as the biggest challenge for any start-up, I believe the real challenge I faced in building InThinks was in creating the ground that will attract investment. More than the product, it has to be the capability of the team building it.
Products may fail but if the passion of the team is consistent and dedicated with a varied background, the vision will be turned into products. That is what the investors look for.
When you come up with an idea, what instinct tells you if it could be a winning idea?
Gut feeling backed with research and information is a huge factor but there is a particular logic that guides an idea. The simplicity of usability of an innovation or a product is what makes an idea a potential winner. It could be such that the mass can be easily acquainted with the product.
And what is generally the process of getting the idea to the ground?
Let’s say we have an idea and want it to benefit the people. First, we need to develop a sound knowledge of the market using as many different channels including social media to find out the scope for it. We then work on how our products will be different and improve people’s lives compared to other existing ones.
We also have to make sure our product would adapt to the culture and context of the target customers. The She Watch, for example, is an anti-rape wearable gadget that can be worn by the modern women as a trendy looking watch while also ensuring their personal safety in case of a rape attack.
Next in the strategy would be to put in all the passion and energy to keep it going till the final product materialises.
If you had to pick one of your innovations that you would want to keep working on, which one would it be?
Definitely, it would be Miraculous- the artificial intelligence system that I am currently working on. I’m sure this is something that will create a revolution in our lives.
Do you feel that internet is leveling the platform for young entrepreneurs especially when funds are the primary setbacks for a start up?
Compared to earlier there are many platforms for budding entrepreneurs to display their products. Internet does play a great role in that.
It can be said that internet is a great impetus providing young entrepreneurs (even those languishing in remote areas) with access to an incredible amount of information including from social media and a great source of innovation and entrepreneurial opportunities at the same time. It can be effectively used to have a sound knowledge of market and can push the business a long way.
Having become remarkably successful at this young age, who do you seek mentorship from?
Many of my innovations have clicked but I never believe I know better than others. I have been fortunate in having some wonderful mentors. One of them is Asha Jadeja, a founding member of Google.com and also our advisory board member. She has invested in more than 80 ventures worldwide. I look up to her for both guidance and inspiration.
What do you want to see in our next generation of entrepreneurs and how can you help them?
There will always be challenges at every step for an entrepreneur. One should never let failure dissuade you from going after what you believe in. Success comes from consistently working at it with passion and a ‘never-say-quit’ attitude.
Do you have any particular experience where you have emerged from your failure?
Yes all the time. From failure, I learn what not to do the next time. Both in innovation and business, we have to continually make alterations.
For instance, while making of the She Watch, we faced the biggest challenge in creating a power source for it that will produce tremendous heat in times of an attack. The watch was almost ready for the market when we realised this drawback where the temperature had to rise to almost 180- 200 degree Celsius within a span of 2-3 seconds with a really small battery. After several failed experimentations, we combined the capacitor and battery to create ‘capattery’ that could achieve this feat. This again became one-of-its-kind innovation around the entire globe.
How do you help aspiring innovators to come up with their inventions?
As the Co-Founder & Director at InThinks Foundation, we try to provide support and platforms to the grassroots innovators and entrepreneurs globally. We allow young researchers and inventors come and try out equipments and technological apparatuses on off days at our InThinks Fab Lab at Bhopal.
I want those under privileged yet bright minds to come up with their creations that can bring about a revolution.
What is your inspiration behind giving inspirational talks?
It has to be my vision and my own journey.