Technology has the tremendous potential to bring people together and keep them in contact. Touchkin founded by Jo Aggarwal and Ramakant Vempati is a Bangalore based healthcare technology startup that uses mobile-based social sensing to enable proactive personalised care – bringing help to those who need it, from care experts or families. Established in 2015, the platform collects usage and activity data from mobile phones and its sensors, and its proprietary predictive analytics engine uses big data techniques to identify patterns of normal activity and any uncharacteristic deviations from this pattern. We chat with the founders about the venture. An excerpt from the interview:
What made you start your venture, Touchkin?
We had already left the corporate world to join the founding team of a tech-based social enterprise a few years ago. Living away from family, we realized that remote care giving is a huge global challenge, not just in India but abroad as well. We wanted a world where you could Google how your loved ones are, and be there for them virtually and practically. We decided to solve this problem. As we come from a tech background, we wanted to explore an opportunity in the cutting edge technology in the forefront but very consumer oriented and that can potentially save lives. And that’s how we came up with the idea of Touchkin. As we developed the predictive engine to use data from the mobile phone to check how someone is, and people started detecting health issues using we realised there are many applications of this in a medical domain, especially around chronic conditions and mental health. This gave us a path to monetisation of our technology.
What has been the key to your business’s success?
It may be early to call our business a success, I think we have seen early promise but have also learnt a great deal on the way. What has worked for us is focusing on the purpose and being honest with ourselves and our investors about what is working and what is not. That way we were able to change strategies when needed without losing credibility. We had a few founding principles which have stood us well. We want our users to feel cared for, not monitored. We want to get help to them without needing to actively engage with our products. As an organisation, we want to create dream jobs for extraordinary people who are super talented and want to use their skills to save lives.
What are the major challenges in your line of business and how did/do you overcome them?
In Mobile technology and Data Science, it is really hard to hire good people for a startup – we needed people who are at the top end, but why would they leave their jobs and work with us? So until we got our seed funding, we had people come in as part-time CTO etc, co-located with a tech company Mantra Labs who were able to provide us the senior team and help us hire. Similarly, we got our investors and advisors to help lend us credibility with data scientists.
Do you have a mentor who guides/advices you on matters of the business?
Most of our angel investors are founders themselves, and we use them as mentors and guides in areas from product development or fund raising to industry linkages. We have both run companies for large corporations in India and internationally, but as first time entrepreneurs we seek guidance from friends and advisors who have walked this journey before. For example, one of our investors told us to make sure we had someone who we both respected who was like a coach, focusing only on why we setup the business, asking us whether in chasing the market or funding we were still doing what we set out to do. At Touchkin, we did that, and this helped us tremendously, otherwise in hearing so many different opinions from VCs and experts, facings the highs and lows of product market fit, it’s easy to forget what your original belief was, why you set the company up.
Have you benefitted from the use of any specific technology for your regular operations?
Well, we are an agile team, so everything happens on Jira and Github for tech teams and Trello for non-tech. Each of us has clarity on the next month’s product roadmap and works in weekly sprints. This has really helped keep momentum even as project direction changes.
What strategy do you follow for Customer Satisfaction & Expansion?
Touchkin’s growth has largely been word-of-mouth, so customer satisfaction plays a large role for us. On the consumer side, actively seek success stories from our customers and share these within the community to help people see how they can also care for loved ones using the StayClose app. On the business side, we build the product in consultation with the medical fraternity who provides the use cases that will help them the most, and as they see the power of the technology they become our biggest ambassadors.
What, according to you, are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
All the skills to be a successful professional, with an extralarge dose of Resilience, Self-belief, Clarity of purpose. Visit their website: http://www.touchkin.com/ Like them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stayclosefamily/?fref=ts