Nimaya Robotics, a company which enhances psychomotor and cognitive skills of children with autism and other multiple disabilities, using robotics-based therapy, won the title of most innovative and scalable social impact startup from Berkeley Executive Program in Management. With a strong goal of ensuring independent living for these children, the team is aiming to reach out to 1000 kids in the next two years.
For Dr. Ramya S. Moorthy, starting Nimaya Robotics, a company that makes products for children with autism, was not a planned journey. “I never had any personal experience with children with autism or any other disabilities,” recalls Ramya, a pioneer in the application of robotics in teaching psychomotor skills to children with Autism. However, as she finished her M.Tech (Robotics) and was looking out for opportunities, she kept running into people from various walks of life connected with autism. She eventually pursued PhD and found that her guide was also specialising in autism. And she spent the next five years pursing ground breaking innovative research in robotics applied to autism therapy. As her work progressed, she understood that there was a gap in research and development in the field of psychomotor and cognitive skills. Hence, she designed and developed six robotics based training devices to help children learn these skills.
Nimaya Robotics is an outcome of her five years of research. She, along with her father, S A Srinivasa Moorthy and her aunt, Subashree Krishnan, set up Nimaya in 2018. Both of her co-founders bring invaluable industry experience and business acumen. Their combined expertise and passion to create social impact at scale fuels the company.
The companytrains children with autism and other disabilities to enhance their psychomotor and cognitive skills. “Children with ASD have problems in communication, social interaction and behavioural issue apart from psychomotor skills,” says Ramya. The six devices that she developed can train children on more than 25 different psychomotor skills and daily life activities.
The company is currently bootstrapped during its first year as it’s a research based product and the team wants to ensure a proper functioning model before raising funds. What has motivated the team is the being adjudged as one of most innovative and scalable social impact start-up from Berkeley Executive Program in Management (BEPM), amongst a participation of 50 companies, which Subashree Krishnan completed in 2018.
“Nimaya means to create a change. We are passionate about changing lives of children around the world to progress them towards a better living.”
Story so far
Incorporated in September 2018, Nimaya is currently in the manufacturing stage. Nimaya launched its products with a school in Bengaluru. Based on the observations at the school, Nimaya is currently developing IoT based version 2 of the products. While it currently has 6 devices, it is looking to increasing products offered to 13 and each of these devices will be used to train different set of daily life activities and associated psychomotor skills. The design goal of all of these devices is to compliment the occupational therapists and special educators, making it easier for them to impart training.
As cloud monitored IoT system, these devices have separate trainer user interface unit developed for therapists. “We have an exclusive training and evaluation process with trial sheets and a separate interface for therapists to enter their data (outcome of trials),” says Ramya. The company’s devices reduce the time taken to train to 3 to 4 weeks, from the regular manual 6 to 8 months.
Not without Challenges
As it is a regular therapy process, it is simple to use for the therapists. Of course, some amount of training is required to use Nimaya system. However, what is difficult is the manufacturing side of it. “We need to build the ecosystem, right from engineering and designing till the final production. This apart, supply chain is a challenge,” shares Ramya. While it is a new idea, what has helped Nimaya is the five years of research done by Ramya in this field. She has already worked with more than 55 children as a part of her PhD. Hence, she doesn’t believe that acceptance will be an issue. “People are open minded to try new assistive technologies. Moreover, we are clear about not taking the human out of equation and do not believe in screen time for kids,” she adds. These are physical devices and the Nimaya team works on an active learning process.
Go-to market strategy
As far as taking it to the users goes, being a part of exhibitions gives the company necessary exposure. The company is also talking to Government Organisations, health institutions and NGOs who have shown interest and would like to take it forward. “If all goes well, we will sign MOU and have training based lab in institutes,” shares Ramya. The company also reaches out to occupational therapists in individual institutions, special schools and parents. One important feature of these devices is that not only can they be used to train children with multiple disabilities, but can also be used to evaluate and assess them. “With the increasing amount of screen time, and tabs, doctors are suggesting to use these devices to assess those kids to see if they lack in any psychomotor skills,” shares Ramya.
Where to from here?
“Once the child has learnt the skills, the device may be redundant. And hence, we predominantly work on a subscription based model so there is no heavy expense on the users,” shares she.
The company will be first spreading its base inTamil Nadu and Karnataka and then look at expanding to other cities. Nimaya will work with schools, social organisations, health institutions, schools, therapists and private clinics. It also aims to expand its team size going forward as they scale their business. “Our goal is to reach 1000 children in the next two years,” says Ramya, on a concluding note.
Founders:Dr. Ramya S. Moorthy,Subashree Krishnan,and S A Srinivasa Moorthy.
Profile:Nimaya uses robotics for psychomotor and cognitive skills training for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other multiple disabilities. It is an outcome of 5 years of research with clinical trials with 55 children. It engages in an Active Learning process and has proven 60 per cent acceleration in skill acquisition.