LeChal started off with the idea of building a footwear product based on haptic technology for the visually impaired. Overtime, they changed their model. Read on…
“Today, an advanced smartphone is more powerful than the world’s most powerful supercomputer which was developed 25 years ago. If this is the case, imagine what will happen to technology in the years to come,” deliberates Krispian Lawrence, the co-founder of Secunderabad-based Ducere Technologies, a company which operates in the haptic technology space (uses sense of touch or simple vibrations to communicate with the human body). He draws this analogy to showcase the potential that wearable technology, more specifically, haptic technology holds; a space in which he and his co-founder Anirudh Sharma have developed their trademark brand, LeChal. “In today’s technology, most of the feedback is either through audio or visual communication. However, given the pace at which technology is evolving, we are not far from making the technology-human connection more personal,” he opines.
WE BELIEVE THAT THREE YEARS FROM NOW, INDIA WILL BE ONE OF THE LARGEST MARKETS FOR WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY. IT WILL WITNESS A SIMILAR GROWTH AS THE SMARTPHONE MARKET DID.
LeChal (meaning ‘Take me Along’ in Hindi) has built two products under the insole and footwear category. Both have similar features wherein they use simple vibrations or a sense of touch to communicate with the human body. While the products were initially developed to aid the visually challenged, the founders realised that the various features and sensors built into the product could make it useful for others too. “Imagine travelling to any corner of the world and not having to switch on your GPS to search for routes or navigate around the place. I did just that during my recent visit to Australia,” shares Sharma. LeChal’s insole and footwear, uses Bluetooth technology connected to the user’s smart phone. Using simple voice commands or foot movements, the wearer can use it as a navigation tool or to track fitness activity.
Talking about the Indian scenario, Lawrence is of the opinion that though India takes its time to step on to the technology bandwagon, once it does, the potential to grow is significant. Drawing another analogy, he compares the adoption of wearable devices to smartphone penetration in the country. “We believe that three years from now, India will be one of the largest markets for wearable technology. It will witness a similar growth as the smartphone market did,” he says.
Priced at US $100 for in-sole and US $ 149 for the footwear, the products currently have a pre-order of 40,000 units globally. “Though a large share of our pre-orders are from outside India, we believe that as volumes go up, the prices will come down and the demand within the country will rise. Until then, we are targeting these products at a niche target audience which can afford to spend on a quality product,” he says.
While at the early stage, the founders pooled in their own money to roll out the idea, they raised an undisclosed amount of angel funding from U.S. based investors in 2014. The funds, Lawrence shares, were primarily channelised towards creating higher volumes and marketing the products. Going forward, the founders plan to focus on the U.S., the U.K., Western Europe, Middle East and India, and make the products available in brick and mortar stores and on ecommerce sites in these regions. Additionally, Lawrence claims that the company has partnered with an international sporting brand to launch a co-branded product which is due to hit the stores next year. “We are positioning LeChal as the future of fashion, wherein our differentiator lies in selling comfortable and stylish footwear to every individual,” he says. And as a part of the LeChal initiative, with every sale to a customer, the cost for its visually challenged customers will be subsidised. “We are implementing this initiative in partnership with the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute at Hyderabad. We will be looking at binding more such partnerships in future,” states Sharma on a parting note.