Aanan Khurma (age 27) from India spent three months in Brno developing a device that simplifies hospital hand hygiene in the startup accelerator StarCube. Together with his teammates he won the last month’s StarCube show. Aanan talks about his desire to address the multitude of medical challenges (not only) in his country.
How would you describe your invention to our readers?
It is a wearable device called Hansure with hand sanitizer that provides access to disinfection with one push. Health care workers can use it at any time, even when they meet a patient in a hospital corridor. It also alerts them when they come within one metre of a patient so that they remember to sanitize their hands.
You are hoping to reduce the occurrence of hospital-associated infections.
Yes. Research by the WHO and UNICEF shows that up to 70 % of these infections spread through hands of healthcare workers when they attend to a patient, get the infection on their hands and then touch another patient. In Europe, 60 000 people die due to them every year, and 4 million people worldwide.
How is it possible these infections are so common when doctors and nurses are supposed to wash their hands?
Sanitizing hands may not seem hard, but when they have to do it fifty times a day, they tend to forget or neglect it. That’s why we are trying to simplify the process for them.
How did it happen that you were developing your device in Brno?
Once our team of three evaluated the research and found a problem to solve back in India, we needed to move to the commercial phase. Speaking frankly, these things take a bit of time there. We thought it might help us to develop connections and make things move quicker if we moved abroad for a while. We started looking for accelerators and came across StarCube run by the South Moravian Innovation Centre (JIC).
What is working in an accelator like?
At the beginning, we worked from 8 am to 8 pm, it was intense but we really enjoyed it. Every week we could meet with mentors from different fields. They had great advice for us and great contacts. The structure of StarCube motivates you to accelerate your project because every week you have a presentation about what you have done in the past week and you cannot just stand there without any results. All nine teams around us made great progress so we were motivated to do better.
How did tutors in the Czech Republic help you specifically?
We got information on how to build a company, how to estimate our finance, how to make sure we are going the right direction or how to take logical decisions. Later we got together with a design team from Brno and they helped us to make a prototype of the device and a belt for it. We also totally rebranded its name and proceeded with marketing.
How many doctors and nurses would you like to get your product to?
We are targeting around 40 000 workers by next April, which is not a lot when you consider the Indian market. That is because we want to test the product thoroughly before we scale it up. We will be testing in India and in the Czech Republic at the Faculty Hospital in Bohunice. In the next financial year, we would like to sell up to 300 000 units.
Are you planning to target Hansure just at India?
We aim for both developed and developing world, but with different versions of the same product. For the developing world, it is the low-cost version for $25 per unit. The high-end version is an electronic device that costs $55.
Now you are leaving back to India to develop your company. Would you like to stay in Brno if you could?
I have to say yes and no. We are used to having many people around us and when we first got here, we felt like there were no people in the city. But as we grew to know the city we really got to like it. The public transportation is amazing and also the peace and quiet is really nice. But now it is time to take our project back to India where the device will be used and test it on actual users. Nonetheless, we are thinking about setting up an office in Brno in the future.
Last but not least, what do you think of Czech food?
It is good, it’s just that people here eat a lot of potatoes and personally I am not a big fan. Other dishes are good, though.