The three-year-old bootstrapped startup, originally a consultant called Etrix, finds the market more favorable for its goods in Europe
The invention of a Bengaluru company helped to deal with it at the height of the Covid-19 outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus originated. After two and a half months of a lockout, Wuhan will be coming out of quarantine on April 8, with new infections dropping to zero. As a Chinese official said to Bloomberg in February, “It’s like fighting a war.
Some of the steps Wuhan took was to set up on a war footing emergency medical centres. Ventilators were critical and many were from Huber & Ranner, a German manufacturer. The problem was that technicians had been unable to go to Wuhan to help mount them. That is where BlinkIn, based in Bengaluru’s Nasscom CoE, came into the scene.
To provide visual feedback from Pocking in Germany, Huber & Ranner used BlinkIn’s AR (augmented reality) app Scotty. Staff at the Wuhan hospital simply had to click on a button to get tech help. While pointing a phone at the ventilator and installation point, AR markers helped determine what to do as a technician talked to them about the process.
“WebGL lets you access the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) of a cell phone to run algorithms for computer vision. That is how we offer AR interactions through the Web rather than a smartphone device, “explains BlinkIn’s CEO and co-founder, Harshwardhan Kumar.
The concept behind a lightweight app like Scotty is to have only enough AR for tech support “to get the job done then and there.” Unlike a full-fledged AR app, this involves limited computing resources and will entail heavy downloading and finding out how to use it.
“Our strategy differentiates us from other businesses who are stuck in a showcase trip to create cool AR / VR experiences that are rarely rolled out. We’re really trying to understand a issue and create value for a customer, “says Josef Seuss, the German co-founder and MD of BlinkIn.
“What I do on a daily basis is create communication between us and our customers,” adds Reinhard Kurz, who is overseeing business development for BlinkIn. One difficulty, for example, was making a live video call when connectivity was poor. “We came up with an instant picture chat solution.”
Seuss was a digital transformation consultant to companies in Germany when he first linked to Kumar in order to do a project for one of his clients. Later, when BlinkIn was at last year’s iCreate accelerator programme in Ahmedabad, Kumar told him they were developing a smart visual bot.
He saw much interest in the drug when Seuss started asking around in Germany. He ended up moving to Ahmedabad to participate and becoming a co-founder of the BlinkIn founders in the accelerator programme.
Although Scotty opens doors to businesses with easy-to-use AR, BlinkIn’s deep-tech tool is the AI-powered visual bot Houston. Imagine an automated call to video conferencing that is getting smarter as it progresses. Houston can be deployed in multiple scenarios.
One of the early users is the German automotive association Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club (ADAC). The bot will help a consumer do an oil-level inspection in his vehicle, fit a child’s safety seat, and so on. “We will be doing a broader pilot around Europe with an automotive business,” Seuss says.
An Indo-German startup is taking advantage of the best of both worlds. AI and AR talent in Germany are limited and costly so the engineering side is in Bengaluru. And Europe is the main target market where Seuss and his team will directly communicate with potential customers.
CONNECTION DE GERMAN
After the Ahmedabad programme, the Indian creators of BlinkIn — Harshwardhan Kumar, Nitin Kumar, and Dhiraj Choudhary — went with Seuss to join an acceleration program for insurtech in Germany. They linked there with insurance firm VKB, which now runs a pilot to see if a visual bot can enhance the process of claims and reduce the time taken.
The three-year-old bootstrapped startup, originally a consultancy called Etrix, found the market to be more favourable for its goods in Europe. “We reached out earlier to companies in India that are eager to take our goods forward.
We have reached out to investors willing to invest in us. Yet after having a taste of the German environment, we had to rethink what we could lose in equity by raising funds in India or entering into agreements with Indian customers, “Choudhary says.
“We learned from day one to work remotely and to trust each other in both India and Germany,” Seuss adds. “We don’t have to sit next to each other all the time.”