A 27-year-old from Mumbai's Ghatkopar, Amit Ghule, has been named in the Nationwide Awards Under 30 Inspiring Entrepreneurs-2021. His startup--Simpliforge Creations--deals with 3D concrete printing and manufacturing products spanning over the FMCG sector to niche domains such as dentistry, prosthetics, jewellery, construction, etc.
Not only this, Ghule has worked extensively during the COVID-19-induced lockdown. Raising Rs. 5,72,242 through crowdfunding, his startup donated face masks, face shields, gloves, PPE kits, etc. Simpliforge Creations, in collaboration with Roborise Technologies Pvt Ltd, developed a remote-operated COVID ward attendant 'COVAK' to reduce medical personnel infection and exposure, and also to cater to the lack of skilled medical workforce.
In a freewheeling chat with the Free Press Journal, Ghule enthusiastically spoke about his journey of getting into entrepreneurship, his thriving startup, the scope of 3D printing technology, and much more.
Here are edited excerpts from the interview:
Q. What was the feeling when you won the 'Under 30 Inspiring Entrepreneurs-2021' award? Did you ever dream of such a recognition?
Being awarded on a nation-wide level is an exciting feeling as there are several startups in our country, so many avenues, so many domains to explore. Such recognition makes you pause and look back as to where you have reached, what has happened so far, and that is a good feeling. You reflect on what you've done, get nostalgic regarding the journey you've had. I haven't yet posted about it on social media, but you know mothers being mothers, she posted it and that is how everybody got to know. Speaking about the recognition, I had imagined such awards for my startup but individually not as much. However, I am definitely glad.
Q. From your schooling to being an entrepreneur, could you tell us about your journey?
My family shifted a lot so I did not have a lot of friends. I was more inclined to read books, was more into science. I wanted to get into aeronautics and aerospace. I used to read about Kalpana Chawla, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, etc. and it shaped me a person. Later, I got into Mechanical Engineering and that is when I realised there are other avenues as well.
After leading a few committees in college, I realised that I had a knack for management as well. For a brief while, I was worried about being a "Jack of all trades, master of none". But then I came across a theory by David Epstein where he talks about "being a generalist over a specialist". It changed my perspective of looking towards myself and I began exploring anything and everything. When I was in the final year of my college, a company picked me and I got into Offshore Engineering for about two years. It was definitely one of the most enriching experiences of my life.
To put it briefly, I started as a person with academic skill sets, but later on, I explored myself in other avenues as well. Now, my day consists of reading research papers regarding the technologies I am working with, building up projections on Excel sheets, helping out employees with their issues, meeting new people, etc.
Q. How did you come across 3D printing technology and did you instantly realise its potential?
I was working on a project in Iran. My company was into offshore engineering and infrastructure, and as youngsters, we were allowed to come up with new ideas. I came across Concrete Printing and it caught my fancy. Later when I finished the project in Iran, I met a lot of people from Korea, Australia, Dubai, etc., and got a worldview regarding the same. I realised the potential of 3D printing technology while I was on ships. On ships, if you needed even a safety pin you would have to go on a 12-hour boat trip or get an expensive helicopter. So in an isolated environment, I could foresee the use of 3D printers. That is when I decided to jump ship, pun not intended, and go for my Masters. There I was exposed to a lot of people who were setting up such companies, their mentors, etc.
Q. You did not tell your parents about your startup until you made Rs. 1 lakh. Was there any specific reason? How did they react when you broke the news to them?
When you go for your Masters, any family would want you to complete the course, get a job there, and settle down. When you tell them about a startup, it sets them worrying. For me, I prefer to play things close to my chest and reveal them when I am sure. My family thought I was seeing someone when I used to stay late (laughs). But then we got an order from one of the biggest premium branding and marketing companies in India. When they placed their first order of Rs 1 lakh, I told my family about the startup. They were initially surprised but then they realised the business potential.
Q. You have worked on several interesting projects, including those with the Army and Navy. Tell us about your experience.
We have collaborated with a few industries in defence, aeronautics, and similar domains. There was a project in Madhya Pradesh. They wanted to build Asia's first military museum. They wanted us to scan 180 soldiers and create life-size figurines of each one of them. We had to recreate a helicopter and it had a rocket launcher on its side. We printed it but it was not precise. The Army General immediately pointed it out and asked us to do the entire thing again. It was an amazing experience to listen to their war stories, etc.
Q. During the COVID-19-induced lockdown, you donated face masks, face shields, gloves, PPE kits, etc. You were also instrumental in building 'COVAK'. Tell us about the experience.
It was more a company effort than a personal effort. We knew we could 3D print face shields and that is how we started. At that time, we did not think about profits. We just printed face shields and donated them in Mumbai. Dhruv Gandhi, our co-founder, physically went to different places and donated them. Later, we started printing clips for face masks, tools to have no-contact interaction with the environment. Then we started helping companies prototype and develop ventilators, ventilator masks, and so on. We came to realise that the demand was much higher as compared to the supply. So we started a fund-raising campaign. It was supported by TV actress Megha Ray, and we raised Rs. 5,72,242. People from all over the world donated to the cause.
'COVAK (Covid seVAK)' was designed to help medical personnel after we realised that there were 200-300 infected people at a centre. Unfortunately, Dhruv's grandmother passed away due to COVID-19, and he got a 360-view of the goings-on in these centres. We also spoke to a few doctors at these isolation centres. Based on all these inputs, we developed 'COVAK' in collaboration with Roborise Technologies Pvt Ltd. With the help of 'COVAK', the doctors can take seven empirical measurements including body temperature, BPM, percentage of Oxygen, etc.
Q. Simple, creative and frugal are the core principles of your startup. You also proudly speak about sustainability. Can you expand on Simpliforge Creations' mission and vision?
We keep things very simple and straightforward. We have taken almost every project that has come to us, and have completed it with a 100 per cent success rate. We have also used all sorts of 'jugaad' to successfully accomplish our tasks. On the sustainability front, 3D printing is an additive technology. You print the material only as much as you need; the idea is to have near-zero wastage. Also, all the scrap that we get, we upcycle it into art.
Q. What's next for you and Simpliforge Creations?
Currently, we are working on a project which will make our startup one of the three in India to do so. There is another project which when executed will be India's first. It was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but by the end of 2021, we will get it done (fingers crossed). I am also in touch with a few people from other countries, I am studying different markets, and we are definitely looking at expanding in the near future. It could Dubai, Malaysia, Singapore, etc. See, 3D printing technology is the future and we are just getting started.