How a Small Indian Startup is Rethinking Automotive Safety
India has an automotive safety problem. On an average day, there are about 400 fatalities due to traffic accidents1. Over a year, this amounts to over 150,000 deaths – nearly four times the amount of the United States in 20161. Can edge-enabled technology offer a way to save drivers’ lives on the road?
BlinkEyeLabs, a growing startup based in southern India, believes they have a solution. The new company is building a computer vision-enabled, IoT device that uses deep learning at the edge. With this device, drivers could receive proactive alerts to react to dangerous driving conditions, which could create a safer driving experience.
We invited BlinkEyeLabs to take part in a three-day bootcamp at our Bengaluru campus, alongside successful startup founders, university professors, and experts from within Western Digital. Our goal was to help startups discover first-hand how to develop and launch their innovative ideas.
After the event, we sat down with Mukund Mani, Co-Founder of BlinkEyeLabs, to talk about his lessons learned and plans to transform automotive safety in India. (Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.)
Interview with Mukund Mani, Co-Founder of BlinkEyeLabs
1. Can you give us a little background on BlinkEyeLabs?
MUKUND: BlinkEyeLabs is developing a smart device to retrofit computer vision in vehicles. Our goal is to help drivers be safer on the road, while keeping the experience of driving enjoyable. This solution makes use of a computer vision based, IoT device that runs deep learning at the edge. It’s designed to be “plug-and-play” – smoothly fitting both newer and older vehicles to provide automotive safety features such as forward collision warning, alerts for distracted or sleepy drivers, and more. By using driver and vehicle data, BlinkEyeLabs aims to bring together the wider ecosystem across the transportation and logistics industries.
2. How is your team putting your business plan into action?
MUKUND: Currently, we are bootstrapped and working towards building our minimum viable product. We’ve started to build partnerships and network with the right people across various functions in transportation and logistics. Ideally, these connections will help us bring BlinkEyeLab’s product to life. At the same time, we’re focused on raising our next level of funding to accelerate the commercialization of our automotive safety product.
3. What were your biggest takeaways from the Data Innovation Bazaar and Bootcamp?
MUKUND: The Data Innovation Bazaar and Bootcamp helped us fine tune the value proposition, product benefits and delivery of our pitch. Multiple sessions from industry leaders have helped us align ourselves better to our technology and business goals. In addition, the opportunities to network with and pitch to venture capitalists gave me and my team food for thought to refine our elevator pitches and challenge ourselves for the next stage of our business.
4. Did you learn anything new about Western Digital through this process?
MUKUND: Through our experiences, we gained insights on Western Digital’s products, solutions and strategic vision.
“With this knowledge, my team was able to suggest areas of collaboration – finding ways that our solutions could leverage Western Digital’s expertise in automotive storage and compute.”
The best part was getting to know Western Digital’s leaders both from the technology and business sides and learning about the culture of a global company.
5. Why do you believe that supporting entrepreneurship and innovation in India is important?
MUKUND: Today, there are a large number of startups in India trying to realize their visions by disrupting traditional areas with emerging technologies. We are at an inflection point, where supporting entrepreneurship and innovation is an essential part of helping new companies get enough support, mentorship and financial assistance to move to the next stage of growth. Through this support, we could help accelerate overall economic growth and motivate entrepreneurs to be “change agents” – leaders who use technology to address society’s biggest challenges.
Learn More on Data Innovation in India
- Read our Data Innovation Bazaar announcement about transforming India using data innovation
- Explore our 3-day bootcamp recap of workshops, technical sessions and pitching to VCs
- 400 deaths a day are forcing India to take car safety seriously. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/400-deaths-a-day-are-forcing-india-to-take-car-safety-seriously/articleshow/62439700.cms