YourStory started Starting Up with Shradha Sharma—a live show on LinkedIn—hosted by Shradha Sharma, Founder and CEO of YourStory. The show provides a platform for early and mid-stage startups to showcase their products and ideas without the luxury of a retake or a chance to tweak their pitch.
In this weekly show, Shradha talks to founders of four to five early and mid-stage startups. Last week’s episode featured Amritagandha Dutta, Founder, and CEO of Expand AI, Shreyans Nahar, CEO and Co-founder Finsire, Khyati Bhayana, Co-Founder and Head, Research, and Development, at Medorah Meditek and Amit Bansal, Co-founder and CEO of 91 Squarefeet:
Making datasets for AI efficiency
Expand AI is a company that programmatically generates accurate labels for raw data, providing training in datasets within hours.
Upon understanding that machine learning engineers spend 70% of their time annotating data to build high-performance machine learning models, Amritagandha Dutta decided to address this bottleneck in late 2019 by starting Expand AI.
“If you don’t have high quality training, then you can’t build high performance accurate machinery models,” says Dutta, CEO of Expand AI. “I did not come from an AI background and was taking a lot of courses, when I decided to start a company in this space, which would also give me hands-on learning,” she says.
Dutta recalls having spoken to professors at the Indian Institute of Technology, pitching the idea herself. They then put her on to some of the best minds they knew, who then finally made it into the company’s existing data team.
Expand AI now envisions giving data faster to companies by reducing the turnaround time, making it accurate, so that it’s high quality and also ensuring data privacy.
As per Dutta, the company is looking to cut short the time spent on specific tasks. “If people annotated, say, 2,000 images, they would take two weeks, and we would take two days,” she says.
But the task also comes with its own set of challenges. “It’s only after a certain threshold that companies see a value in this. They wonder why they should incur the cost of completely doing away with manual systems and shifting to our software. But companies that have high volume data, definitely want to try it out,” she says.
Financial empowerment through digital assets
After building large-scale risk models for structured finance companies abroad, Shreyans Nahar earned a six-figure salary and held stocks, but couldn’t come back to get an education loan In India, because he didn’t have a house of his own.
Along with Mridul Manhas and Subramaniam Chintamani in 2021, he set out to build Finsire—a lending enablement services startup that permits taking digital assets as collateral.
“We all have assets but they don’t get accepted easily. Moving these assets from one place to another is a challenge, to begin with,” says Nahar, Co-founder and CEO of Finsire.
Setting up Finsire in India was a no-brainer, particularly because of its larger acceptance of building public infrastructure at scale.
“In India, the payment system is ahead of other countries because the government has been very appreciative of it. Finsire builds this infrastructure to collateralise and get these assets to the forefront, where you can pledge or depledge them at scale,” he says.
Once you hold the assets in these repositories or a single black box, you can do anything you want – collateralise it, take credit, use it as a down payment, or show it as your net worth.
“Infrastructure is like the middle man who helps you get your assets to the forefront, which no private company or for-profit can do at scale,” says Nahar. “Which is why, we want to have some sort of a non-profit in-house, to say that these assets that individuals hold should have the power and no other central entity out there should govern or hold them at scale.”
On building medical devices in India
After studying biomedical engineering at Drexel University, Philadelphia Khyati Bhayana returned to India and began working with the medical device company Medtronics.
Her research showed that only eight companies manufactured stents in India and that 85% of the devices were still imported when it came to cancer diagnostics and other high-end medical devices.
With her father as the managing director and one of her cousins as a business partner, she co-founded Medorah Meditek in 2016. Since then, the firm has begun manufacturing stents for the GI tract and has also come up with airway stents for cancer patients.
“When you have cancer in any part of your digestive system, the GI tract gets blocked and food does not pass through it. When these stents are implanted these passages get opened up and food passes through. It acts in palliative care for patients,” says Bhayana. “Quality-wise, we are at par or doing better than the currently existing products. But there is a price difference because we are manufacturing the products here in India.”
“It takes time to set up a medical device organisation, especially with stringent regulatory guidelines in India,” explains Bhayana, adding that it also plans to export its products. “So, our progress is slower, when compared to other countries. But last year we did very well and this year we are looking at some interesting numbers.”
Introducing AI into construction tech
Amit Bansal, Co-founder, 91Squarefeet
Four-year-old 91Squarefeet is a construction tech startup using advanced AI-driven technological systems to build new retail stores and maintain existing ones without an in-house projects team.
“Think of us like a contractor who will get the job done for you,” said Amit Bansal, Co-Founder & CEO – 99Squarefeet. “A brand who wants to build a retail store comes to us; they identify the location they want; we have in-house architectural students take the brand brief, understand the products, design and the whole retail identity. And we execute the entire retail store,” he explains.
To build a retail store, brands typically work with almost eight to 20 different categories of suppliers—right from civil work to procurement teams and project management. 91Squarefeet takes up these processes and can get a store up and running in half the time it conventionally does. “We have a mechanism in place through which all stakeholders know how the progress is and when they need to come in. That kills a lot of inefficiencies existing in the system.”
91Squarefeet has so far built 1100 stores and is currently building two stores a day for more than 40 brands building for 40 brands across sectors.