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Founder and CEO, TerraBlue XT
Necessity is truly the mother of invention, especially in the case of Rajlakshmi Borthakur. An IT engineer by profession, Borthakur decided to become a self-taught expert on neurology to understand her son’s epilepsy. Years of research and desperation led her to set up Bengaluru-based TerraBlue XT in 2016. “Soon after my son was born in 2011, I started reading papers, journals and medical books on neurology. With some knowledge on how the brain works, and my fair understanding in electronics, I came up with a concept of the device and then hired a fresher to help create a prototype,” says the first generation entrepreneur.
The biomedical wearable ring called TJay, which is yet to be launched commercially, is embedded with sensors, and can predict epilepsy attacks through the patient’s blood pressure and pulse rate. Signals are transmitted in real time for doctors to take the right decisions.
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“I submitted my work for the Innovate for Digital India Challenge in 2016 and it was among the top three out of 1,900 startups,” says Borthakur, who was a winner of the Women Transforming India Awards in 2017, presented by NITI Aayog, in partnership with MyGov and the United Nations.
The company received funding from the Biotechnology Ignition Grant from the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council, Karnataka government’s Idea2PoC Grant, angel investors, as well as Centre For Innovation Incubation & Entrepreneurship (CIIE) of IIM Ahmedabad, and Nedfi Venture Capital Limited. Vipul Patel, vice president, investments, CIIE, says, “The space and problem Rajlakshmi and team were solving was something that made us back the team and her venture. Very few people were at the time attempting to cater to early detection of epilepsy.”
But, like most entrepreneurs, she has had her share of ups and downs. “In the past three years, I’ve spent a lot of time away from family and put all my money into this company. There have been times when I’ve not had money to pay salaries, a lot of my employees threatened me… it was unimaginable mental trauma. But I wanted to keep the company alive, even if it was a one-woman company,” Borthakur recounts. “Investors have told me I’m not CEO material and that I am too inexperienced for a global project. One of them said, he will only provide funding if I am replaced.”
Borthakur proudly calls her son ‘a catalyst for change’, but credits her success to her daughter Dibyalakshmi, mother Junu Medhi and mother-in-law Minoti Borthakur. “My 17-year-old daughter has stopped going to college, to support me and look after her brother, which is a huge sacrifice. And my mother-in-law has been a huge support, taking care of my children while I am constantly travelling.”
Borathakur and her team are now working on another connected wearable device called Xaant. It will measure one’s physical and mental health to be able to identify an individual’s calmness levels.
(This story appears in the 15 March, 2019 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)