Vaahan- a Pondicherry based startup designing ‘Caruna’ seats for the elderly and specially-abled!

 

I recently heard from a co-worker that Caruna seats made traveling easier for his father. Looking it up on the internet, I managed to find the backstory of  Puducherry-based Vaahan which has come up with an innovation to make traveling comfortable for the aged and specially-abled. Behind this is Ashwin, a mechanical engineering graduate from Pondicherry University. Including Ashwin, a team of five has developed a minimum viable product, Caruna seatwhich fits into the vehicle smoothly and is easy to use. The seat is aligned with the Accessibility India initiative launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016.

Ashwin, who happens to be the brainchild behind this idea went to one of the most renowned automotive institutes, RWTH Aachen University in Germany, to pursue his masters. After working in the fields of passenger safety, automatic driving simulators, and vehicle crash safety, ensuring the safety of passengers through advanced engineering became his passion. Upon returning to India, Ashwin started developing products based on demand. He made a first-in-India dual-axis solar concentrator dish project for steam cooking; this was installed at IIM-Bangalore. Further, full automation of renewable energy projects were developed for IIT-Madras and IISc.

Coming from an engineering background, Ashwin Shreshta wanted to give back to society by utilizing the technical skills he had. He felt that unlike in the West, India had a long way to go when it came to easy accessibility of public spaces for the old and specially-abled. Therefore, he began researching and developed a patented technology to make the mobility of old and specially-abled easy, by starting Vaahan in 2018. Ashwin’s father, Vijay Shyam, who is old and a diabetes patient, knew the struggles of traveling long distance all too well. Hence, he joined Ashwin as a Co-founder for Vaahan.

Slowly, Ashwin came up with the idea of ‘Caruna’ swivel seats and developed them after two years of extensive study. He constantly tested the features and considered the feedback from the prospective users. Using topologically optimized lean spiderweb metal design, the automatic mechanism blends into the vehicle’s interior, making it better than a conventional vehicle seat. The seat swivels out to enable wheelchair transfer and walker transfer conveniently. Additionally, the seats have been tested internally for crash safety by Ashwin who made them with a lot of foresight. In cases where the vehicle crashes, the seat has been designed in such a way that the passenger incurs the least amount of impact, making the caruna seats all the more ideal for the cause.

Our product enables the differently-abled and the old to enter and exit easily from their own vehicles or cabs. We are on a mission to enable accessibility for such people across various segments of cars in India,” Ashwin says.

Although there are similar startups such as Kickstart in other cities, Ashwin claims that his product is different from in terms of price and adoption.

Caruna can be adopted across various vehicles- from a Maruti 800 to an SUV. It is fully automatic and is one-third the price of other similar products imported from Sweden and the UK.” Ashwin adds.

The startup has got Rs 8 lakh grant from IIM-Ahmedabad and IIM-Calcutta during the initial run. The team has received 17 orders already, which it is planning to deliver in the next couple of weeks. The startup now aims to provide similar products for other modes of transportation as well.