Ishana Shekhawat | A Start up in Penn Uni, USA

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Ishana Shekhawat, a Mechanical Engineering Graduate of the 2015 batch, is a budding entrepreneur and Penn State Mechanical Engineering graduate student. She was the recipient of the Summer Founders Program Award which has helped her in developing her product, PlayPhysio, a breath-controlled video game to ensure exercise and improve lung health.

The Board of Student Publications, IIT Delhi comes up with an exclusive narrative from Ishana herself, talking about her journey from IITD to PSU to entrepreneurship.

“I was always drawn towards entrepreneurship, since I don’t believe in wealth following a zero-sum rule, and believed that progress in a lot of spheres could be achieved by creating more work opportunities. I am constantly on the lookout for ideas and PlayPhysio’s concept is something that struck with me as meaningful as well as feasible at the time. The technical projects that I had been working on in my junior and senior years at IIT, related to vehicles and robots, got me motivated to pursue control theory further, and that was why I wanted to do an MS.

IIT Delhi has played an immense role in shaping me over the years not just in terms of how I define what problems to address and how to approach them, but also in my holistic development as an individual. It was a delight to work with motivated and brilliant people with varied interests as part of student societies and projects. My experience with Enactus IITD over 3 years of undergrad was crucial in building the foundation for entrepreneurship. The faculty were very supportive of students exploring new ideas and it is purely because of the support I received from them, that I could dabble in quite a lot of areas. One course that stood out for me was Inclusive Innovation (HUL714). The environment at IITD and PSU are similar in many ways, in terms of encouragement for new ideas. I feel that PSU has more system based methods in place for providing help where it is needed . The IITD community felt more close knit and personal, possibly due to the size of the two organizations. Such interpersonal interactions at IITD were key to the growth of ideas and development of students. All these factors contributed a lot in the launch of PlayPhysio.

PlayPhysio is video game to increase patient compliance and engagement while performing lung physiotherapy exercises and to increase their effectiveness. The product gamifies the use of incentive spirometers which are used for post-operative rehabilitation. We used initial prototypes to get feedback from the target group and stakeholders for design of gameplay. The product is still in developmental stage. This idea struck me when I was visiting the AIIMS trauma center in Delhi. I was participating in the Stanford-India Biodesign Workshop organized collaboratively by IITD and AIIMS. One of the initial activities was clinical immersion at the AIIMS trauma center. Our team had to observe the tasks, doctors and patients and make note of everything. This was when I learnt about the boredom with lung physiotherapy. We then had to define a need statement for whatever we felt could be improved and then pick one on the basis of factors like feasibility, impact etc. This was one of the ideas that had impressed upon me. Even though we did not choose it as one of the final problems that we presented, I pursued the idea later and refined it further.

The biggest challenge I faced was anticipating how long a task would take. It is very difficult to plan ahead since things usually do not go according to plan and I had to learn to adapt quick. Another challenge specific to my case was balancing my graduate studies and working on PlayPhysio, I have had to break the flow numerous times due to academic deadlines, exams etc. This was something that I had anticipated and had set reasonable expectations about the pace and had structured my work accordingly. A highly valuable piece of advice I got was to build a minimum viable product and get it out to the users as quick as possible instead of trying to perfect the first version. Feedback from these versions would help a lot in deciding what the users care about, what to change about the product and whether to pivot and this greatly helped me in overcoming these challenges and bringing my product to the market.

I would strongly advise every student at IITD not to become passive and spend time on non-value adding activities. If you focus on building the basic version (MVP) and getting it out to the people, it is easier to have a clear goal in mind.

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