Ambar Srivastava is a dual degree graduate in Biochemical Engineering and Biotechnology from IIT Delhi (year -2008). Ambar developed a mobile phone-sized haemoglobin meter dubbed the TrueHb Hemometer for which he received MIT’s TR35 award for top innovators under 35.
He is the founder and Managing Director at Wrigs Nanosystems Pvt, which is India’s first bioelectronics and medtech based startup. Ambar gladly agreed to share his entrepreneurial journey and advices.
Tell us a little about your college days and what shaped you into what you are today.
I was a playful boy during my college days. I would get involved in almost all kinds of extracurricular activities, apart from academics. In second year, I fell in love with a particular area called bioelectronics and I kept pursuing it. So, I suppose a constant focus on one technical area actually helped me later to take the call for my career path.
How did the idea of haemoglobin meter occur to you and what motivated you to commercialize it ?
People usually don't take their bachelor/master’s project seriously but in my case I took it very seriously and strategically. I had explored about biotechnology quite a bit. After fourth year, when I had to pick up my Master’s project, I chose a project which had the scope of building a company. That is where it all started. All of my summer internships were also in the same area - medical diagnostics, biosensors, etc.
I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is the coolest career option to choose. Any smart guy would want to create his identity. Entrepreneurship is one short way of doing that, if you end up being successful. Entrepreneurship is naturally the most impactful and most satisfying career option. However, to pursue that, one needs a lot to start with. First thing that you need is a sense of self confidence in whatever you do, which I gained from my tech exposures during IIT years, during my Master's project, etc. These gave me the confidence of building a product. Coupled with my love for entrepreneurship, I picked the product and commercialized it .
As an entrepreneur, what difficulties did you face and what kept you going then ? Any tip for the budding entrepreneurs of IITD.
I faced all these kinds of difficulties in the form of fundraising, finding the right partner, building the product and settling a lot of things which you’re not aware of initially. Also, since my family has no history of business as a profession, I didn't understand the nuances of it like legal constraints, HR, finance, accounting etc. Unfortunately or fortunately, I had to learn these the hard way. But it is these difficulties that make you stronger and are very important in shaping any entrepreneur.
Every student in IITD should pursue academics objectively, be it lecture or coursework. Every lecture that you go through, has an immense amount of commercial potential in some manner or the other. You just have to sit in every class as a businessman and find out that magical opportunity. I am sure in four years, you’ll have at least twenty ideas if not more, to build your own business. It's important to realise that no existing technology is perfect. Everything can be disrupted, and everything can be made better. Any technology which is globally superior than the existing one can give you a good amount of success.
How do you envision the biomedical industry in India few years later ?
India is not going to change much. We are the only ones who are doing some work in this field. Although we are on the way of becoming a global company as we are setting up an R&D centre at Germany, we will always carry our Indian identity with us. So, whatever we do will be counted on the Indian forefront but a lot still needs to be done in the biomedical sector. Technology today is all about building superior products, more user friendly and light on time. Pharmaceuticals, implants, devices, diagnosis, prognosis, cure - everything in healthcare can be done in a better way if we have a more efficient technology. Many new support centres and facilities have come up for budding entrepreneurs to capitalise on this growing trend. It just requires breaking the intertia with substantial ability and confidence in the idea one is pursuing. When I started back in 2010, I had confidence in my work but things were not that conducive for me. Perhaps with some more success stories like ours, it will be a bit easier for the next generation of entrepreneurs in this area.
Was biotechnology always your preferred branch or was it just a matter of chance ?
It was my All India Rank which made me take up Biotech. It was a blessing in disguise for me. I was more curious about electronics and material sciences and so I pursued courses in physics, electronics, mechanical engineering and even courses offered by the school of management and the humanities department. All of them helped me develop a better personality and more importantly, were instrumental in giving me a better perspective of how an interdisciplinary field looks like.
Could you share any crazy experience during your stay in IITD.
There were quite a few, but there are too crazy to be shared. Let people have their own crazy stories, I guess!
The last one. A message for your juniors?
Don't sit like a student. Sit like a businessman and keep scavenging for opportunities. Keep digging and you’ll definitely find something for yourself. That's all you need to ignite your success story, the rest will follow!