I would love to first share the journey, in brief, and then answer the most common queries that people have asked me, towards the end of this blog post.
To, start with, the company was registered officially on 9th November 2018, as a private limited company, in Kerala. I joined the company in Jan 2019, hoping that I would launch a few quick production run projects and pursue higher studies in a few months. As expected as it was, things didn’t go as planned. Our initial designs were not stable, and when they were, we found it difficult to source the components. Since the components were sourced in small quantities, preserving the cash flow, the price was quite high, with high lead times. We struggled to get hands on components which we needed for first few months, and the projects dragged on.
After a few months, our boards were good as we started assembling it ourselves, without relying on third party service providers, who were expensive, with massive shipment delays. There were standard items, such as the ICs and resistors which are manufactured for all, and are bought by us, and there are customized items as well. We procured such customized items from local manufacturers, since we wanted to save time and money in the first few runs. Now, these customized items were not up to our design expectations, or as promised by the vendor. This rendered our designs useless in extreme conditions, though they were working under normal conditions.
We learnt that, it was quite easy to customize our design to use the things that are already available in market, than to make customized packets as these are expensive. The vendors are usually reluctant to give out small quantities as well. We designed RDTwo, the MicroUPS, in June 2019. The designs were complete. We did a few test boards, and those were good. We wanted to be a bootstrap startup than absorbing the capital to expand. So, we planned for scaling from 25 pieces to 100 pieces and then to 1000 pieces.
Component costs were high, injection moulding way too expensive, and the assembly houses reluctant. After a few months of work, where we bought our own 3D printer and printed almost 100 pieces, and sanded down all the marks from pieces with hours of work, we knew this was not going to work out. The cost was way too less, the investment in terms of cash, even less compared to normal scaling, but the work that we had to do for this, was way too high. We also understood that, though we were able to manufacture about 100 pieces a week, this was way too low for production.
We moved to injection moulding and 1000 pieces production by December 2019. Things went as planned, until the Covid-19 hit. We had planned to launch the product by March end 2020. Our consignments were stuck in major cities as the country was locked down. Without much raw materials available, the work didn’t progress much. Even after the lock being relaxed, logistics didn’t resume though the government had permitted. We took consignments from major cities where the courier offices were filled with undelivered items for months.
And then, we slowly launched on 13th June, 2020, in for a level 2 of the startup.
Moving towards the most common questions that we are being asked.
Do we manufacture in India?
Yes. We import the main components from US/Singapore. Rest all works are within the country. Since we don’t have sufficient investment to get ourselves a PCB assembly unit, we give them to third party service providers in Kerala. We assemble the product ourselves, each part, including the stickers on the boxes.
Was this designed in-house?
Yes, all designs were done by us. Though the mould designs for our case was done by a third party vendor.
How much time have you invested?
A lot of time, energy, money and relations.
Which do you think is the most difficult part as of now?
Ramping into production for the first time, without proper experience.
Were you helped by people?
Yes, a lot! Friends, family and people whom I have never met or talked to before.
Is there a lot of pressure?
More questions will be added as they are asked.
Thank you for reading!