When we hear the term virtual reality (VR), our first thought might be of a sci-fi movie or a video game. However, many people are now realising the application of immersive technology to skill people in various sectors such as healthcare and other industries to train people. With platforms such as IBCricket, which brings the popular sport to your living room, and VRDevotee, which lets you immerse yourself in devotion at any place, VR is also garnering a lot of attention in India.
Meanwhile, Senthil Sarguru and Karthik Bavanandan, both 28 years old, set up Nutpam in 2016 at Mylapore, a suburb in Chennai, which builds solutions using VR. Its product uses immersive technologies to train industrial labour, doctors and students. The team says it uses AR, VR, internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) to bring immersive experiences into the app or even into the physical world.
“We strongly believe that our strength is in content making for immersive experiences. We have been developing VR/AR content in healthcare, enterprise, education, and other immersive experiences based on the client’s requirement,” says Senthil.
Nutpam’s 25-member team has expertise in scripting, modelling as well as programming for virtual reality.
The early inspiration (and setbacks)
The founders say they were very inspired by Google and Facebook’s VR work. However, the team initially started off by offering 360-degree videography services for companies. But their common interest was VR technologies.
In 2016, when they were marketing their skills and looking for new projects, they were discovered by a client from Brazil. The project was about Human Anatomy VR training for medical students in Brazil. Hence, the trio bought their first VR hardware and began building modules, which they sold to the client in Brazil.
“For a year we were able to work on various 360 degree projects, and then we started using VR for companies,” says Senthil.
Simultaneously, they also started focusing at NGOs to deliver training and education to students using VR. Unfortunately, it did not work, and they ended up burning most of the money. Their first success came from one of the corporates, which asked the team to build a VR module to train employees to collaborate effectively.
The results were good, and this deal proved to be lucky for Nutpam and it started making profits.
It is currently focusing on medical and industrial training with VR simulators. The founders claim that their unique selling proposition is integration of VR content, and leasing of VR headsets. The company presently competes with Tesseract, a Delhi-based startup which specialises in AR experiences.
The founders say it was challenging for them to find the right talent to build the technology, create image recognition, processing the content and regenerating a real world in the virtual world.
The training product
Nutpam’s product aims to simplify the effort for its clients and builds virtual reality-driven content for training. For example, it provides simulators to people to get used to machines in a thermal power plant, and avoids the risk of training them in a live thermal station.
“This kind of simulator-based training will make a huge impact on the society because it can take risks off industrial training, and make people perfect with their skills,” says Senthil.
Similarly, in healthcare, if a trainee doctor needs to understand the different cases of polyps that grows in the gut, it can be created using virtual reality and the doctors can be trained to insert an endoscope and guided to lift tissues for biopsy.
The company also operates in industrial training, facility management training and construction. Some of its prominent clients include L&T, Uber and Swiggy. Apart from India, it has clients in the US and Brazil.
The numbers game in VR
According to the founders, Nuptam is yet to gain substantial revenues as it believes the market for virtual reality will only pick up from 2020. The company’s revenue at present is less than Rs 50 lakh, said one of the founders. “Our revenue model is a services model. For any client who wants R&D services for VR, we manage that,” says Senthil.
The company has so far raised $500,000 from an undisclosed angel investor. It aims to double its clients by 2020, and plans to increase its revenues to Rs 3 crore or more and also turn profitable in the coming years.
According to research firm Statista, the VR industry is growing at a fast pace globally. The market for virtual reality hardware and software is projected to increase from $2.2 billion in 2017, to more than $19 billion by 2020.
The world of virtual reality is filled with opportunities as it is a new area of interest for corporates to train its employees, to connect with consumers and also build immersive content. As India is brimming with ideas about changing the nature of reality itself, it is only a matter of time before people end up living their digital avatars, and less of their human self.