Vidhan Bhaiya, a student pursuing chemical engineering in the US, will graduate in May 2020. But he has already taken a plunge into business – with a venture to serve diabetics in the country.
The third-year University Scholar at Northeastern University (NEU) is confident his new venture, will leverage the experience of his family’s leather business as the product will be functionally relevant for diabetics. “I’d recently taken a break from NEU to start Dr Brinsley here in Chennai, where we make a range of diabetic footwear that combines medical performance with a trendy look. Every 20 seconds, a diabetes patient undergoes an amputation of his or her foot.
Half of these cases could have been prevented if people adhered to proper foot care. As per studies, 91 pc of diabetic foot ulcers (which often lead to amputations) can be attributed to wrong footwear. The current range of diabetic footwear available in the market is unappealing and non-functional. Our goal is to create diabetic footwear that people actually want to wear,” says Bhaiya, listing out the multiple challenges of educating people on the need for diabetic footcare.
A three-phase research in India (leading up to a CLRI testing), Italy and the US and funding in the form of grants and fellowships brought to the fore fundamental design goals, he says. “Besides following up with key stakeholders including 200 diabetologists and patients, we went to Italy to understand the fundamentals of shoemaking.
For two years, we made prototypes as our idea was to innovate at the component level – we have used material to give it an easy yet trendy appearance,” notes Bhaiya. Research shows over 34 pc of diabetics keep off diabetic footwear owing to the form factor.
He now plans on launching the brand for women this month having gained vital insights from the initial sales. “The pricing has been fixed to include the base range models. Apart from the flagship sandal which costs Rs 2,750, we have models priced between Rs 999-3,000. We found that Chennai had the highest number of prospects, owing to its reputation as a hub for diabetes care,” Bhaiya says. It is estimated that the country’s diabetics figure is 8 crore and 7 crore are in pre-diabetic stage.
As part of the scaling up efforts, the fledgling enterprise has attracted two big pharma companies and hospital chains that are keen on co-marketing it. “We prefer the direct to consumer route though we have stitched effective partnerships to use the medical gateway,” he says. The aim is to have a Pan-India presence by August 2020.
Asked about the brand name, Bhaiya’s says, “Our family decided to start Richard Brinsley because they believed that with the growing economy and consumer spending, the Indian market would need a brand of footwear with a European design which suited Indian feet. They worked with a consultant to help come up with the name with a European touch,” he says. The Centre for Emerging Markets, Best Buy, IDEA: Northeastern University's Venture Accelerator, Michael Sherman, Amin Khoury and an NRI investor are among those who have supported the emerging enterprise.