in Business, Experiment, Life, Love, Parenting, Problem Solving, Product

S1 E3 – Sumona Karjee Mishra

On a mission to eliminate pregnancy related disorders in India and around the world, starting with early diagnosis of Preeclampsia.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sumona.jpg

Sumona Karjee Mishra is a scientist turned entrepreneur. She co-founded Prantae Solutions along with her husband to disrupt treatment of pregnancy related disorders, with an initial focus on Preeclampsia which affects 5-8% of all  pregnancies worldwide. She received her PhD from the International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, New Delhi.

“You can’t let the pregnant women die” and “Love yourself”

Show Notes & Links

Transcript Follows

Madhav 0:06
Today my guest is Sumona Karjee Mishra. Sumona is a scientist turned entrepreneur. She co founded plant based solutions along with her husband to disrupt treatment of pregnancy related disorders with an initial focus on preeclampsia, which affects five to 8% of all pregnancies worldwide. She received her PhD from the International Center for genetic engineering and biotechnology, New Delhi sumana. Thanks for coming on the show.

Sumona 0:33
Thanks, thanks a lot for inviting us

Madhav 0:35
originally from New Delhi or

Sumona 0:37
no So, I born in West Bengal. Then we moved to Delhi actually, when I was very small, my father passed away so my mother has to take a job. So we moved to Delhi. So my entire education is in Delhi. I did my graduation and post graduation from Delhi University, then a PhD from Jamie born in West Bengal, but my brought up is based In Delhi,

Madhav 1:00
how old were you when you moved to Delhi?

Sumona 1:02
I was too.

Madhav 1:04
Oh, pretty much you’ve lived on through how was it growing up?

Sumona 1:08
It was good. In Delhi, the education system is very nice. I have been to government schools only. And of course, college again and again, government University. But in the entire journey, the teachers that I got were very nice. So it was really helpful. See us. So when we move to Delhi, we were not very financially sound. So being in a private school and all those was not possible for us. But fortunately, the school which I joined, was a site kind of a government school, but the teachers were very good. They were very supportive. A little if you have any query, they are very ready to help you out in doing those. And that’s why I have been able to from school to college to university, I could go with scholarships.

Madhav 1:56
Oh, so you had some powerful supporters in the form of teachers as you studied any particular incident Dora teacher that comes to mind,

Sumona 2:11
there are many actually there are many teachers who have because from the beginning till the end, even my PhD supervisor, my post graduation, graduation teachers, my school teachers, they all they all are very nice and supportive. And moreover, it is like every year there are certain incidents that happen which makes you feel you have to study more because they are putting so much efforts on you. So all very nice and kind to me.

Madhav 2:38
Cool, cool. So you attended you undergrad, and then grad and then you went on to PhD.

What got you interested in sciences?

Sumona 2:52
I was always interested in science. In fact, after my death, my mother asked me why don’t you take our commerce because then you have a Easy job the comma section I wanted to be inside because that is what interests me but she understood that and she said okay fine, you go ahead with your size and all. So, I took science then and it is always been fun find out how the people making discoveries inventions, it always impressed you. And then after post grad and PhD, you might be as he was, was very nice. He never asked us to do something which he wants us to do. He let us

whatever you want you can do

to Meanwhile, when you get the freedom and the resources. So we did many things which even our boss didn’t know but many inventions, inventions, big inventions. We made transgenics protoplasm transformation and all those things, which it was not a part of my PhD but The king and getting some nice results always fascinated me. So that’s how it’s been a very nice being in science. And I wanted it. And since my family and the kind of research institute I have been, it made me even more interesting.

Madhav 4:22
I see when you say your family also had an influence. Were there other role models in your family that went on to do things in scientists or?

Sumona 4:35
No, not really, actually. My family nobody’s inside, but

I always liked it.

Madhav 4:42
Wonderful. Looks like you’re very curious to go out of your way not just stick to what my topic for my piece is you wanted to try

Sumona 4:53
and interest me more rather than doing what is in the topic.

Madhav 4:59
Yeah, That’s, that’s great. I mean, I can kind of get a sense of your personality and how you go about doing this. So you went on to PhD and you didn’t stop, but you know your masters like grad school, why was that like why did you want to pursue some like deeper kind of thing?

Sumona 5:19
See, till you are in masters, it is more theory and less of research work, at least in India. So, if you want to do some real research where you do the experiments on your own, so, PhD is the only choice. So, tell me more more like a theory that you’re doing and a little bit of experiments and all, but the real the real experience of how to do things and getting a result which is not anticipated, you can do it or at least in India, so, that what interested me and India there for the PhD also there are many things fellowships. So it is not difficult. So, even after masters if I join a job and I get the salary, which will be equal a little more than what I will get in the fellowship for the building, got it. So, money is not a constraint over there and interest always there and luckily I got into a very nice Institute for my PhD. So, that also motivated me to continue my

education and do my PhD.

Madhav 6:30
I see and you went to BSD and you went to international center for genetic and biotech

Sumona 6:39
is a un organization.

It is supported by UN and it is affiliated to jamala Nehru University. It is basically doing a high end science on the state of the art technology. So it generally focuses on doing something which is at the cutting edge So, some conventional techniques, they will always let you do. They have all the facilities and infrastructure. We joined it in 2004. So at that time it was considered as one of the best research institute in India.

Madhav 7:15
Cool. Wow. That’s, that’s an achievement right there to be able to get into that program. I want to get into Of course, your current venture plenty solutions. But before that, I just briefly want to talk about couple of things in the past. One was very already always like growing up. Were you always entrepreneurial, like trying to do things, build things from nothing? Or was it more out of curiosity to to venture into things that have the problems and trying to solve them?

Sumona 7:57
It was there, but I never realized it is basically when I met my best friend and now my husband we we realized that yes, we have that Spirit in us. So, during our PhD itself in 2007, there was a young enterpreneurship scheme, it has been let alone UK government in India, Indian Government DVT government of India. So, they joint jointly floated this competition young enterpreneurship scheme, so, where the PhD students and oh engineering students are supposed to participate, we as a team and give a business idea, and it is a kind of a business competition. So, from our institute we applied, so five of us were, my husband has seen his name is seen as he was the team leader. So, we attended that we participated in that and last We won the Indian part. So then they fought a boot camp they sent us to the Scotland, they are also we. So in the final they sent us to the London and we were the Indian winner for this competition. In a business there are many components are required the many elements you have to take care, other than the product, or the invention or the research, or that understanding came to us but at that time, we will do p d, and then the final years of PLD. So we couldn’t take it ahead. And then as soon as the PhD is over, we got married. So within a year, I had a daughter, and that was the turning point when I had my daughter and we thought of doing something because as you might be knowing that my pregnancy was not very we had a complication when we James TO enterpreneurship from Academy Can

Madhav 10:05
I see Got it? Got it. You had participated in something called cam tech do garmadon where you can you talk about director there about salubrious and what was that about?

Sumona 10:18
Yeah, so the practice is always doing something which is related to pregnancy to make the pregnancy better, so salubrious is one of our initiative which we are doing right now as a research part, and we will continue as our CSR being. So this is all qualified nutrients. Actually, there are many 45 supplements that are available for pregnant women, but those supplements or something like it is not goes with the taste of the pregnant woman. Every pregnant women during pregnancy have different tastes, desires this week. Makeup formulation which will be tasteless, odorless and colorless.

Madhav 11:05
To celebrate this is a diet related product for pregnant women. Yes, I see got it got it.

Sumona 11:15
Lots of surveys so when I did survey with a resource, limited settings and the poor people, I found that most of the time they don’t eat healthy food. And even the government provides the during the pregnancy they have the package and all and government provided for free but they don’t eat it just because it is not very. Yeah. Very tasty and they don’t. So so that party if something can be done in that way and most of the Indian women, they take it they and that biscuits is not a sugar coated biscuit that has a different taste. Neither very salty, not very sugary, so if those kind of bakery products where we can formulate our form mutilation in a way that it all about alter the taste they are having in the desert, and yet they are ready to take it. So that kind of initiative we are taking, though it is in a very nascent stage at right now. But we are keeping it as our CSR. So, whenever they get developed, we can help these women without having any profit and we’ll do it.

Madhav 12:29
Got it. Got it. That’s awesome. So, now I want to actually spend a little bit time on of course, your current venture pronti. And the big thing around pregnancy and changing maternity in India. How did that idea come about? And when was that timeframe? When you started that?

Sumona 12:47
Yeah, sure. First time, I get to know that the in the pregnancy there are complications, which would be life threatening complications during my pregnancy, and it was around 2010 as Oh, generally What we do take is NC packages with a good hospital. So even I took a very good NC package for the from a very good hospital and we had a regular checkup. And it all was very nice till 25th to be so on 25th week we had a ncv came back home. And within a be I even that day it was my anniversary, there was some swelling in my face. So we caught Let’s check it out with a doctor why there is so much of swelling. So she said okay, you come to my hospital. And let me check. So we went to the house with all plants while coming back, we will take this and that and we’ll be bringing it to home because we had a party at the night. So when we went there, she was a little worried. She told to my husband that you have to get your wife admitted because the situation is not right. And her blood pressure is increasing. So they admitted us and within three days with all sort of injections and all and they said keep The blood pressure is beyond our control and we have to deliver the baby. And at that time I 26 weeks to I delivered my baby very premature, just a 960 grams both way and she was in NICU for more than 45 days. So during this 10 year old when we try to inquire from different doctors what has actually happened it was absolutely normal. And then within a week how things can change so from different doctors different things we got to know and we want the information that we got in these kind of complication is normal a observe it regularly, but they can’t do anything because there is no early prognosis or early detection possibility. They could do something only when the clinical symptoms come up and the clinical symptoms can come up when the majority part of the damage has already been done inside. And the doctors are not left with much option but going for C section pretty much your delivery in Most of the cases, so, we taught you okay then there is no real early diagnostic so doctors can’t help but as a researcher, it is always inquisitive, is it true that there is nothing like that? Yeah. So, when did the in different settings like Mayo clinics and all and all there are not really very many prognostics that are available, there is one or two, where the detection can be possible only after 20 weeks and the reliability is also not that high, but still those are the options that are available. We looked into the research literature, then when we looked into the research literature, we found, yes, there are possibilities which has not been explored, which can let you know that the pregnancy is going toward complication as early as 13 weeks of pregnancy and a lot of work has been done on that. So at that time around 2011 we thought we should do something on that. So we started studying on it. We started building information on it, there is an regulatory element called micro RNA Which has an important and potential loan. But the problem is, it has not been used in regular diagnostics because it is we’re doing those assets you need a very high skill

and it is very

money It is very expensive actually, because you need a sophisticated instrument skill labels. So, that is probable reason it is not taken up by normal diagnostic but a few labs do it for the cancer diagnosis like Rosetta genomics, so that you technique for cancer prognosis before the cancer really onset, they will able to detect it and the management can be taken care of. So, in 2015 there were certain offer because I was at home because my daughter was small. So in 2014 Let’s go and let’s start doing something. So initial idea was let’s do postdoc and let’s gather some more information. But then We thought if I go for again, these kind of research programs, our focus will get diluted. So we decided no we have to do this because God has been very graceful, very nice to us that adult because a 26 week preeclampsia child has the every chance of getting abnormal growth or abnormal body function, but my daughter was absolutely fine. So it is our time to give back to the society. So we thought okay, let’s register a company. So that the focus one goal before even

Madhav 17:38
before you started any work, you just registered the company so you can have a commitment to

Sumona 17:44
so I registered my company in 2015 June and then thousand 15 September I started doing field immersion and government of India divert department of biotechnology has a program called Social Innovation immersion program fellowship. So I’d The fellowship and I didn’t immersion for the maternal and child health. So, I went to various stakeholders doctors, the mothers, those who already had a preeclampsia and discuss the problem and try to figure out what is the ground reality in India itself and especially in the eastern part. So, the problem was really very pertinent. In fact, in one of the hospital over here, the government hospital the 30% of the maternal mortality is just because of the preeclampsia 30% 30% and it is a they have published it. So, it is a ball it is a recorded data. Then we thought let’s do something on that line. So, at that time, there was one challenge from Tata trust and Harvard South Asian Institute. So we we went there because often happens that you have some idea but you yourself are is not are not convinced that whether it will be worth it will work or not.

Madhav 18:59
Right. self doubt

Sumona 19:03
going to those boot camps and talking to various people sometimes give you motivation. Yes, what you are doing is right. And it is doable and it is needed by the idea.

Madhav 19:13
Got it? Yeah, that’s super important. So you kind of did some validation of if the market nude is actually there for this problem and solution

Sumona 19:23
went for the competition and we presented our project idea and the business ideas, we will grant from them, we won the competition and we got the grant. And with the initial small funding, just a five lakh rupees funding. We started the work and trying to develop the concept and the idea and we got a very nice positive results on that. Then we started applying for big. This is a DBT virus, biotechnology ignition grant. So we applied their same idea and it was a little bigger gives us the pillars with which we developed a proof of concept. And this proof of concept is on the micro RNA is the one which is the one that’s more

Madhav 20:09
expensive and requires professionals to handle Yes.

Sumona 20:14
So, what we try to do is we make made an instrument and a method will be so simple like analyzing your blood samples for CBC or a routine blood test, the person needs to just give the blood sample and the pathological lab person need to put it in a qubit and give it place it in an instrument and the instrument will rest of the things. So we designed the instrument, we made the method so that it can be done with a single click. Go from sophisticated PhD person it can be handled by any technician. But at the same time, this is something that will be still expensive in terms of the test current test cost can be less than 6000 or 7000 for the at least for the rural people, it should be some initial indicator also should be there they should not be prescribed to do the micro RNA test blind. So, there is another form which is true you know and if anybody from the the primary health center or nurses or allenbury people anybody can do it. So, where you use the urine of the women and you have detect the amount of protein present in it.

Madhav 21:36
So, is there sort of like sort of similar to a pregnancy test you simple enough that anyone can actually see,

Sumona 21:46
it is as simple as the pregnancy test and you get the reading of value. And, according to the value you can find out whether the women is at a high risk pregnancy or a normal pregnancy and You’ll find that yes, there are others that are a sign of danger, then she can be prescribed for this kind of high end detection.

Madhav 22:10
Is that something that they can do at home? Or do they need to be in a

Sumona 22:15
be have made that they can do it at home?


smartphone with a small, simple attached device. Only three steps. What do you do in place it on the device, just click your mobile phone and you will get the data.

Madhav 22:30
Oh, that’s we should dig into some of that. That’s amazing. So what was your initial vision?

Sumona 22:36
The initial vision was we wanted to do something related to early prognosis of pregnancy complication across should not be restricted to preeclampsia that I feel there are other pregnancy complications are also their registration mellitus. We wanted to do Provence You didn’t add it all prognostics

Yeah. Simple

and step by so that from a

certification of high risk pregnancy to the identification of specific complication, should the information to be available to the doctor so that she can do the management accordingly and we can have better pregnancy outcome. So less number of or in fact, I would prefer there shouldn’t be no maternal mortality due to this kind of preventive pregnancy complications.

Madhav 23:34
Got it. So that was your initial vision. And how did that turn into focus on particular like pre MCR? Is that your primary focus right now preeclampsia,

Sumona 23:49
starting with a preeclampsia. So all the technologies that we are developing is a kind of a platform technology. Yeah. So if we do it with the preeclampsia We will be able to in winner for the other pre pregnancy complication also we can do this. Similarly, so we are trying to start with a break and then we will include the other diagnostic test on the same platform.

Madhav 24:15
got it got it and and preeclampsia. preeclampsia mainly. Is that because it’s one of the more wide wider issues or is it because you personally had experienced it and you wanted to solve that problem? preeclampsia What? How did you go about? Like actually building that first version of it, you had this idea in your mind that you know, this is something that can be diagnosed much earlier. And let’s find a way to do it in more economical way. How did you go about building that initial prototype?

Sumona 24:50
So initially, when we started off, it was like a huge five feet by two. The footprint of the device that we did, it was the

five feet by two feet, because that

Madhav 25:05

Sumona 25:06
because it’s the all of the sensors and all those things need to be aligned in a certain way so that it can capture, because we wanted to change what is routinely been done. So there will be no amplification, PCR, nothing will be more. So we have to play around with the optics and lights and all. So that was the footprint that we had for the first arrangement or a prototype that we had. But that is something very expensive, and a huge footprint which you won’t be liable most of the diagnostic lab. So we thought how to make it simpler and smaller, smaller and of course, reduce cost of CO be yet so we worked with that and made many iterations. We started reducing the size, we started replacing the components yet not losing on the sensitivity of the device and the real liability of the device and finally we came right now the beta prototype that we have is just one feet by point five half feet. So that is the size we came from the five feet by two feet to one under one, a one and a half feet footprint. And this is working the way it was working over the five feet by two feet, the sensitivity is intact, the reliability is intact, but devices now more compact. They have been reduced, we introduced the 3d printing some of the chances and also that has also reduced the price. Some of the lenses and the sensors we played around and we got something which makes it very affordable range.

Madhav 26:51
God and was it just, that’s just super amazing. Going from five feet to one foot by six inches. How was it You and your husband at this point or do you actually build a team around this?

Sumona 27:07
We started both of us started initially, but there are certain things which are all things we can’t do all our own. Yeah. So, I have expertise in molecular biology. So, I make all the assets and whatever the ingredients the chemicals required and how much it should be used and how to be used, that is what I contribute in this and my husband has a very vast knowledge on the instrumentation and optics and on so he made the event and the device setup, but at the same time, as you need the software, you need a component because PCB you can take Arduino PCB and built a bigger instrument, you have to have a customized TV so there is a team we we hired a team which are dedicated we make the species According to our requirement, then software there is an operator interface should be very simple so that we’re using it with a click he able to understand you need not to go back and do all the calculation. So, for the programming and software we have a we hired a team they are doing the this operator interface and the back calculation thing. Similarly for the this 3d CAD design and all we give the idea there is a designer team we have hired, so, they do the designing, and we have all the in house facility from the software programs to 3d printer and everything we have in house. So, everything has been made in house itself,

Madhav 28:41
complex operation like there’s so many pieces that have to come together for this to work. I mean, just imagining where you started as a know the scientists this mad scientist trying to solve the problem. And now you have these, you know, various things that have to fall in place. different teams software hardware and that that is what we learned in the last four years. It is not

Sumona 29:06
the science per se, you have to wrap it in a way that it is appealing to the consumer. It is useful to the consumer because as a scientist, complicated things we can crack. But the person we want to give it to us, they won’t be able to then it will be meaningless. You have to wrap it in a way that very simple for them to use.

Madhav 29:30
And I think you you had this on your LinkedIn translation of technology for better living.

Sumona 29:35

We we aspire to do yeah.

Madhav 29:41
So you got this one foot by six inch, small form factor a new now. Have you done sort of like how did you see that actually get adopted in the market was that solving the need in the market? Like Did you find the product market fit?

Sumona 29:57
Oh, we kind of Product Market Fit did a market survey and all from where we understood that there is a huge requirement and basically, we wanted to launch first the urine protein analysis device so that we can understand the market in a much better way the need has been shown by the people that labs are also shown positive for this urine protein is also a kind the module that we have developed is a health self monitoring persons who have somebody in the family problems related to pregnancy or some other kidney disorder. They also showed a huge interest in getting that because it is reducing the cost at which we are offering this test is lesser than the normal pathological lab test. And it can be done at home in their convenience at any time that makes them very interested. We have done a little small piloting and we are trying to launch it by April 22. Get the initial market traction, the real market traction, right Oh, it is all surveys. So, The market you might be able to get after April 2020, when we launch it to the market.

Madhav 31:05
Wow, awesome. Good luck. That sounds really, that’s not too far off, but it looks like you’ve made some progress. So you you are well on your way.

Sumona 31:14
So it’s a kind of a team effort actually. So, when we started both of us, it was like we do the entire thing in perspective of the science when we got the team, the design team, the electronic team, the programming team, then we the things built in a way that it can go to the market, otherwise it was a the science was there, but it was not a product now it is yeah. And meanwhile, the four years journey, we also understood it is the product science as well as how to get into the market, the business idea how to do the marketing both are equally important. So those things are also learning and trying to implement for the urine protein. We are trying to get the Medical Device clearance from the city schools, the Government of India unit which gives clearance to the medical device, even though without getting the permission also we can launch it to the market. But we want it with the permission so that but the doctors can prescribe it official. Yeah. off the shelf device, it should be looked up as a medical device and doctor can drive it to the patient so that they can use it. And they can trust it.

Madhav 32:23
Yeah. Did you raise funds for all of the big it looks like there’s so much financial support, you need to actually run all these things like 3d printing and software design and hardware design and whatnot.

Sumona 32:35
So what we have done is right now we have not raised any funding from the private party, few government grants and to sustain and to support our research, we have parallely started giving the service facility so we get a little bit of revenue. In terms of the biochemistry we synthesize various kind of gold nanoparticles which is required for I would imagine, but at the same time, we send those nanoparticles to other people who require them. So we get a little revenue from there. We have a design team, we have electronics team, we have a programming team. So for other people who have to make some medical device,

Madhav 33:17
or some things or services to them,

Sumona 33:19
which they don’t have, they have the idea, but they don’t have the facility or they are not able to translate from the idea to the product. So we provide the service over there. So that also affects some revenue to us to which we are able to support all this function or this activity as well as the human resource. Got it?

Madhav 33:38
So so far, you’ve raised very little funds, but you’ve been trying to sustain through other side revenues, that your services. Yeah.

Sumona 33:50
Up to the grants, we got to know from the grantee got around to hear

Madhav 33:56
any lessons that you learned from raising the grants Alright is being able to win those grants from the government

Sumona 34:04
see from the government, it is always bent on how what the reviewers, the committee is looking into the problem the way they want to look at it, if you have a real idea, need a good team, some proof of concept, it should not be just an idea, if you have some proof of some prototype in hand, which you can demonstrate in front of them, and they are convinced that it is just not the idea that you have taken from Google

able to do it,

they’re really supportive. They are really support those kind of ideas, even though some of the Google Ideas also get the funding, but real serious entrepreneur, then you should go to the grant agencies or I think even to the investors with some solid product in your hand so that you can demonstrate that it is doable. What I am saying is that is not a theory.

Madhav 35:01
Yeah, that’s a great, yeah, that’s a great lesson. So anyone who’s trying to do something similar, it’s always good to not just have the theory, or the degrees or the research that you’re done in the labs, but some sort of tangible product proof of concept. It could be a terrible product, if you really look at it could be a five foot by two foot thing, but it if you can show it that it actually works, then making it better making optimizations to bring the form factor down, all of that can be done. So you said you started in 2011. And then you did a lot of research and then 2015 or So you started really making things. Any doc moments were there times when you self doubted? And when you thought this is all ridiculous, I’m a I’m a crazy person. What am I doing or

Sumona 35:49
there are many like that actually, every day as an entrepreneur, you come up with a self doubt and the next day you are getting paid. No, no, no. What I am doing is Actually the society needs or I want to do. So those moments do come repeatedly. Sometimes when a very flimsy idea is being promoted, which has which, as a scientist you know has no scientific basis and it is not doable. That has been appreciated over the idea that has a strong scientific foundation is not been considered you feel bad, but at the same time it is your idea, you should be convinced about your idea, you have to that moments will come many people who are in the reveal or the other side they might not feel the way about the technology that you are feeling. They have not seen it working, they have not seen the challenges that you have come over. So they might appreciate but it should not be discouraging for you because you have put the first you know, it is working. You should be convinced and if you are convinced those dark days and bright days. will come alternatively and you will certainly come to a place when the entire world will be convinced as convinced you are today.

Madhav 37:09
Any anything that specifically sort of really made you rethink this whole thing.

Sumona 37:15
So, what what what happened we were trying to do the analysis, the kind of sensitivity we are supposed to get, we’re trying another instrument not built by us, but from a commercial instrument and it was not giving the way that it should be. So, since it is some commercial instrument, so, we had a very huge self doubt that it is not coming the the theory that we are putting is not right.

Madhav 37:44
Because you thought the instrument must be right. Because commercial instrument, so we must be wrong,

Sumona 37:51
it is not working properly. There should be something wrong for a week or for 15 days. We are very discouraged and every We are trying new experiment trying to prove it from a different way but it was not working then know what of all certainly we thought hey let’s try to find out with a small setup that we can build our own then we build that and we got a fantastic result. So, we thought what happened to the this commercial instrument. So, when we get back to it, we found that there is a software glitch in the saw in the commercial instrument, because commercial instrument is a dark box, you can play around with its hardware. So, if there is a deep thought where it will give you some different result, and because of that, the error in the result we talked you know, know this things can work we should return the grant, it is not working, it is not how we have anticipated, but then when you do it, and you try to see it from different angles, you finally got we finally got that no it is working there is some problem with the software of the instrument. One that was very discouraging and another one is for our grant when we were presenting. So, it is a high tech science where lots of funding is required. So, we applied for a small funding and we got a 50% reduction in that we applied for at the same time about something which is related to handicraft which might not require that huge amount of investment, but it has given considering that that is more important than the science and tech can be considered. So much of money is not required for technology development. And every time they come up with a question, when you are coming to the market, no. Technology cannot be developed within a sequence. A new technology and innovative technology cannot be developed in a six months. You can have an export import within six months, but do you develop knowledge within six months

Madhav 39:56
Do you need you need someone on the side of That actually is patient and believes in the vision and is willing to wait for years not just six months.

Sumona 40:07
Exactly. So, we are developing a you know, IP protected way we have patents, we have design patent, we have agents, we have trademark. So you should look upon all those things rather than the product should be in the market within six months, because even if I launched the product have been in the six months, it won’t have any relevance. Yeah.

So, those those those things sometimes make you feel very

discouraged whether we will be able to take these to the market, even though it is a very high technology and it is required by the society. Because if we don’t get the financial support, because right now we are doing with the grant and a little revenue, but we will be requiring the investment and if investor doesn’t understand this pain point, and it will be really, really difficult.

Madhav 40:58
Wow. Yeah, absolutely. And so, in that,

for that, like how are you planning to sort of get the distribution? Do you have any plans of partnering with diagnostic centers or how are you thinking of

built out the product is ready to go to market.

Sumona 41:18
So, April 2020, launch will be basically through E marketing and channels will be this E commercial portals. Because right now, we can’t have a stock the huge stock that we can put it to the distributor. So, once we get get the traction, six months traction, how much fun and how the people are accepting it, we can have a gross idea of it then we will talk to the distributor or strategic partners and

try to

get some investment and upscale our manufacturing and then we will go through the the conventional distribution channel. When I got my shell borgess Got it?

Madhav 42:04
I see. So right now it’s it’s going to be more through your, your own efforts of e commerce channels like directo.

And then

and then once you have the traction and you making some money, you might reinvest it. You might raise funds that may end of next year. Yes. 20. Great. I mean, any tactics like you mentioned, to really dark moments in some way, where you had to, you had a lot of self doubt, but you really had to pick up yourself and say, I’m just going to work we’re going to do it. Any tactics or things that you do to help you stay focused on the mission.

Sumona 42:46
I’m basically a very positive person. So even if sometimes things doesn’t work, I don’t leave it a single day. I need to iterate the things 20 times I do it till I get the result. So it is kind failures doesn’t bother me from doing the experiment or the iteration again. So if you keep on doing it and of course, you have to be convinced and for

the experiment, we’ll work

on it millivolt we have the theoretical validation for it. Then if you do it, when you do the prototyping, if it doesn’t work, and you born iterated, you come up with a final product, which is even better than what you have imagined.

Madhav 43:34
Yeah, it’s so it’s so cool. Like, the whole Lean Startup methodology that Eric Ries talks about, like it’s so similar to the scientific experimentation that you do. Yes, right. You You, you have hypotheses, you run the experiment, you see the result and you adjust and right you know, iterate, iterate, iterate it till you get the expected result.

Sumona 43:59
Exactly. Are you

then you improve it a little bit further? Yeah.

Madhav 44:06
And so the the focus is always for you. Like you have some conviction that how does like what how do you not get distracted from, you know, solving this problem for the first problem in your platform that you’re trying to build? preeclampsia? Like how do you keep going back to that what drives you what makes you wake up in the morning to solve that?

Sumona 44:30
We never get distracted. That’s why before starting anything, we registered our company. And the second thing is a very simple thing, actually, my daughter, so every time I see her and see her doing things, which made me feel that she’s healthy and fine, just because I have been privileged. I have been to a very nice hospital taken care of And she’s now normally right. But for many resource limited setting the poor woman, I have seen them I have personally seen many women, those who because of the convention, they lost their voice. I have seen women they have lost the baby. So I need to do something for them. Yo, me. And I remember those faces. It always put me on fire, but I have to do this.

Madhav 45:26
Well, and I just said some stuff around, like pregnancy kills around 800 women every day and in the world and about 10 to 12% of those are preeclampsia cases. Is that true? Yeah.

Sumona 45:40
Yes. Every year it is 10 million women who are being impacted by preeclampsia and every year that’s every Yeah. It is not a problem off just India it is a global problem. In fact in the Western world it is more prominent than in India because India has other other causes of maternal mortality as well. Since other things has been taken care so preeclampsia is one of the major killer over there.

Madhav 46:18
I see I see. So wow that is so it’s a worldwide problem and there is no Is there a breakthrough anywhere else in the world or there is no breakthrough in terms of like completely removing

Sumona 46:36
in early prognosis. Right now it is 20 weeks post 20 weeks with protein markers. One miosha kobus they are doing it and it has been accepted by the nice guideline as well about the sensitivity and specificity is very low, and it can predict up to next four weeks whether the delivery is required or not, or preeclampsia is going to onset or not. So 20 weeks is actually the time where a little majority of the damage has already been done because the initiates around 11 to 13 weeks of pregnancy. So pregnancy is a very dynamic process. So every week counts. Yeah. So into 20. There is a seven weeks window time. So there’s a huge damage is being done if it is early preeclampsia.

So that’s why

right now, the early prognosis is very important to save those lives.

Madhav 47:36
I see and the best case right now solution is you have 20 weeks, but what you’re trying to do is bring it closer to the 11th or 13th week. That helps give the doctors a lot more time to actually monitor and change the. Exactly. Got it. Wow. And what’s your feeling gut feeling about that, like Reducing it, the prognosis from 20 weeks to

11 weeks.

Sumona 48:07
Yeah, it will definitely help because the research studies that has been shown and you know, if you if you see the the preterm delivery and the chances of survival, so, you can see each week increases the chance by 50% of the survival. So, if there is an early prognosis, you can know we can do the management in a way that the delivery can be

brought to near normal

gestation period or at least delayed So, that the baby will be more mature and since the management will be there, so, the mother’s organ will be more will be less impacted, and the pregnancy outcome will be much better if we can diagnose it around 11 to 13 weeks rather than after two

Madhav 49:01
perfect perfect yeah that’s that’s just a nice segue into it looks like so your what’s your moonshot where when you fully executed vision of your frantic solutions for solving this preeclampsia problem what what how do you see that world look like

Sumona 49:21
that will be a wonderful world actually, the loss of mother in terms of life or health, it impacts the entire Yeah. So, when we will be able to achieve no mortality during the pregnancy because she is trying to get a life into this world and in turn, she is losing her own life. That is a very sad part. So when we will be able to keep no maternal mortality due to pregnancy complications, you will be able to see happier family economically, here better doing family and nice society because if you don’t have a mother at family, the upbringing of the child is also affected.

So you will be having more happy while acting.

Madhav 50:07
Wow, that’s that’s a strong reason to wake up and go go get this right. And that’s, that’s really powerful for you to really go after this and not give up on it. Right? It’s a very compelling reason. So just one last thing around this idea of making this platform and keeping the focus of this mission. You also mentioned you know, you know, your dad passed away very early on in your life. I wonder if how some of these things have impacted you how, as a person, do you have any like lessons life lessons that you us that helps you sort of become the strong women that you are

Sumona 51:00
Yes, so my mother was a housewife

from a simple Bengali medium, middle class family and she was a housewife. And when my father passed away to just for us, me and my brother, she need to take up a job in Delhi, where everybody speaks Hindi and she doesn’t know anything, any any word will be actually for she took the bold step to take us to Delhi and join the office where she has to learn so many things like typing and all that time do you have to do the typing and everything. At the same time she has to take care of the home because we are very smart. So as a woman who is very soft, simple woman from a middle class family, with not a huge educational background, if she’s been able to take us to Delhi and give us the all the thing, education and emotional support to get us where we are been a privilege situation? I mean, I will definitely be able to do it.

Madhav 52:03
That’s something that not, not many recognize that you’ve really to recognize that you’ve been you’ve won the lottery in so many ways. And you’ve been lucky and you’ve been fortunate to have have had, you know, the mother and the support system around you know,

Sumona 52:20
yeah. Lucky for me, my in laws, my husband, of course, my husband is instrumental in it. My daughter, she also kills for this he always says, No, you have to work You can’t let the pregnant women die. You can’t let the mother of a small babies die. So those inspires me and my in laws also very supportive. So I have been lucky in the way that I always got a very supportive family always

Madhav 52:45
one of the questions on that part of luck. I’ve heard someone asked this and I just wanted to ask you, how much of what you what you’ve achieved in your life, whether it’s three degrees, it’s the scientific awards are Plan D solutions and the product that you’re trying to make, how much of that is luck versus your own hard work?

Sumona 53:07
I will see it is

because whenever the judgment is there, it is whatever you are speaking about or whatever you are trying to present, if judges are conveyed, you are able to convince the judge Yeah, then I’ll make an impact. So, it all depends what is the mood of the judge. So, it is not in your control, it is in the control of your luck. So, at the same time, if you are presenting nothing to


judges and as you mean the luck will take care of it, it is not possible. So, you have to be prepared, you have to have some solid idea or a product, which I am convinced so 50% of luck and push you to make the judges convinced what you are talking about. At the same time. You have to have something so that the left help you to convince the judge

Madhav 54:02
salutely preparation meets opportunity. That’s really what is luck. According to some folks, right?

Sumona 54:09
I’m saying this is absolutely, yeah, the preparation.

Madhav 54:14
preparation meets opportunity. That’s where the luck is. I know you mentioned in a previous conversation that you’re not much of a book person has wondering if you had any, it’s a book or a person or any thing that influenced you to be or who you are.

Sumona 54:35
So that’s something which I came across as if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go longer go together. So that what inspires me a lot. So right now we are a very small, financially very small company. So we have a team which is around 12 people, beating them, convincing them making them feel the dream or the vision that you are Having. So those things I do these, this code inspires me to do that because without them, my company wonderful. me I won’t be able to develop the product. And at the same time this is my vision, my mission, it is not. They haven’t asked me to form the grantee. I have found Brampton and brought them over here. So if I want to go longer, I have to be with them. I have to get them together with me.

Madhav 55:26
The squad is very powerful. And along that line, if you had a chance to write something on a full moon that the whole world can see or could you write on it? And message do you want to send send to the world?

Sumona 55:41
I will just write love yourself.

Yeah, if you are positive, if you can love yourself, you can do things for others. If you always in a feeling that I am not that good. I can’t do this will be never able to do something for yourself or for the society

Madhav 55:58
knowing What you are and who you are right now, if you had to advise or give some advice to your younger self, when you’re starting out in the college or in high school or PhD or wherever, what would that advice be?

Sumona 56:13
I wouldn’t give any advice actually, in fact, I can type my younger son. That time I made a right decision. I chose a friend who is right now my life partner. And because of him actually see it is always required your husband, if it is in your favor or seeing the same vision and mission that you are believed in. The things are very easy and very convenient. So I will, I would really love to thank my younger self that I chose him.

Madhav 56:44
That’s a good one.

Sumona 56:45

never regret about anything if something wrong some wrong decision I have taken I try to make it right to my efforts, or I just forget it. I don’t want to change anything in my life. Wonderful

Madhav 56:57
pay some honor. Thanks so much for taking the time. To join us on the show here if people wanted to connect with you what’s the best way they can reach you? First let

Sumona 57:06
me thank you because I was so nervous You made me so comfortable. If somebody wants to connect with us our official email id is info at the red pants a dot solutions. They can connect us with a Facebook page we have a band aid solutions Facebook page, Twitter as handle at the rate frantic LinkedIn page for practice also there.

Madhav 57:25
Thanks so much Sasha. And I wish you all the best for your launch in April 2020. And and look forward to seeing a lot more of you

Sumona 57:32
and your work. Thanks a lot.

Madhav 57:33
have to have an opportunity to chat again sometime next year.

Sumona 57:36
Josh, you’re definitely we will laugh. Thanks so much.

Madhav 57:39
Have a good day.

Sumona 57:41
Thank you Same to you.

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