No more struggles in charging your mobile phone while on the go… sounds interesting. We met some guys, who are bringing this task to practical reach.
Actions speak louder than words, or so they say—precisely what the trio from our very own IIT Bombay believes. We all know of the implications of energy resources getting exhausted and the resultant rise in electricity costs. Most of us, wish we had better ways to stay live and kicking with our gadgets, without the need to constantly plug them into the AC mains sockets. There’s now reason to smile, there’s hope coming our way.
Making A Difference
We met Ankit Mehta (25), Ashish Bhat (24) and Rahul Singh (24), who have come together to form a start up focussing on energy solutions for your gadgets. “Our aim is to be a company that gives the consumer the freedom of wallsfree charging”, according to Mehta, Managing Director of ideaForge, who heads the firm’s attempt to provide a typical user like you, the freedom to charge your mobile phone, anytime, anywhere—be it in office, sitting idle in a park or even while travelling on your bike.
As we caught up with the team incubated at the Kanwal Rekhi School of Information Technology in the IIT Bombay campus, Mehta shed light on the way the team met, came together, got organised and managed the design and launch of their products. It all started somewhere in 2004, in IIT Bombay, where they casually interacted among themselves. The initial plan to work on energy solutions, was conceived a couple of years later, in 2006. As the drive to innovate got the better of them, they decided to get their acts together and in the summer of 2007, formed ideaForge in its current form.
Finances came in the form of Technopreneur Promotion Programme (TePP), a government body that promotes innovative technology start-ups. Other than that, there were personal funds in addition to an angel investor.
ideaForge has developed three useful products for the Indian market. A USB-powered mobile charger, a hand-cranking or mechanical phone charger and a two-wheeler solution for mobile phone charging. They have profiled their market into two segments—urban and rural. As per their study, the penetration of Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Motorola is higher in the urban areas, while that of LG and Samsung is higher in the rural areas. Accordingly, they have packaged their chargers with adapters for phones depending on the market they will be shipped to. With the adapters that they provide in their packaging, you are able to charge 90 per cent of mobile phones commercially available in the market, without any additional accessories. In the event that your phone’s adapter is not available, they are open to helping you out in that area too.
We checked out their USB chargers back in our office for the whole month while we were working on this article, and it worked really well. While in office, all you need to do is plug in the phone to the USB charger with the other end plugged in to the USB port of your laptop or PC. The second product was fun playing with. Priced at Rs 450, the hand-cranking charger is what caught our attention the most. It has a comfortable rubber grip and a smooth crank wheel, which isn’t cranky to use. Alternatively, you can also rotate the wheel by dragging the charger across any even surface. With all its mechanism, it weighs a modest 110 grams—we had it weighed out of our curiosity.
We asked them about the mechanism of the hand-cranking charger, so that you could understand it better. Well, it’s not rocket science, but simplified engineering at work. The handle of the charger connects to a gear train, which drives a generator system. The output of the generator is passed through a conditioning circuit. After going through the voltage regulator, you get pure DC at the specified voltage and current ratings.
The mechanical charger has two modes of operation—one is the Wind-up mode and the other is the Roll-on mode. With the roll-on mode, you can roll the charger wheel to and fro on any surface, such as your thigh while sitting and having a conversation over your mobile phone. This feature enables single hand operation to charge mobile phones—no more fishing for battery power!
Their third product—the bike-powered charger, is another innovative idea. All you need to do is to connect the two wires at the end of the charger’s cable to a connector present after the ignition of your bike. On the other end is the jack with the adapter for your phone, and you are ready to charge while travelling to and fro your home, office or college.
ideaForge seem focussed on reaching the extended rural Indian market. They claim to be on the verge of some strategic tie-ups with leading cellular operators of India, so that they have a wide distribution network. Further, their products are also available in major outlets such as RPG Cellucom, Hot Spot, the Mobile Store, Indiatimes shopping, eBay and Storrz. Our first apprehension, when we heard of their products was their Chinese counterparts. But as they believe, they are not here to compete with Chinese products. They believe in quality, which is visible from their replacement guarantee. If you find manufacturing defect in your product, it is replaced straightaway. They also have plans to improve their design in future models. “We plan to include options for storage of charge, and reducing the required effort, so that the consumer can get maximum charge with minimal cranking,” according to Ashish Bhat, who handles the electronic design, as well as the research and development initiatives at ideaForge.
Initiatives For The Environment
If that’s not all, they also are responsible in their conduct towards the environment. Talk of global warming and hazardous materials, and they say they’re already getting their company on track.
ideaForge is en route to compliance with the required quality certifications. In addition to this, they also plan to comply and achieve certification in certain crucial environment-specific standards—the primary being RoHS compliance. Although ideaForge doesn’t directly manufacture the chargers, they are still doing their bit by ensuring that the manufacturer that does the job also has the required certification. According to Rahul Singh, who looks after the manufacturing, production and other ancillary responsibilities, “We have outsourced this work to several manufacturers and we ensure that they are RoHS compliant, especially, the Chinese source of some raw materials. Other than that, the paper that is used for packaging are from wood-free sustainable forest resources. Even the ink used for printing on their products is “heavy metal-free”.
If you too, would like to do more than just talk, and make a difference to our society like ideaForge, write in to us...