viewComments WeHear's 30 million valuation leads way for Indian AT startups in disability and VOSAP

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WeHear's $30 million valuation leads way for Indian AT startups in disability and VOSAP

The flagship product, HearNU is an open-ear, wireless audio device that utilizes BCT, allowing users to hear without relying on their ears.

Person with Microtia / Courtesy Photo

In today’s article, I will like to share how valuations of Assistive Technology (AT) sector startups are growing and what role Voice of SAP has played in their success. My goal is to trigger a thought process among all readers that this is an active and attractive space for investors including the likes from Shark Tank India, that too at significantly high valuations. Voice of SAP (VOSAP) supports innovators in Disability AT, at a very early stage like in case of WeHear since 2019. WeHear has developed an innovative hearing aid that works on Bone Conduction Technology (BCT) to feed audio signals directly to the brain.

WeHear’s Innovation:

Let us understand WeHear as an innovative product. VOSAP's AT Exhibitor and Partner, has played a pivotal role in bringing military and medical-grade BCT to the consumer market. The bone conduction technology bypasses the physical ear and stimulates the cochlea directly. This innovation helps people with various types of hearing loss, in almost 70% of situations.

Person with Microtia / Courtesy Photo

The flagship product, HearNU  is an open-ear, wireless audio device that utilizes BCT, allowing users to hear without relying on their ears. It is connected with an additional band that pairs with the hearing device, serving as a programmable hearing assistive device for individuals with various levels of conductive hearing loss.

With 7 patents secured for a digitally programmable non-surgical bone conduction hearing aid, WeHear disrupted the industry, offering an affordable alternative to 4 out of 5 Cochlear implant surgeries and their product has reached to 17 countries.

VOSAP and WeHear

I, Pranav Desai, founder of VOSAP, discovered WeHear in 2019, becoming one of the first customers, fostering a strategic partnership with Raj Shah and Kanishka Patel, WeHear's founders. Recognizing the potential of the device to help deaf community, and my own experience with the device for experiencing bone conduction for audio signals, we were keen to provide essential financial support to accelerate WeHear’s market penetration.

In 2022 VOSAP launched the 100% subsidy program for the children with hearing impairment from rural India to receive HearNU devices. This helped WeHear not only with sales, capital injection but very importantly obtain market validation, usage data, impact on lives of hundreds of deaf children under age of 14. This also helped them come up with a better version of the HearNU. Within less than 2 years, in Jan 2024, WeHear achieved a significant valuation milestone of ₹250 crores raised during SharkTank India.

VOSAP and WeHear have developed a comprehensive procedure for enabling 1,000  beneficiaries as the next step. WeHear is responsible for identifying the beneficiaries, organizing test camps, assessing the hearing and speech capacities of individuals, creating assessment reports, audio tests and then applying to online portal of VOSAP alongwith required documentation. VOSAP ensures that all the necessary documentation is done and engages with the beneficiaries’ families to understand the need and how the device can help them. WeHear then configures each device based on the specific decibel level,profile of the individual applicant and provides training on the proper use of the device by the beneficiaries.

Furthermore, WeHear has developed a Social Impact Management System to track the progress of every beneficiary. With regular follow ups a report is developed which includes details of “Hearing and Speech Progress” of each child, video of the Child and is added to the system.

It is amazing to see the smiles of the parents, family members when they hear their child  start speaking too within 100 days of being able to hear with the help of the device. The child experiences hearing for the first time with audio fed directly to the brain using bone conduction and amplification per level of hearing loss and that input helps them to try to respond that in turn helps them to start speaking.

Based on the impact observed in several beneficiaries, this year, VOSAP has launched a subsidy program for nearly 1,000 people with microtia (congenital ear deformity in which the external ear is malformed and underdeveloped).

In June 2024, several children with hearing loss in the tribal region of Orissa and in Jamnagar, Gujarat will receive HearNU. We are super excited with the opportunity to transform so many young lives with innovative, patented WeHear products for hearing impaired children as well for people with microtia.

Kevya Panchal has hearing impairment and lives in Khanpur area of Mahisagar district of Gujarat. / Courtesy Photo

Kevya Panchal has hearing impairment and lives in Khanpur area of Mahisagar district of Gujarat.

He received the device from Voice of SAP at Lunawada on December 17, 2022. Kevya has Bilateral Moderate Sensorineural Hearing Loss - 76%  In a recent conversation with his father we learnt that Kevya’s condition has improved since he started wearing the device regularly. In 60 days, he learnt to speak small sentences, alphabets and number count and became more confident than before.

We have many such beneficiaries and the videos of the beneficiaries are a testament to the reality that together we all as “NRI community” can make real transformative impact with emerging Assistive technology products to mainstream specially abled people, live with confidence and dignity.

I invite you to explore further details at VOSAP's official website (https://www.voiceofsap.org/).

 

Views expressed are personal. The author is founder of Voice of SAP (www.voiceofsap.org), an organization working in the disability sector and in a Special Consultative Status with UN Economic and Social Council.

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