Weekly Indian Economic & Commercial Report (6th – 12th April 2020)

Source: IBEF News Letter

Rapid diagnostic kit being developed by Pune based startup for COVID 19 screening

FastSense Diagnostics, a start-up incorporated in 2018, developing innovative products for rapid disease diagnosis, funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) is now developing two modules for detection of COVID 19.

“The major challenges of testing for COVID-19 are speed, cost, accuracy and accessibility at the point-of-care or use. Several startups have developed rather creative and innovative ways to address these needs. DST is supporting the most promising of these to facilitate their development to commercialization chain if found suitable on technical grounds” said Professor Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, DST.

In the lines of their existing universal platform “Omni-Sens” for early detection and screening of complex diseases i.e. cancers, liver ailments and neonatal sepsis etc., the company has proposed a technology CovE-Sens specifically for COVID 19. A patent has been filed for CovE-Sens which would provide a rapid, point of care detection along with screening and confirmatory test as well with ease of operation.

The company plans to roll out two products — a modified Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) based detection kit for confirmatory analysis in lesser time compared to existing detection methods (approximately 50 samples can be tested in an hour) and a portable chip based module for rapid screening of target population based on the on-chip sensing technology that would provide on the spot results in less than 15 min per sample. The sample size for confirmatory tests can also be increased in the future to 100 samples/ hour.

The point of care detection kits of FastSense Diagnostics that can provide on the spot detection rapidly and without highly trained technicians could boost India’s testing efforts in the fight against COVD 19.

The two proposed modules can be deployed at any real locations and hotspots like airports, densely populated areas, hospitals where screening of population can be done to prevent corona spread to healthy individuals and data can be generated with ease in less than an hour. The company is working on the cost to make it more affordable.

The team is also planning to collaborate with National Institute of Virology for which the formal approval is under process for performance evaluation and they are in touch with existing market players for scaling up and large-scale deployment of the device.

The team working on this comprises experts in virology, molecular biology and bioinstrumentation that can deliver the prototype in 8 to 10 weeks. The company also has few in-house facilities to scale up the production for deployment.

Besides, preventing further spread of the disease during the current pandemic, the portable rapid diagnostics kit can also prevent future relapse by regular monitoring. The low cost and ease of operation can make help reach out to the rural population and prevent overloading of urban health infrastructure.

CSIR-Central Electrochemical Research Institute (CSIR-CECRI) working with Industry to Scale up Personal Protective Equipment

Under the present COVID-19 pandemic situation, in line with CSIR’s special efforts, its constituent lab CSIR-CECRI (Central Electrochemical Research Institute) at Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu, has come out with helping hands to reach out to the society through scientific service in mitigating COVID-19. In the current situation, Sanitizers, Hospital assisting Devices and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are essential.  In that direction CSIR-CECRI prepared series of lab made PPEs that include Hand sanitizer solutions, as per the WHO recommendations (Iso-propanol 75 per cent, Glycerol 1.45 per cent, Hydrogen peroxide 0.125 per cent plus lemongrass oil for fragrance), Hand wash solutions using coconut oil and Sodium hypochlorite based disinfectant solutions.  These solutions were packed in containers, printed for instructions to use and distributed to the needy organizations at free of cost.

So far, around 350 Litres of Hand sanitizers, 250 Litres of Hand wash solutions and 1000 Litres of Hypo-disinfectants have been distributed.  The beneficiaries include Karaikudi Municipal Corporation, Devakottai Municipal Corporation, Sivaganga Govt. Medical College Hospital, Govt. Hospital, Karaikudi, SP office Sivaganga and other police stations in and around Karaikudi, Taluk office and nearby Panchayat Unions and primary health centres from Sakkottai, Kottaiyur, R.S. Pattinam, Nerkuppai, few nationalized banks etc.  CECRI plans to continue this distribution till the COVID-19 situation restores to normalcy.

In addition, CSIR-CECRI has recently started offering digital training to make face masks by interested rural women to help them as well as to cater to the needs of their neighbourhood. On the other hand, 3D printed face shield with reusable options has been in-house printed and gifted to the Dispensary staff of CSIR-CECRI to protect them effectively from sneeze, cough and aerosol communication of the patients.

CSIR-CECRI is tying up with industry to scale up the mass production and has partnered with a company 3D Lycan, Bangalore for Face Shield. CSIR-CECRI is now committed to arrive at a synergistically improved version of Face shield with antimicrobial efficiency within the shortest possible period.  CSIR-CECRI is also transferring the technology of one of the popular CSIR-CECRI technologies on the electrochemical synthesis of hypo-chlorite (Disinfectant),  This is transferred to an interested MSME for its mass production and supply as disinfectant spray for its wider deployment in public places, hospitals etc.  In this way, CSIR-CECRI lives upto the expectations of the society and also rises to the occasion in fulfilling the needs of the society and the dreams of the great philanthropist, Dr RM. Alagappa Chettiar, who has donated land and cash and was instrumental in establishing CSIR-CECRI in the heritage town of Karaikudi

CSIR-Central Electrochemical Research Institute (CECRI), a premier research establishment under the aegis of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), New Delhi, focussing on a gamut of problems covering all facets of electrochemical science and technology: viz., Corrosion Science and Engineering, Electrochemical Power Sources, Electrochemical Materials Science, Electro-organic and Electro-inorganic Chemicals, Electrodics and Electrocatalysis, Electro-metallurgy, Electro Plating and Metal Finishing Technology. CSIR-CECRI’s activities are directed towards the development of new and improved products and process as well as innovations in electrochemical science and technology. CSIR-CECRI runs several projects in collaboration with laboratories and private companies within and outside India.

CSIR-CECRI assists the Indian Industry by conducting surveys and undertaking consultancy projects. As part of its human resource development programme, CECRI runs a four-year B.Tech. course in Chemical & Electrochemical Engineering apart from encouraging Ph.D. scholars for their research under the Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research (AcSIR). Further, CSIR-CECRI is alive to societal obligations by way of offering ‘skill development’ training and Jigyasa programs for the benefit of Indian youth.

Biofortified carrot variety developed by farmer scientist benefits local farmers

Madhuban Gajar, a biofortified carrot variety with high β-carotene and iron content developed by Shri Vallabhhai Vasrambhai Marvaniya, a farmer scientist from Junagadh district, Gujarat is benefitting more than 150 local farmers in the area. It is being planted in an area of over 200 hectares in Junagadh, and the average yield, which is 40-50 t/ha, has become the main source of income to the local farmers. The variety is being cultivated in more than 1000 hectares of land in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh during the last three years.

The Madhuvan Gajar is a highly nutritious carrot variety developed through the selection method with higher β-carotene content (277.75 mg/kg) and iron content (276.7 mg/kg) dry basis and is used for various value-added products like carrot chips, juices, and pickles. Among all the varieties tested, beta-carotene and iron content were found to be superior.

National Innovation Foundation (NIF) – India, an autonomous institute under the Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India conducted validation trials for this variety at Rajasthan Agricultural Research Institute (RARI), Jaipur, between 2016 and 2017. In the trials, it was found that Madhuban Gajar carrot variety possesses a significantly higher root yield (74.2 t/ha) and plant biomass (275 gm per plant) as compared to check variety.

The on-farm trials of the variety were conducted over 25 hectares of land by NIF in different states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Assam, Haryana, Punjab and West Bengal which involved more than 100 farmers where the performance of the variety (Madhuvan Gajar) was found to be appreciable in term of yield and its other properties.

During 1943, Shri Vallabhhai Vasrambhai Marvaniya found that a local carrot variety which was profoundly used for fodder to improve the quality of milk. He selectively cultivated this variety and sold this carrot in the market at a good price. Since then, he, along with family, is working for the conservation and development of this cultivar. The production and marketing of seeds of the variety are taken care of by his son Shri Arvind bhai and the average sale is about 100 quintals per annum. Around 30 local seeds suppliers are involved for the seed marketing of the variety throughout the country, and the production of seeds is being undertaken out by Shri Vallabhhai himself with a group of some local farmers.

During the early years of the development of this variety, Shri Vallabhhai selected the best plants for seed production and grew them in a small area for domestic consumption as well as for marketing. Later on, demand for this carrot grew, and he started cultivation on a large scale during the 1950’s. He also started distributing the seeds to other farmers in his village and adjoining areas in the 1970s. During 1985, he started selling the seeds on a large scale. The average yield of Maduvan Gajar is 40 – 50 t/ha and had been cultivated in Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan successfully.

Shri Vallabhai Vasrambhai Marvaniya was conferred with a National Award by the President of India at Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi during Festival of Innovation (FOIN) – 2017. He was conferred with Padma Shri in the year 2019 for his extraordinary work.

Zupee raises US$ 8 million in Series A funding led by Matrix Partners

Online gaming company Zupee has raised US$ 8 million in a Series A funding round.

The investment round was led by Matrix Partners India along with participation from Falcon Edge Capital, WestCap Group, Orios Venture Partners and Smile Group, which was Zupee’s early stage investor.

Zupee was founded by two IIT Kanpur graduates and runs live quiz tournaments on its app, allowing the users to compete with others for prizes.

There are more than 2,000 live quiz tournaments running on the app through the day every day, covering over 100 topics that range from Bollywood, Hollywood, and Sports to Maths, Spelling, and Hinglish among others.

In India, the online gaming market is increasing at 40 per cent annually and is expected to reach US$ 14 billion in India by 2025.

“Our strong growth in last year has reaffirmed our faith in building a gaming app that combines people’s love for trivia and quizzes with a chance to win real money. This is why we are thrilled to welcome marquee names like Matrix, Falcon Edge, WestCap and Orios as new investors in Zupee. We at Zupee are geared to serve 100 million users and be a leader in skill-based gaming in India. We will be using the capital raised from this round to invest deeper in technology, team and marketing,” said Mr Dilsher Singh Malhi, chief executive of Zupee.

Zupee had raised US$ 1 million in seed funding from Smile Group, which incubated the start-up last year.

“Zupee has built a truly unique mobile-gaming product that allows players to showcase their knowledge, while at the same time tap into their intrinsic need to compete with their friends and other gamers. India leads the world in mobile game downloads with more than 5B downloads in 2019. Zupee’s strong growth in users and total game play is a testament to the potential of the platform,” said Mr Tarun Davda, Managing Director, Matrix India.

As of April 1, 2020, the Zupee app had over 5 million downloads, and has clocked over 10 million game plays in a month and is available in both english as well as hindi languages.

Best Regards,
Manoranjan Sahu
Attache ( Economic & Commerce)
Embassy of India, Bangkok
46 Prasarnmitr, Sukhumvit Soi 23
Klongtoey, Wattana, Bangkok – 10110 (Thailand)
T: +66 2 2580029 (Direct), +66 2 2580300-06 (Extn. 162)
F: +66 2 2584627 Email: com.bangkok@mea.gov.in