Sonam Motwani belongs to the rare breed of entrepreneurs. After all, she is one of the few women founders in the startup as well as India’s corporate industry. Her dream and life revolves around Karkhana.io, a startup that Motwani founded all by herself in 2018.
It won’t be wrong to call Karkhana.io a disruptive startup as it is involved in the ambitious quest of digitizing and simplifying the manufacturing sector. The startup essentially envisions the reality of making the hardware development cycle as quick as that of software. It wants to break down barriers to provide access to high-quality manufacturing services that will help in bringing physical products to market quickly.
As challenging as this mission is, Motwani has already proven her mettle by smoothly navigating her startup through the tumultuous period of COVID Lockdown. Investors eventually rewarded her entrepreneurial skills by pumping equity funding worth $1.5Mn in a seed funding round.
In an exclusive interview with Techpluto, Motwani talks about her entrepreneurial journey, karkhana.io’s mission, latest seed funding and much more. This is Motwani’s first interview after karkhana.io’s recent seed funding round.
Q) Women entrepreneurs have always been in minority and more so in manufacturing sector. What really made you to jump in the manufacturing sector?
I finished my bachelor degree from IIT Bombay in Aerospace Engineering in 2013. IIT Bombay gave me the experience of meeting a lot of smart people and working with them on some very cool projects. One of those was building an electric race car from scratch. That was my first encounter with manufacturing. I then started my career with P&G and worked on solving engineering problems across multiple business units. It was during this time that I witnessed some of the challenges underlying in the manufacturing industry in India. The challenges were hard but compelling enough for me to jump in and work on finding solutions and this eventually led to building Karkhana.io
Q) What are some of the major challenges in designing and prototyping manufacturing spare parts & hardware and how karkhana.io aims to resolve these pain points?
If you want to procure a custom part or product, it is extremely tedious and time-consuming to find the right manufacturing supplier. There is no easy way to figure out which manufacturing process to go for, where to manufacture, what is a fair price to pay. Manufacturing is a highly unorganized industry. At Karkhana.io, we are trying to change this.
The thought behind Karkhana.io was to create an online platform that helps businesses of all sizes get custom manufactured parts in a simple, fast, and reliable way.
We manufacture parts for various industries like automotive, robotics, healthcare, consumer goods etc. We do not own any machines at Karkhana.io, we have a network of manufacturing partners located in different geographies who own the machines and help us achieve the speed and quality in the product. We keep our margin on every order that we manufacture with them.
In this aggregation process, we own the responsibility of product quality and timeline and make sure that we only get highly vetted manufacturers onboard who can deliver on our commitments.
Q) Can you please shed light on all the services that karkhana.io offers to its clients?
Karkhana.io simplifies the procurement of customized parts manufactured using different manufacturing technologies like precision machining, casting, fabrication, plastic molding, 3d printing, etc. Instead of finding separate suppliers for each of these processes, our clients use Karkhana.io as a single platform for the end-to-end service ensuring reliability from material procurement to manufacturing project management to quality control to project delivery.
Q) Karkhana.io is reportedly involved in building cutting edge technology – from deep-sea underwater robots to satellite and rocket for outer space to components for electric vehicles, IOT and FMCG industries. Can you please shed some light on these ambitious projects?
Our expert supply network for a range of manufacturing processes enables us to manufacture highly intricate parts as well as large size structures.
Q) Karkhana.io recently raised seed funding of $1.5Mn. How does the company plans to leverage this funding?
To develop our on-demand cloud manufacturing platform and to further strengthen our supply network.
Q) Karkhana.io is involved in the ambitious pursuit of digitizing the manufacturing sector. However, the digital penetration in India’s manufacturing sector is still very low. What do you think will accelerate this process?
The penetration will increase if the digital tools are simple to onboard, without additional infrastructure and enable manufacturing suppliers to manage projects more effectively while ensuring continuous increase in business for them.
Q) Karkhana.io managed to win many clients in 2020 despite the lingering shadow of pandemic. How did the company managed to endure this storm smoothly?
When the pandemic struck in early 2020 and most of the manufacturing activity came to a halt, the team at Karkhana.io responded with agility and figured out how we could use our strength in manufacturing and supply chain to help fight the pandemic. We started working with our supplier network in injection molding, machining, and fabrication to mass-produce PPEs. We also tied up with other healthcare companies and helped with procurement of tools to manufacture masks, swabs for COVID testing, ventilator parts and other products which were in shortage.
In July 2020, we resumed our regular manufacturing projects and added new customers month on month thereafter.
Q) Despite all the hype around women empowerment, women entrepreneurs still make up tiny percentage in the leadership roles. There are very few women CEOs & co-founders. Your thoughts about the same?
More women IN leadership will pull more women TO leadership.
Q) Your sincere advice to all the women who want to pursue career in entrepreneurship?
If you have a strong will to pursue entrepreneurship, go ahead with all your might. Surround yourself with the right people who have the skills that you are short on. Network with people who would want you to and help you to succeed.