How a young Indian startup is making calculators ‘smart’ for millions of shopkeepers


A yr in the past, Praveen Mishra, the co-founder of Tohands, thought making a ‘sensible’ calculator could be a silly thought and no person would need it. However when he noticed a lady working a small retailer in Sarjapura, Bengaluru, struggling to maintain observe of all of the transactions, Mishra realised the significance of a ‘sensible’ calculator that additionally data the info.

“After I met the woman, I discovered that she used to calculate the ultimate quantity on the calculator and write it on the paper after which on the finish of the day she is going to once more calculate the ultimate quantity utilizing a calculator,” Mishra advised in a video interview.

“Calculators have a fundamental use case however we are able to do plenty of issues on prime of the calculation half, which is the place we predict the sensible calculator will probably be a very good instrument for the shopkeepers,” mentioned Mishra explaining the thought behind turning a humble calculator into ‘linked’ one.

Mishra, who’s from Pratapgarh, Uttar Pradesh, began Tohands in 2017 together with Satyam Sahu and Shanmuga Vadival. All three co-founders deal with completely different domains of the enterprise, with Mishra trying on the product aspect of issues, Sahu taking good care of the app and software program and Vadival answerable for {hardware}.

The ‘Made-in-India’ sensible calculator helps Wi-Fi and a companion cell app. (Picture credit score: Praveen Mishra)

Spine of small companies

Mishra noticed that small enterprise house owners are neither snug utilizing the digital khata money e book cell apps nor have they got the assets to spend money on costly billing machines. What they like is an easy calculator to carry out the common computations which are concerned in on a regular basis life. “The spine of small companies in India remains to be a calculator, whether or not you go from a jewelry retailer to a Kirana retailer,” he mentioned.

This was when Mishra, 21, determined to reimagine the calculator however the problem was make it higher. In spite of everything, calculators have already confirmed to be units which are a quick and handy method to do calculations in minutes, all on the push of some buttons.

The primary model of the ‘sensible’ calculator Mishra developed was a Raspberry Pi-powered prototype of a tool, that includes a keyboard and two buttons—one for credit score and one other for debit. Mishra then went to some shopkeepers and confirmed the prototype system to gauge their curiosity within the sensible calculator. Initially, they managed to take seven pre-orders of the system however Mishra and crew quickly began work on model two of the calculator.

The second model was a way more polished product and featured the calculation performance in addition to the credit score and debit characteristic however the display was small and the system used a membrane keyboard. It was after solely the startup obtained chosen at T-hub, an incubation centre for IT startups at Raidurgam in Hyderabad, Mishra and crew obtained motivated to take one other shot at {hardware} and degree up the design to make a sensible calculator a actuality.  The third model of the sensible calculator, which is now out there for pre-order on the corporate’s web site, is extra user-friendly and may do much more than the primary and second variations mixed.

Mishra is promoting the calculator for Rs 3000.

 The second model of the sensible calculator was developed for testing functions. (Picture credit score: Praveen Mishra)

Emphasis on small issues

He mentioned they utilized the precept of MAYA (Most Superior, But Acceptable). As an example, the button sample on this sensible calculator reminds you of what you see on a Casio or Citizen calculator. “If I exchange your Casio calculator with my calculator, you shouldn’t really feel the distinction,” he mentioned. Nevertheless, there are delicate adjustments which are distinctive to this calculator. The reminiscence buttons on the calculator have been made small to accommodate the cash-in and cash-out buttons, for which Mishra’s startup has utilized for a patent.

“The dimensions of the calculator is massive and never a small one and it was by selection as a result of we don’t want our calculator to be thrown round within the store. We wished it to be a countertop calculator,” he mentioned.

Whereas designing the product, Mishra mentioned plenty of emphasis was placed on little issues, like larger buttons protecting the shopkeeper’s choice in thoughts. The cash-in and cash-out buttons, as an example, are available in inexperienced and pink so {that a} shopkeeper is aware of once they press the inexperienced button it means the sale has been accomplished and the pink color symbolises the expense.

The fundamental thought behind the sensible calculator isn’t any completely different from a standard calculator. Like a daily calculator, you are able to do fundamental calculations. The distinction comes when you may file these calculations and right here’s the place the ‘sensible’ angle is available in. The linked calculator helps Wi-Fi and there’s a cell app that reveals the transaction in your smartphone. There’s a 16MB built-in reminiscence, which may retailer 5 million transactions. The system comes with a 2400mAh rechargeable battery, a USB-C port for charging, and a dot-matrix show.

 An early prototype of the sensible calculator made by Mishra and crew. (Picture credit score: Praveen Mishra)

Future plans

Though it’s a calculator, Mishra mentioned it plans to roll out new options and enhance capabilities through OTA updates. Consider how Apple or Google push out new software program updates on their smartphones. Sooner or later, the sensible calculator could have the power to file who you paid to or who you bought paid from, primarily capturing the main points of the shopper. This may assist the shopkeeper file the identify and cell numbers of their prospects. Accessing information of their prospects means the shopkeeper can file transactions and keep in mind who has taken udhaar and when is the due date to repay the mortgage.

The sensible calculator has been designed and manufactured in India. The present plan is to construct 2000 items per thirty days and regularly increase it to 1 lakh items by subsequent yr. To achieve out to a broad base of shoppers, particularly in rural areas of India, Mishra is three sorts of distribution channels that embody reselling, partnering with firms like PayNearby and promoting the system on to shoppers by means of its personal web site and itemizing on e-commerce platforms like Amazon. The startup has up to now obtained Rs 30 lakh as funding from the T-hub Startup India Seed Fund and one other Rs 20 lakh from angel traders. Mishra will use the cash to fabricate the sensible calculator.

 Mishra (proper) with a buyer (left) holding the sensible calculator at a store. (Picture credit score: Praveen Mishra/LinkedIn)

Mishra’s firm is among the few energetic startups that is trying at {hardware}. Designing and constructing a {hardware} product has by no means been simple in India, which is the rationale why a rustic with a inhabitants of over a billion individuals lacks specialised {hardware} startups.

“To be actually sincere, it’s very laborious,” Mishra mentioned, including that in {hardware}, it requires an early adapter and in India, prospects will not be early adapters.” “They need completed merchandise as a result of our expectations are actually excessive and when an area firm doesn’t reside as much as their expectations, they like to get a very good high quality product from the skin market,” he added.

A part of the issue is the nonexistent ecosystem that helps {hardware} improvements, blamed Mishra. “It’s a rooster and egg downside. Within the early stage, in case you don’t get prospects as a result of the standard isn’t good and the investor gained’t fund you because you don’t have the shopper traction.”