Interview of Sonam Motwani Founder & CEO of Karkhana
Interviewer - Can you provide me with a description of your business?
Sonam Motwani : Karkhana is an online manufacturing platform. We interact with your design, provide manufacturing feedback and pricing based on our inbuilt algorithm. We have a large network of skilled suppliers. By identifying machines best suited for each job and intelligently routing orders, we offer a far shorter turnaround time than that of traditional manufacturers.
Interviewer - How did you get started in this business?
Sonam Motwani : I am an Aerospace Engineer from IIT Bombay. During my undergraduate years, I was making electric race cars for Formula Student UK. That was my first encounter with designing and building a serious hardware product ground up. The experience of building 4 life size vehicles with a team of 20, sowed the seeds of passion for hardware.
It was sometime during the later half of 2015 when I seriously began considering starting my own business. I wouldn’t say I had the spark for entrepreneurship from childhood. Like most kids, I wanted to become an astronaut. Entrepreneurship is something I figured out along the way.
After graduating, I worked with Procter & Gamble in their technology division, developing solutions to speed up packing lines for haircare products and later moved to manufacturing of sanitary napkins. My stint at P&G helped me understand how large companies approach product development, sourcing and deployment. Working closely with vendors in China and India gave me insights into challenges spread across the manufacturing ecosystem. With deeper analyses, it became more evident that the world of design and manufacturing is pretty much the same as it was a decade ago: difficulty in accessing resources, lack of cost transparency, idle unutilized capacity at manufacturers.
I began to see an opportunity in this unaddressed gap in the ecosystem and spent my weekends meeting hardware startups, design firms and manufacturing suppliers in Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune. I put together the framework of an online platform that would simplify manufacturing and promised myself, that if during this period, I could establish a handful of businesses/innovators and suppliers who find value in my proposition, I’d quit my job and commit full time to doing this. I met my goal, held myself to the promise and put in the papers to kick start Rolling Cube in April 2016.
Rolling Cube was meant to be a custom manufacturing startup that would enable anyone and everyone to build customized personalized products at the ease of their desktop.
Interviewer - Why do your customers select you over your competitors?
Sonam Motwani : We are able to provide our customers with low-volume production, which is not something easily available from vendors. By leveraging on our vendor network, we are able to not only promise our customers low-volume production, but also provide quick turnaround time on such projects.
Interviewer - What are the biggest issues for running this business?
Sonam Motwani : We have worked with significant number of customers and developed a wide variety of hardware products to be confident of the value proposition of our service. Now we need to scale this up.
The next big milestone we are striving towards for achieving scalability is the automation of our pricing engine and online design for manufacturing feedback on our platform. We believe this will be a game changer in the way manufacturing interactions have been happening and accelerate the hardware development cycles for engineering teams. Our bigger ambition is to digitize the manufacturing ecosystem, which will democratize the process and make it accessible to everybody, just like software. This will take us extraordinary amounts of dedication and persistence, because the manufacturing industry in India is still very traditional and not very comfortable with operating digitally.