Navajith Karkera, Co-Founder & CEO at Rapture Innovation Labs Pvt Ltd
Great Companies: How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
Navajith Karkera: Jagath and I both completed our bachelor's degrees at Sahyadri College of Engineering in Mangalore. We were passionate about building things, so we actively participated in national tech and innovation contests organized by IITs and NITs.
Under the guidance of the "Dreamers" team, initiated by our college seniors, we found a perfect environment to work on our ideas. It helped us to connect with like-minded individuals and provided us with opportunities to showcase our projects at national events. One of our remarkable projects was the development of a Smart Helmet designed for motorcyclists. This project led us to win many national innovation contests. Among the notable achievements on our journey, two moments truly stand out. In 2015, we were honored with the "Best Young Innovators" award, and in 2018, we received the "Gold Award".
While working on the smart helmet, we were challenged with reproducing sound without distracting riders. While our ears are less sensitive to low-frequency sounds, especially below 60Hz, our bodies can feel them as vibrations through our bodies. It led us to explore a way to deliver the right audio experience without relying solely on their ears but also experiencing it through the body.
Thrilled by the possibilities, we returned to the drawing board and designed audio drivers with the ability to transmit sound through the body. To our amazement, the experience surpassed our expectations when integrating them into regular headphones. Excited by what we found, we made a few 3D-printed headphone prototypes for ourselves.
As music enthusiasts, we faced challenges finding headphones that matched our varied audio tastes and offered a live performance feel. Our main aim was to make a seamless connection between people and sound, delivering a top-quality and blissful audio experience.
Our main challenge was to include subwoofers into the headphones to give us that feel of sound in the body. Something usually found in High-end speakers and home theater systems, but not in headphones. Motivated by our passion for music and innovation, we decided to change things in the audio industry. After three years of hard work, we succeeded in developing a high-fidelity prototype. This prototype amazed not just us but also our peers and fellow music lovers.
Word spread about our invention quickly, so we decided to set up a demo kiosk at a few high-football events. This way, people could try our product and provide us with their feedback. The amazing positive feedback confirmed that we had something special. This motivated us to start our own audio company.
Our goal was clear—to redefine the headphone experience and provide music enthusiasts with a new way to enjoy audio that regular headphones just couldn't provide.
When we started this entrepreneurial journey, we understood that India hasn't made a name yet, in making new audio tech or global audio products. A fact that made us even more determined to create a top-notch product which is designed, engineered and manufactured in India, for the world.
Great Companies: What makes Rapture Innovation Labs Pvt Ltd different from other similar companies?
What truly sets us apart is that we are a technology-first company and a homegrown brand. We design, engineer and manufacture our products in India for people across the world. At Rapture Innovations, our main goal is to revolutionize how we experience sound. We've noticed that in the last couple of decades, the focus in the audio industry has shifted to adding features, often leaving out what matters the most - making the sound better and improving how we listen.
To tackle this, we are committed to refocusing on audio reproduction with our innovative Hybrid Driver Acoustics technology. Our patented technology combines air and body conduction, incorporated into our distinctive Impulse driver, to create a novel headphone audio experience.
Even the best of headphones across the world suffer from a drawback – they typically use just one audio driver on each side of the head. Plus, they lack specialized audio technology to replicate the effect of a subwoofer.
Sonic Lamb's revolutionary Hybrid driver technology fills this gap. By combining air and body conduction principles, we've unlocked the power to produce audio that's not only audible but for the first time ever, can be felt through your body.
This unique approach distinguishes Sonic Lamb, positioning it as one of the world's most impactful and captivating headphones, providing a close-to-life audio experience.
Great Companies: What were the struggles and challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
Like any start-up, we faced various challenges in the beginning.
Firstly, we came across the absence of a well-established setup for creating and trying out audio technology in India. It meant we had to charter the unnavigated territory of constructing many parts of our headphones from the ground up. Discovering suitable resources, skills, and facilities demanded a lot of time, effort, and persistence.
Secondly, obtaining high-quality materials for our headphones brought us another obstacle. Developing premium headphones was quite a task for us, as we aimed for a product with exceptional quality, performance, and aesthetics. We had to actively engage with different suppliers and test samples from each one before finding the perfect match for our requirements. Finding contract manufacturers willing to collaborate with a start-up and handle small-volume production was another challenging task.
To guarantee the highest product quality, we needed to import couple of essential testing equipment, which added complexity to our operations and costs.
The recent selection into the SoundTech accelerator program in Struer, Denmark, explicitly designed for audio-tech companies, has been beneficial at a stage where we are entering into mass production. It gave us the opportunity to seek assistance from experts in acoustics and audio product design on testing and reviewing the design one final time before transitioning into the production stage.
It will also help us speed up new technology and product advancements. Moreover, the program granted us access to top-quality development and testing facilities, further boosting our capabilities.
While we faced significant challenges during the initial phases, each hurdle became a chance for learning, making us more resilient and driven to make a significant mark in the audio industry.
Great Companies: How do you plan to grow in the future? What does 5 years down the line look like for Rapture Innovation Labs Pvt Ltd?
Navajith Karkera: At Rapture, our primary focus is to deliver a distinct and high-quality audio experience driven by innovation. We envision to be the preferred brand worldwide for immersive and blissful audio experiences. Through our Hybrid Driver technology, we've discovered numerous applications for enhancing and enriching the audio experience. These ideas are part of our product roadmap, including plans for incorporating this technology into loudspeakers and a range of headsets, each specialized for broad usecases.
Great Companies: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Based on my own experiences and insights, it's crucial to build your venture around something you're deeply passionate about rather than following the current trends or sectors that are receiving funding. Building something you're genuinely passionate about is key to success. When your venture aligns with your passion, it doesn't feel like mere 'work'. It serves as a motivating force that takes you forward, even during the toughest times and challenges.
Another important point is to address a problem that resonates with you and has strong validation, especially if the problem is troubling many people.
Creating the right product for the right market is significant compared to merely building the best product. Utilizing design thinking, customer exploration, and attentive listening allows you to uncover the requirements and desires of your target market. The process demands a deep understanding of your target audience and their challenges. When you align your product or service with their expectations, you amplify the prospects of achieving success.
Finally, I suggest maintaining an unwavering focus on quality and customer satisfaction. Build a genuine dedication to understanding and delighting your customers, developing strong relationships, actively seeking feedback, and consistently providing exceptional experiences– this builds the foundation for a loyal customer base and a strong brand.