Chandra is today a fully-funded student incubator, being mentored personally by the top guns of T-Hub.

Meet 16-year-old Chandra Sekhar who wants to make drinking water out of thin air
Atom Entrepreneurship Thursday, September 27, 2018 - 17:39

Hyderabad-based T-Hub, which houses 100s of startups, always wears a busy look with entrepreneurs working on making their idea the next big disruption. Old and young, there are entrepreneurs across age groups, but one person who stands out is a 16-year-old, busily engaged in conversation with mentors, working on his next big disruption – generating pure drinking water out of thin air.

Shuffling classes and his work, Nadiminti Chandra Sekhar, currently in the 11th standard at Kendriya Vidyalaya No 2 Golkonda, finds little time to visit T-Hub and work on his innovation. But that doesn’t deter the young boy from getting his prototype ready by the end of this year.

It is the same grit and determination that got him into T-Hub. Several unanswered calls, visits and mails later, Chandra is today a fully-funded student incubator, being mentored personally by the top guns of T-Hub.  

Chandra Sekhar with Jay Krishnan, former CEO of T-Hub

For Chandra, it all started in class 7, when his uncle first introduced the concept of electromagnetism for a project at his school’s science fair. Even after the project was completed, the concept and the scope of electromagnetism sparked curiosity in Chandra, who wanted to develop something on the basis of this concept.

“This resulted in my very first model, which was a ceiling fan, which works on electromagnetic induction. I had multiple ideas, I was figuring out what to work on first and pitched it to my neighbour who then told me about T-Hub. Several calls and attempts later, I was able to pitch my idea on stage during T-Hub’s first anniversary celebrations two years ago. The then CEO Jay Krishnan was impressed, took me in and T-Hub has been funding me since,” says Chandra, who was just 14 when he started working with T-Hub.

Chandra’s first idea was a mount regular ceiling fan, which also doubles up as a small size generator, thus generating electricity and being able to power other gadgets. While he started off with working on this idea, there were some loopholes and the idea failed to take off. Unfazed, Chandra moved onto another idea, which is now nearing completion.

The Wall

“I decided to start working on my second idea because that has more scope and growth potential. I named it The Wall. It basically is an atmospheric water generator,” he adds.

Chandra’s innovation seeks to solve the problem of two basic needs in rural areas – water and electricity.

The device he has built uses atmospheric air we breathe, condenses the water vapour, which is present in the form of humidity, purifies it and stores it in a container, thus generating pure drinking water out of thin air. And not just that, once the water reaches its maximum storage limit, the solar panel cuts electricity input to the machine and stores that electricity in a battery, which can be used to power other devices.

“It’s the ultimate wall you can have at your home – it stores water and electricity in a battery. So you have backup of pure drinking water, and electricity available at all times,” he adds.

The IP, Chandra says, lies in a code in the device, which senses humidity and temperature and tries to adapt itself to get maximum output. It’s like a small artificial intelligence device, he adds.

The prototype of The Wall

The Wall can generate a minimum of 15 litres of water a day and depends on atmospheric conditions. For example, humid places can generate a lot more water.

Currently in the shape of a small cake-size box with temperature humidity sensors and a small micro controller, The Wall will soon be patented by Chandra.

The Wall is currently in its final prototyping stages and Chandra hopes to be able to launch the actual model into the market by the end of the year. The final product is likely to cost around Rs 8,000-9,000.

But his vision goes beyond just making profits from the device. He wants to be able to provide this to as many villages as possible to make water and electricity easily available.

“My goal is to subsidise it through governments and push it to as many rural areas as we can and give them access to pure drinking water,” he adds.

And once The Wall is ready for sale, the next step for Chandra will be to set up a company and hire a few engineers.

“With Chandra Sekhar, what I rediscovered was a young me. A super inquisitive kid at 15. I used to love physics. My parents did the best they could. But I just didn't have an expert to guide and mentor me. Specifically, what I like about him is his imagination as opposed to bookish knowledge. That coupled with hunger can be a killer combo. What he lacked is what I have, experience. And a process driven approach to problem solving. With the right guidance he could go places and I sure hope he does,” said Jay Krishnan, former CEO of T-Hub. 

While his focus is to first get the final product out to the market by the end of this year, Chandra has several other ideas in the areas of sustainable energy and agriculture that he wants to work on next.

But the bigger challenge ahead for him to manage both his education, and his passion of entrepreneurship. “Till 10th standard it was very easy to manage. But since I came to 11th, managing classes and this is the only challenge I’m facing. The portions are so vast this year,” Chandra adds.

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