What? A solar backpack that allows you to charge your gadgets on the move? Meet Gandharv and Lavina Bakshi, the couple behind the innovation

Lumos, the light-producing spell from the Harry Potter series, may have helped many a wizard in the fictional world. But now there's Lumos to the aid of those muggles in the real world. Stuck in the middle of nowhere and your phone or tablet is dead? No worries. Gandharv and Lavina Bakshi’s new company, Lumos, creates solar backpacks that allow you to charge your gadgets on the go.

The idea came about when Gandharv, an alumnus of IIT-Madras, was pursuing his MBA in IIM-Bangalore. "Back then I ran another company offering consultancy services to companies in and around Bangalore. I used to travel a lot and had problems with mobile and laptop charging. I tried a solar charger, but couldn’t possibly move around with it pointed at the sun all the time.” That's when wife Lavina’s expertise as a designer came in. A former employee of Lifestyle and Flying Machine, Lavina suggested they plant the solar charger in the backpack. After numerous discussions, their first backpack took shape. Gandharv soldered the electronic parts and Lavina stitched it on the backpack.

Gadget and accessory

“We treat the Lumos both as a gadget and a lifestyle accessory. Our backpacks are designed to be water-, impact- and shock-proof and to survive anything that can go wrong with an electronic device exposed to the elements. They boast a sleek, flexible solar panel, unlike conventional panels (large, rigid plates used for rooftop installation)," says Lavina. And if the backpack seems dowdy, there are trendier options coming up — corporate bags, performance sports bags…

How challenging was it to translate their idea into reality? “Funding was a problem. Luckily, I happened to meet my ex-supervisor (from the days when I worked at Tejas Networks) and he agreed to seed funding. The next problem was convincing a manufacturer to work with our startup. Most good manufacturers refuse to work with startups since they prefer large and stable orders,” says Gandharv. A big fillip came in the form of Nasscom's initiative – The 10,000 Startups Programme. It was the first time Nasscom was conducting a live funding event in Bangalore, where four startups had to pitch their ideas to seven investors in front of a large audience. “There were live cameras and the negotiation happened in public. It was scary. Out of seven investors, one of them, Rajan Anandan, MD, Google India, offered to invest Rs. 50 lakh. But we settled for Rs. 25 lakh,” grins Gandharv, adding, "Rajan is one active investor. On the very day he invested in our company, he sent us 15 mails, full of great ideas! He takes a keen interest in the company."

Gandharv and Lavina are now working on a backpack with a display that shows time, the charge that remains, and the energy captured. "Another thing we are excited about is our ‘Tele-Tee’. It has a flexible display built into it, showing moving images. You can play your favourite cricket moments, update your Facebook status... on your tee shirt!" says the duo.

Tech that's wearable

Wearable technology is what they are dabbling in too. “We already have a solar jacket, where customers can charge their phones in their pocket. Our long-term aim is to modify the clothes people wear. At present, climate control is achieved through materials research... a fabric might be able to breathe better and help the wearer feel cooler. But, our approach combines electronics with materials research and development. For example, it is possible for us to build a small air-cooler (blade-less) in the jacket, so you remain cool even when it is hot outside," says Gandharv.

The bags are available on their website www.lumos.co.in, and a couple of stores in Bangalore.