Asish Mohandas, 25, a fresh graduate in product design from IIT Kanpur, has recently won the James Dyson Award for his innovative product, MAATTAM, which is a retrofit patient transfer system.

Mohandas had designed MAATTAM as part of his final year degree project. With this award, he has also been given  £2,000 by the James Dyson

MAATTAM was conceived with an aim to set up a system for efficiently transferring patients without causing them any pain, and to eliminate involvement of manual labour in shifting patients. It is touted as the solution to one of India’s biggest problems in the healthcare sector—lack of patient transfer mechanism  to shift patients from stretchers to hospital beds or the other
way round.

In conversation with Guardian 20, Mohandas, speaks about his big win, his inspiration behind the product, and his future plans.

Q. What inspired MAATTAM’s creation?

A. MAATTAM is an outcome of a search for a low cost and appropriate solution for a problem that exists in India’s healthcare industry, i.e. void of a system to transfer patients from beds to stretchers without causing pain to them in the process. I recognised this as a problem across medical care centres, both for patients, and the hospital staff, who tend to develop back conditions, permanent aches. Dr Sanjay Behari, Senior Neurologist, SGPGI Lucknow, also briefed me about the existing problems with the patient handling systems.

I started working towards designing MAATTAM as a solution to eradicate this problem. The idea behind MAATTAM was to create a solution so patients experience minimal discomfort while they are being transferred from stretcher to bed or otherwise, eliminate the physical effort of hospital staff, and create an overall better experience at hospitals for patient care.

Q. Tell us about the challenges you encountered while you were working on MAATTAM.

A. MAATTAM was conceived after multiple iterations, both in terms of design and the technology used. There were different feedbacks from different stakeholders, which were to be incorporated at every step.

Hospitals are busy environments, and conducting research there was challenging—doctors and patients had to be sought, their consent and cooperation played a huge role.

Multiple feedbacks that I have mentioned above were incorporated in the MAATTAM system, in a way so that the operability and adoption of this solution could be easy for everyone.Procuring different materials and components for prototype fabrication at the same time, and customising them according to the requirement consumed a lot of time.

Q. Study schedules at IITs are tight. So how did you manage to work on MAATTAM while managing your curriculum?

A. I was fortunate to be in IIT Kanpur, certainly one of the best environments where productive work can happen. Though the schedules were tight, the people around me inspired me to get going with the tough times. Since MAATTAM was my final year thesis project, I had the opportunity of working on it throughout the year. When the work and the environment itself were interesting and motivating, I was completely immersed into it. The challenge was to create a balance between the work and the deadlines, which I guess I have failed many a time to maintain, but have learned to cope with through practice.

Q. You also intend to make the product commercial. How do you plan to go about it?

A. For me, the satisfaction lies in the product reaching the end-user, for whom it is designed. MAATTAM was designed in a manner in which it won’t replace any of the existing stretcher trolleys inside the hospital, but would act as a retrofit which can be fitted onto them, converting them as transfer stretchers. This retrofit nature of MAATTAM along with the simple components makes it more affordable for the hospitals.The patent for this product is in process which would be followed by approval from medical boards.MAATTAM would then go into production with the help of appropriate medical equipment manufacturers. I am optimistic that winning James Dyson Award at the national level and participating at the International round of James Dyson Award will give me ample exposure and confidence which I can use during MATTAM’S journey to commercialisation.

Q. How do you feel about winning the first edition of James Dyson Award India?

A. James Dyson Award is one of the most prestigious awards globally. I am extremely happy and proud that I have been chosen for representing our country at the global level with James Dyson Award. Sir James Dyson had always been an inspiration to make contraptions and fail, till it’s made right. Dyson has been dedicated to creating problem solving technology which could enable the world to be better equipped. Owing my inspiration to Sir James Dyson’s philosophy, I feel equally responsible to create solutions that can solve problems. I am privileged with my association to a brand so responsible and I believe this award will inspire more people in the coming years to solve genuine problems and take those ideas to the end-users as tangible products. I feel confident that am getting closer to my dream of realising MAATTAM as a product to the needy people out there. I share this award with my project guide and all the other people who have supported and contributed in taking MAATTAM this far.

Q. You are now in the running for International Winner Award. What are your expectations?

A. I am beyond elated and privileged to be participating at the international level of James Dyson Award. I am looking forward to learn from the industry experts at Dyson, pioneers from the design community and incorporate their esteemed feedback and review to my invention. I believe this would enable great exposure to my idea and will expand horizons for me to take it to the next level. I would be more than happy to integrate their ideas to MATTAM and take a step further in its evolving journey. As learned from Sir Dyson, every journey for a product is a new learning.

Q. Could you tell us about your career aspirations?

A. I have just completed my graduation from IIT and I am happy to grasp opportunities that are aligned with the idea of work. I have no blinkers and filters as of yet and am ready to explore options. I am interested to work in an evolving environment and creative people to evolve products with innovative technology and rich user experience. I might start up on my own or join somebody as long as there is sync in our sensibilities. My priority objective will be to indulge in working for products/technology to solve real-life problems. I am equally interested in music, and would love to take both music and design with me.

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