LAS VEGAS: Decked out in trade show attire – suit, tie and a Singapore pin to finish the look – Siddarth Mazumdar blends right in with the hubbub swirling around him on the CES show floor.
You would not necessarily give him a second look unless his company, Newton’s Meter, and the personal safety device it is showcasing catches your fancy.
This suits Siddarth just fine, given that the 16-year-old teenager did not actually meet the age limit set by the trade show organisers; you have to be 18 and above to be an exhibitor at the annual Las Vegas consumer electronics event.
As the Singapore teen puts it, an administrative oversight allowed him to bypass the requirements and be by his father Deb Mazumdar’s side to promote Newton’s Meter at the Singapore pavilion, which is under Enterprise Singapore’s auspices.
“CES only contacted the point person in charge of the group we were in, and since they didn’t require individual verification, I just came,” Siddarth explained.
The Chua Chu Kang Secondary School student just finished his O-Levels last year and is currently waiting for his results – which he said allowed him to travel to the United States.
But the idea for Newton’s Meter came earlier.
Siddarth recounted how an incident in 2016, while he was back in India to visit relatives, proved to be the genesis for the his product.
“One night, I was studying as it was streaming year (he was in Secondary 2 then), when I heard a crash in the vicinity,” he said.
“It was only in the morning did I find out that someone died from that crash, and not from the impact but from massive bleeding.
“I felt that the death could have been avoided if the person received help earlier, and I started thinking how I could solve this problem.”
The thought continued to percolate as he returned to Singapore. And in November that year, after he attended some seminars on Internet of Things (IoT) technology, it dawned on him: People in need of help did not need to be near a hospital or doctor, as long as they have something to trigger a call for help that would give the exact coordinates of where the person is.
He subsequently shared the idea with his father and they went online to see if there were such products being developed or already in market. There weren’t any, they discovered.
“Do you want to just park the idea to one side, or go all the way with it” – that was the question his business consultant father asked him then. And Siddarth chose the latter.
Fast forward a year, during which father and son went on a recruitment drive to get the necessary engineering expertise to turn the idea into an actual prototype, and Newton’s Meter came into being.
It also delivered the proof-of-concept device needed when they filed for a provisional patent application with the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Today, Newton’s Meter has eight other employees working to turn Siddarth’s idea into a viable business.
The actual device has an accelerometer to detect if someone has had a fall or crash, GPS for real-time coordinates and Bluetooth and Narrowband IoT to make the emergency call for help via SMS.
Siddarth shared that the device is market-ready and has been presented locally to the police, Ministry of Manpower and the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA). He also found a local manufacturer that can produce 10,000 pieces of the device each month, and is pricing it at US$150.
“Now, we just need to acquire customers,” the confident youngster said.
Does he intend to quit school to pursue his entrepreneurial dream?
The triple-science student was quick to say that studies remain his main priority, and he intends to go down the junior college-then-university route.
Regardless, his parents – first-generation immigrants from India who now call Singapore home – are “very supportive” of their only son’s ambition, he shared.
It remains to be seen if Newton’s Meter will become a success story in the future. But for its teenage co-founder, his enterprising zeal is a refreshing reference point for aspiring entrepreneurs back home.