Rahul Alex Panicker never regretted refusing the cushy job offers from the Silicon Valley. The 35-year-old from Kerala has already been elevated to a league of innovators, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google founder Larry Page. More importantly, his innovation has helped over 2 lakh babies across the globe connect with life.
The baby incubators developed by Rahul and friends were unique and universally usable. They cost only one percent of the conventional incubators. They could be used anywhere, even in places with no electricity.
The incubator called Embrace resembles a tiny wrap. It could warm the baby for four to six hours with just hot water. Anyone with access to hot water could operate it with ease. Embrace is now widely used in 11 countries, including Kenya, Vietnam, China, Afghanistan and India.
This novel innovation has been widely reported in international media. The prestigious MIT Technology Review listed Rahul among the 35 innovators last year, an honor bestowed on Zuckerberg and Page in the previous years.
US President Barack Obama invited the innovators behind Embrace to the White House to laud them. However, nothing elates Rahul more than the calls he receive from the mothers who want to thank him for saving their babies. The mobile incubators are used by the World Health Organization in the Syrian refugee camps in Jordan.
The incubator had its origin in a class project Rahul did amid his doctoral studies. After studies in IIT and Stanford University, the innovator from Mavelikkara wanted to design an incubator that could help the babies survive in remote places. Traditional devices were of no help when the babies had to be shifted from hospital to hospital.
Embrace is close to be marketed globally. Several rounds of clinical trials have been done successfully. The incubator is used in the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College, Sree Avittam Tirunal Hospital and the KIMS Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram and a few hospitals in Bengaluru. The Kerala government has bought five units.