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Bangalore startup offers solar power backpacks

According to reports, during field visits to the outskirts of Bangalore as a consultant in 2012, Gandharv Bakshi’s mobile phone would constantly run out of power.

A casual mention of his frustrations to fashion designer wife led to the emergence of Lumos Design Technology—which makes bags with an inbuilt battery that can power mobile devices through solar power. Bakshi, 30, who was also studying at IIM-Bangalore at the time, opted out of placements and started working on a prototype for the bag.

Along with his wife, Bakshi began work on the idea of wearable technology and built their first prototype at the end of 2012. He came out with a bag that had a solar panel inserted on top.

The panel was later replaced with imported solar fabric from China and the United States, and Lumos had an unbreakable, waterproof and durable design for the bag. Last year, Google India Managing Director and angel investor Rajan Anandan invested Rs 25 lakh in the startup. “I invested because they are solving a real problem. The company is addressing a large global market. Most of us run out of battery power on our phones and notebooks every day – especially true for people who travel extensively,” says Anandan, who has invested in over 40 Indian startups.

Bakshi’s wife, Lavina who was working with a denim company in Bangalore, is now dedicated full time to designing new wearable technology products for the startup. Lumos bags, available on its website, currently cost about Rs 5,000 each. “About 70 per cent of the cost of the bag is its technology, which includes the solar fabric, the battery and the circuit,” says Bakshi.

He is also in talks with various ecommerce players and two large laptop manufacturers, to increase the sales of Lumos. The battery can charge at the rate of 3 watts per hour, enough to charge a phone twice over. “By the end of 2014, we hope to sell 10,000 bags globally,” says Bakshi, who is getting the products tested in the Philippines, Malaysia and Mexico. Lumos is also selling its backpacks through BumsOnTheSaddle, a Bangalore based bike and accessories retailer. “The backpack has seen an increasing demand among people who go on long rides and need to use gadgets along,” says Rohan Kini, cofounder of BumsOnTheSaddle. Lumos is also working on a solar-powered jacket for bikers. A phone kept in the pocket of the jacket, will automatically get charged when the jacket is taken out in the sun. Besides this, the company is working on a backpack for mountaineers. “The mountaineering backpack has a considerable surface area, which can be used for charging large batteries via solar power,” says Bakshi, an alumnus of IIT-Madras.

Lumos is also working on a prototype of a “weightlifter backpack”, which will use a small quadracopter or propellers to keep the bag in the air while a biker rides. The propellers, which get recharged through solar energy, ease the weight on a biker’s back.

Bakshi has applied for an Indian patent on design of electronic circuits used for the solar-powered bag, which can also charge assorted USB devices such as coffee coasters for making coffee, or small chillers to cool a can of beer for three hours. “The sun gives us enough energy every day to power all our electronic devices,” he said. “We wanted to become a wearable technology maker which can harness that energy to solve our common problems.”

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