Commerce Development

Interview with JumpToPC CEO & Co-Founder Sucheta Baliga

JumpToPC is a socially responsible startup venture worth following. As an added bonus, the CEO and co-founder is my very own cousin, Sucheta Baliga who is based in Mumbai. I recently had a chance to pick her brain about JumpToPC and its future. The company is in fact a US-India partnership. Additionally, you can help them out by voting in the MIT Solve contest! The link is in question #4 below- so if you like the idea then please VOTE for it!

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1) So what exactly is the product you have launched? 

JumpToPC is an affordable and accessible personal computing solution for at-home learning and working. The solution consists of three components: a device that pairs the user’s existing smartphone and television, an Android app for a one-tap connect, and peripherals such as a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. 

2) Sounds cool.  Tell us about where you got the idea for this project?

In India, 80% of household have a TV (more homes own a TV than a gas connection!) and around 65% have a smartphone. But with wired broadband in less than 10% of homes, laptop/computer ownership is at a dismal 5%. Young adults know how to edit a TikTok video, but wouldn’t be able to make a resume or basic data entry on Word/Excel. 

It’s not just a problem of affordability, but there is a lack of accessible technological infrastructure – that’s the gap we hope to fill. And it’s a huge gap indeed!

3) How many households out there are using it as of now?

We are in the pilot phase, so there are just a few hundred households where our device is actually installed, and about 8000 app users. We are also present in a few schools in Varanasi, UP. The pandemic slowed our manufacturing, but we hope to be up and running again by October. Fingers crossed!

4) There is the contest going on through MIT- and votes are open online.   Tell us about this contest.  

The link to vote: https://solve.mit.edu/challenges/learning-for-girls-and-women/solutions/27804

Voting open till: September 29th at 2pm EST.

My co-founder and CTO – Dan Sweeney – is a research scientist at MIT D-Lab. We heard about the MIT SOLVE Challenge through his network. MIT Solve is a marketplace for social impact innovation with a mission to solve world challenges. We submitted a solution in the Learning for Girls and Women Category, and we are one of 15 finalists out of about 400 entries. 

5) Ok then.  Why should folks vote for your team?  

‘Cause it’s the best solution out there? Jokes aside, all the solutions submitted have such tremendous potential, I’m sure it’ll be hard for the judges to choose. 

I would select JumpToPC because it has a very high potential for scale, not just in India but across the globe. All it needs is a smartphone and TV, devices ubiquitous even in low-income communities around the world. The software and content can be in any language, modified/developed depending on our user’s needs. Remote learning is the need of the hour, especially with COVID and with J2PC, every home can have a computer, even without wired broadband or Wi-Fi. This level of accessibility means digital learning can begin at home, for everyone, everywhere. 

6) Good luck with that! I’m intrigued. Tell us about the team that has been built around this and your origin story.

We are a really small team of just about 5 people. I am founder and CEO, and Dan is the CTO. What really helps us is our partnership with Greenway Appliances, India’s largest clean cookstove manufacturer and distributor. I used to head marketing for them, and the idea for the product also developed while I was in the field, interacting with Greenway customers. But considering our products are so different, especially with the kind of funding needed, I started JumpStream Technologies in April 2019. We still work out of the same office (pre-COVID of course) and they help us with manufacturing and distribution. Through them, we have direct access to over a million households in India itself and a great network of partnerships with micro-finance institutions, government initiatives, NGOs and more. 

7) Any plans to expand into new markets?

It all depends on the funding we would receive, to be honest. But the market demand in India itself is massive, so I think our immediate focus will be scaling to as many states and under-served communities within India first! We are always happy to partner and collaborate though, so any interested parties, do reach out. ☺

8) Is this venture profitable yet or do you think it can be?  Can you share any of your metrics for success?

We are pre-launch, so no, we are not even close to being profitable. But, unlike pure-play apps, we don’t need to hit a million or hundred million customers to become profitable. We are not a not-for-profit, even though our focus is on delivering impact to under-served communities in India and elsewhere, so our products will carry some profit margin. But hopefully, if we get some good funding, we can subsidise the product for our users and increase digital literacy and adoption rates, which is completely city-centric in India right now. 

9) Where do you see this project in one year from now?  Are you willing to make this your main career priority for the long haul?

It’s already my main career priority. This is my full time job since April last year, and we have bootstrapped it, with no funding, other than manufacturing and development support from Greenway. We won another grant earlier this year – we are under due-diligence right now – so hopefully, we get that soon, and of course MIT SOLVE should help get us some funding as well. 

In a year, I think we should be present in at least a 100,000 households and 50 schools – that’s our goal for now. We start to be known as the go-to stepping stone towards digital literacy and accessing computers. We have a bigger team, and oh yeah, we start making some money. Not just JumpStream, but Dan and me as well! ☺

10) Tell us a little about yourself outside of Jump. 

I am from Manipal, a small town in Karnataka, that’s where I have been holed up over the last month, with family. Otherwise, the last 7 years, I have been in Mumbai, which is great mostly, just not the ideal place to be in during a pandemic! I’ll be headed back soon to my husband, who also works in a start-up – he’s into food tech and automation. It’s weird right, a lot of how I would describe myself, has changed over the last few months; I would generally say I always see the sunshine through the clouds, but man has it been an especially cloudy year! But I have the best friends and family (looking at you MJ) so life’s still mostly good. ☺

Additional resources:

Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzh8CTFvUt_uVdpn3aF-hig

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/jump2pc

Website: www.jumptopc.com

Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

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