In the bustling landscape of India's technology sector, one area that has often been overlooked is audio technology. Despite India's rapidly advancing in various technology sectors, the field of high-quality audio experiences has largely been dominated by international brands.
This gap in the growing Indian market presents a unique challenge: how can India innovate in audio technology to provide immersive and high-quality sound experiences that rival global standards? This question becomes even more pertinent considering the growing demand for superior audio products among India's burgeoning middle class and tech-savvy youth.
Though several Indian brands like boAt are revolutionising the Indian audio market, they aren't focused on innovating the inner side, i.e. technology.
The problem is twofold. On the one hand, there's a lack of homegrown innovation in the audio technology space, with most high-end audio products being imported and often unaffordable for the average Indian consumer.
On the other hand, the available options in the market fail to provide a truly immersive audio experience, often limited to traditional sound delivery methods.
Aimed at making affordable yet high-quality audio technology
Navajith, from Mangalore, and Jagath, from Madikeri, noticed a gap in the market for affordable, high-quality, and immersive audio technology. To address this, they founded Rapture, aiming to fill this gap in the Indian audio technology sector.
The founders began their journey at Sahyadri College of Engineering in Mangalore, where they actively participated in national tech contests, honing their skills and nurturing their creative ideas.
“Under the guidance of the “Dreamers” team, a group started by our college seniors, we found a great environment along with like-minded individuals to work on our innovative ideas and present them at a national event,” Navajith Karkera tells IndianStartupNews.
The significant breakthrough came with the development of a Smart helmet for motorcyclists, which not only won them awards but also introduced them to the complexities of integrating sound into wearable technology. Navayajith says during the development, they faced the challenge of reproducing sound without distracting riders.
“This led us to explore new ways of allowing users to hear sounds without relying solely on their ears and researched ways to experience sound through the body,” he said.
The exploration led to the development of their patented driver technology. Initially designed for helmets, their passion for audio led them to adapt it for headphones. After numerous iterations and extensive testing for performance and durability, and with feedback from audiophiles and experts, they refined their technology.
The founders also benefited from the expertise of seasoned advisors, including one who headed acoustics research at Bose. Through the Sound Hub Denmark, co-founded by Bang & Olufsen and Harman, they accessed experts in acoustics and product design, validating their technology and designs.
The story behind the brand's tagline
Explaining the story behind the brand's tagline, Navajith recalls that he and his co-founder Madikeri created a few 3D-printed headphone prototypes for personal use.
“We struggled to find headphones that could meet our diverse music preference and many use-cases for headphones. Headphones also failed to provide a live performance-like experience that Hi-Fi systems are capable of reproducing. Our goal was to create a seamless conduit between people and sound, for ultimate listening experience on headphones and pleasure to the ears,, thus the tagline of the brand is ‘Crafted for an Eargasmic Experience’,” Navajith says.
Sharing about the challenges he faced, Navajith said they were incorporating subwoofer which reproduces the part of sound that we can feel through our body.
“This is typically found in high-end speakers and home theater systems but not in any headphones. The integration of subwoofer in headphones increases audio quality and makes it more immersive and life like. It also allows the headphones to be versatile across wide genre of music and use-cases,” he said.
After three years of research, development, and benchmarking, Navajith and Jagath developed an improved prototype and established demo kiosks at high-football events to allow people to use their products and share feedback.
"Our aim was clear—to redefine the headphone experience and provide music lovers a new dimension in audio pleasure that traditional headphones simply could not deliver," the founders said.
Their flagship product and its functioning
The startup has developed its flagship product, the Sonic Lamb headphones, an over-ear wireless headphone offering a high-fidelity, fully immersive, and personalised audio experience, and notably, these Made-in-India headphones have received orders from 50 countries to date.
The startup explains that their Sonic Lamb headphones use a special audio driver to create clear mid and high sounds. Additionally, It has a unique feature that turns audio signals into vibrations. These vibrations are felt through special earpads, called wooferpads, which act like a speaker's diaphragm. When you wear the Sonic Lamb headphones, the woofer pads touch your body, allowing you not just to hear the sound but feel it too, the startup explains.
Unlike other headphones that solely rely on air conduction to transmit sound waves to the ears. Sonic Lamb uses a combination of air and body conduction to reproduce music using its patented Hybrid driver technology. Rapture Innovation claims that Sonic Lamb is the world's first headphone with subwoofers.
Partnering with IIT Bombay and NID Ahmedabad
Rapture Innovation has partnered with IIT Bombay and NID Ahmedabad to pursue their research and development.
“We've received valuable assistance from IIT Bombay's material science and acoustics department, which has validated our innovative approach to audio technology and transducer design. Additionally, insights from NID Ahmedabad in human ergonomics and aesthetics have been instrumental in creating a product that is not only functional but also visually appealing,” the founder says.
The partnership also provided access to potential investors and government startup support programs. Additionally, participating in the SoundTech accelerator program also helped them test and refine their headphones in a way that met the discerning standards of the audiophile community.
Understanding the business model of Rapute Innovation
Rapture operates on a direct-to-consumer model, making its premium headphones accessible to a wider audience. The startup said that its pricing strategy is designed to balance affordability with the premium quality of its product, ensuring broad appeal across various consumer segments.
Although the Indian audio industry is filled with large players, Rapture has achieved significant milestones, including serving over 100,000 households and attaining profitability, which is still a goal for many startups in the Indian startup ecosystem.
International expansion plans
While the startup is targeting millennial and Gen X audiences, It aims to expand its product range beyond headphones, exploring opportunities in VR/AR headsets, professional and gaming headphones, and even revolutionising the design and sound of loudspeakers.
Rapture is also focusing on international expansion and establishing a strong customer base in India and the USA.
Sharing about the future plans, Navajith said that they are focused on providing a unique and premium audio experience driven by innovation and a vision to be the brand of choice globally for blissful and immersive audio experience.
"With our Hybrid Driver technology we have identified various use-cases for improved and immersive audio experience beyond consumer headphones which is on our product roadmap along with concepts of its implementation in loudspeakers and earbuds," he adds.
While the startup has spent money on R&D, patents, product development and testing, human resources, manufacturing setup, and inventory, it is now looking for funds to scale the business and commercialise new products that are in the pipeline.
The founders' advice for Indian audiotech startups
Sharing his experiences, Navajith said that inventing a technology, testing and refining it, and turning it into a marketable product takes extensive time, effort, and financial resources.
"Don’t underestimate the timeline and costs involved, especially for hardware products. Expect delays and budget for contingencies. While technical expertise is important, don’t neglect the non-technical aspects of your invention. Key an eye on the business viability — take into consideration business strategy, finance, marketing, and team building as you work on your innovation. Even if one is not looking to build a venture out of the invention, think about commercializing it by selling or licensing the invention to relevant companies," he added.
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