Here’s how Chennai-based biotech start-up MicroGo has been focussing on making hygiene mandatory in everyday life
For much of 2020, the world has been battling an invisible enemy called COVID-19. And while the pandemic has forced us to recalibrate our lives like never before, it has also reinforced some home truths, such as ‘prevention is better than cure’.
“It’s easy to wash your hand if you see some dirt on it. But as you can’t see the COVID-19 virus, people can become complacent about something like hand hygiene, which is the first step to prevent the spread of infectious diseases,” says Rachna Dave, founder of the Chennai-based biotech start-up MicroGo.
Working on preventive technology since 2016, Dave, who did her doctoral studies in Microbiology at New York University, quit her job as a scientist at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Kalpakkam, to co-found MicroGo with Deepa Avinash and Deepthi Subbaraya.
The company, which operates out of the Golden Jubilee Biotech Park (inside SIPCOT), focusses on delivering solutions for water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) issues.
“Our public is still not very aware about hygiene. So we need other reasons to mandate that our people practise hygiene and yet don’t find it an economic burden,” says Dave.
MicroGo has seen its initial focus shifting from anti-infection and anti-microbial solutions to maintaining hygiene. During lockdown, its product GoAssure, billed as India’s first smart automated hand hygiene station that ensures WHO compliance with a 20-second routine, has been in demand throughout the country.
Currently, MicroGo’s products are being used in hotels, airports, hospitals and educational institutions in India. The start-up also reaches out to remote villages and rural communities through hygiene awareness drives. “The whole idea of sanitation is that it should be available to all, irrespective of social standing,” Dave adds.
In contrast to approximately 4.5 litres of water used in a regular hand wash routine, GoAssure does the same job with just 0.02 litres. Its touch-free mechanism takes users through the steps of hand washing as mandated by the WHO, with a built-in dispenser for a hand rub formulation (recommended by WHO) and water, and also alerts them with LED lighting when they may have not completed procedures correctly.
Among its other products are GoPure, that disinfects raw or waste water using its patented Tubelet technology to dispense chlorine dioxide gas, GoClean, a surface disinfectant and GoFresh for cleaning fruits and vegetables.
Dave cites the instance of a three-month pilot project at a luxury hotel in Chennai using GoAssure, which has helped with both compliance and generated savings. “The hotel saved money, but also maintained the hand hygiene compliance at 92%, besides indirectly saving 16,000 litres of water.”
MicroGo’s devices are run with Internet of Things (IoT) technology, which allows the start-up to customise protocol to suit the client’s requirements. So in a school setting, for instance, the GoAssure hand wash station can record the time and number of students who have used it, and also pinpoint those who have not followed the procedure correctly. “This allows the school authorities to monitor compliance and also work on minimising infections in the classrooms,” says Dave.
MicroGo’s products are available only in India currently, and its work is supported, among others, by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Department of Science and Technology and Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC).