Category: Innovation Infrastructure
“Every day when I arrive at work, I am welcomed by the majestic sight of the river Maas, with old cranes and infrastructure in the backdrop, surrounded by the high-tech equipment of companies located at RDM. This offers a beautiful contrast.” Gaurav Genani, founder of Skelex speaks fondly of Rotterdam. He loves the city where he has lived and worked for the last three years, developing his Skelex exoskeletons. “Is Rotterdam for everyone? Probably not. But it is for me.” This is the story of an Indian dreamer who turned into an entrepreneur and found his home in Rotterdam.
When living in India as a young man, working with heavy machinery, Genani often found himself dreaming of different and more exciting things to do. By following courses and colleges Gaurav discovered his interest in industrial design.
From guitar playing to ergonomics
One of Gaurav’s many interests was and is playing the guitar. And this lead him into ergonomics. “Because I saw that a lot of people that play the guitar actually have a bad posture. I wanted to see if there was a way to improve that in such a way that it would help me play better and faster. I wanted to push the limits of performance. I feel that, as soon as you believe in your mind that you can make something happen, nothing can stop you. This gave me purpose and it also provided me with a different view on things, a perspective. It was then more about the journey than about any specific goal.”
Combined with his experiences in working with heavy machinery, Gaurav became interested in how he can improve peoples’ motions in work-related environments. “Many people perform repetitive movements on a daily basis, for instance in manufacturing or logistics. This can cause injuries. Gaurav wasn’t actively considering setting up a business. He started sharing thoughts and ideas with various people at TU Delft and they advised him to check out technology incubator YES!Delft. That was in 2013.
With the learnings from the TU Delft, his interests in ergonomics and his wish to improve the quality of life for people dealing with many repetitive motions on a daily basis, Gaurav started designing and developing at YES!Delft what would later become the first Skelex exoskeleton. “It didn’t start out anything like what it is today. He remembers with a smile on his face. “Our first device was used to pick up a crate of beer. That was a cool moment. We had built something that people could love and use.” From the first prototypes, things started happening.
Be where the action is
To find the right place for his newly founded company Skelex, Gaurav looked at various locations. As an entrepreneur, you want to be where the action is and where your customers are. For us, that was right here in Rotterdam at the RDM grounds! Our first customer was Bilfinger, located practically just a stone’s throw away from where we are now at RDM Rotterdam. From Rotterdam, it’s easy for us to reach out to customers in different countries. France is one of the main target countries for Skelex. That actually stems from contacts that we already had at YES!Delft.”
Relationships and contacts are vital
If Rotterdam was the right city for Gaurav and Skelex, RDM Rotterdam was the right location. “Relationships and contacts are vital. Rotterdam is a place where people from other countries are accepted and where people actually want to develop relationships. The people at RDM, some of whom I got in contact with when I was still at YES!Delft, were very important fat the outset of my company. They introduced me to the RDM facilities, showed me the potential there and helped me set up and make the most of this opportunity. They helped me get the right machinery, meet the right people, they supported me a lot. People at Port of Rotterdam and RDM Rotterdam have been very important to me moving from YES!Delft to RDM Rotterdam, introducing me to relevant contacts and investors. Also, Rotterdam Partners and Gemeente Rotterdam have been very helpful in connecting us with the right people within Rotterdam. From the moment I found the RDM Rotterdam facilities, I felt that it could really happen for us here.”
Feels like home
For Gaurav, Rotterdam didn’t only turn out to be the right location for his business. “I like being in Rotterdam. It really feels like home and I want to also give back to the city. Like I participated in the special movie Rotterdam Partners created for the Red Carpet Dinner1 last year, which was aimed at welcoming international companies and expats to the city. I like this, helping each other out. It’s the Rotterdam way of doing things. Indeed, to ‘Make It Happen‘ is not just a tagline, it is really embedded in the attitude of people here in Rotterdam. Practical, hard-working people are easier to find in Rotterdam, which is really important for the manufacturing industry.
I found where I belong. It’s like watering a plant. You love and nourish it, it starts to grow. It gives back what you put into it. Ignore it and it dies. Take good care of it, and it is healthy and grows. I feel like it’s like that for me at RDM and in the city of Rotterdam. Is Rotterdam for everyone? Probably not. But it is for me.”
This article originates from: Rotterdam Partners