An exclusive interview with Navajith Karkera, Co-Founder & CEO of Rapture Innovation Labs Pvt. Ltd
Welcome to this exclusive interview with Navajith Karkera, the brilliant mind behind Rapture Innovation Labs Pvt. Ltd.
As the Co-Founder and CEO of this dynamic company, Navajith has been leading the charge in revolutionizing the technology landscape.
His visionary approach and relentless pursuit of innovation have propelled Rapture Innovation Labs to the forefront of the industry. In this interview, we delve into the inspiring journey of this remarkable entrepreneur, exploring the challenges, successes, and the valuable insights he has gained along the way.
Join us as we uncover the driving force behind Rapture Innovation Labs’ extraordinary growth and the invaluable wisdom Navajith brings to the table.
Can you tell us about your journey as an entrepreneur and what inspired you to co-found Rapture Innovation Labs?
Navajith Karkera: I’m Navajith from Mangalore and Jagath is from Madikeri. We pursued our bachelor’s degrees at Sahyadri College of Engineering, Mangalore.
We were makers at heart, passionate about building things and actively participated in national tech and innovation contests organized by IITs and NITs.
Under the guidance of the “Dreamers” team, a group started by our college seniors, we found the perfect environment along with like-minded individuals to work on our innovative ideas and present them at national events.
One of the prominent projects was the development of a Smart helmet for motorcyclists, which led us to win several national innovation contests.
Among the significant milestones in our journey, two moments stand out. We were honored with the “Best Young Innovators” award in 2015 and a “Gold Award” in 2018.
During its development, we 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 came up with the concept of experiencing sound through the body.
Excited by the possibilities, we went back to the drawing board and engineered audio drivers capable of delivering sound through the body.
To our amazement, the experience surpassed our expectations when integrated them into regular headphones..
Thrilled by this discovery, we created a few 3D-printed headphone prototypes for personal use. As music lovers ourselves, we struggled to find headphones that could meet our diverse audio interests and provided a live performance-like experience.
Our ultimate goal was to create a seamless conduit between people and sound, providing a high fidelity and blissful audio experience like never before, thus the tagline of the first product is ‘Crafted for an Eargasmic Experience’.
The main challenge we faced was incorporating subwoofers 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. Driven by our passion for music and innovation, we decided to challenge the status quo in the audio industry.
After three years of rigorous research, development, and benchmarking, we excelled and developed an improved prototype that left us, our friends and fellow audio enthusiasts captivated.
Word of our invention quickly spread, and we set up demo kiosks at a few high-footfall events, allowing people to try our product and share their valuable feedback.
The overwhelmingly positive response confirmed our belief that we had something extraordinary on our hands and encouraged us to venture into building our very own audio company.
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.
As we embarked on this entrepreneurial journey, we realized that India has not made any mark yet for innovations in audio technology or is known for making audio products for the global market.
This realization strengthened our resolve to create a world-class product, designed, engineered, and proudly made in India for the world.
I’m excited to see what the future holds for our company and for the Indian audio industry. I believe that together, we have the potential to make a real difference in the way people experience sound.
Rapture Innovation Labs is known as India’s first Audio Technology Startup. Could you explain what specific area of audio technology your company focuses on and what sets it apart from other companies in the field?
Navajith Karkera: At Rapture Innovations, our primary focus is on revolutionizing the audio experience. We have observed that over the past decade, the essence of the audio industry has been overshadowed by an emphasis on feature enhancements, leading to a neglect of the core value – improving audio quality and enhancing the listening experience.
To address this, we are dedicated to bringing back the focus on redefining audio reproduction with our pioneering Hybrid Driver Acoustics technology.
Our patented technology combines the use of air and body conduction, which is incorporated into our innovative Impulse driver, to create a novel headphone audio experience.
Our journey began with the realization that as humans, our perception of sound extends beyond our ears.
We experience the rumble of thunder, the rhythmic beats of live drums during festivals, the thumping bass resonating in our chests at music concerts, and the vibrations that envelop us at a movie theater.
While our ears are less sensitive to low-frequency sounds, especially below 60Hz, our bodies can feel them as vibrations through our body.
Home theaters and Hi-Fi systems incorporate multiple audio drivers to reproduce different audio bands like the low, mid, and high frequencies and specialized audio drivers called subwoofers which are designed to effectively reproduce the sub-bass audio – the kind we can feel
But in even the best headphones out there, the experience is compromised because of the general use of a single audio driver on each side of our head and the lack of specialized audio tech to emulate a subwoofer.
Sonic Lamb’s breakthrough Hybrid driver technology bridges this gap. By combining air and body conduction principles, we have unlocked the ability to reproduce audio that you can hear and, for the very first time, feel through your body.
This approach sets Sonic Lamb apart, making it one of the world’s most powerful and immersive headphones, offering a close-to-life audio experience.
Can you share some notable achievements or milestones that Rapture Innovation Labs has accomplished since its inception?
Navajith Karkera: We have been recognized as a promising startup in the audio industry and some of the notable milestones include:
- SoundTech Accelerator Program: We were selected as one of the seven startups and the only one from outside Europe to participate in the prestigious SoundTech accelerator program by Soundhub Denmark. This program is the world’s first and largest international sound technology and innovation hub, supported by renowned audio brands like Bang & Olufsen, Harman, and other reputable acoustic companies.
- Elevate 100 Program: The Government of Karnataka recognized Rapture Innovations as one of the top 100 startups in 2022. This program identifies and supports the top 100 startups in the state, showcasing our potential and innovative contributions to the industry.
- Nidhi Prayas Program: We were acknowledged as one of the top 75 promising startups in India by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, under the Nidhi Prayas program.
- Patent Grants: Our groundbreaking audio technology has been granted a patent in India, and we are in the process of obtaining patents in 26 other countries
- Our First 500 Orders: During our soft launch of Sonic Lamb, we received orders from an astounding 50 countries organically, without any marketing expenditures.
- Strong Support Network: We are supported by Deshpande Startups, Hubli, National Institute of Design (NDBI-NID), Ahmedabad, T-Hub and group of angel investors and mentors from world’s top tech and audio companies, the likes of Google, Qualcomm, Microsoft, Bose and B&O.
How does Rapture Innovation Labs contribute to the advancement of audio technology in India?
Navajith Karkera: India is known for its software prowess, but it is still trying to catch-up in the hardware space. Also, when it comes to audio technology and products, countries like Japan, Germany, and Denmark come to mind. However, we believe that India has the potential to be a global leader in this field.
To begin with, our audio tech and the headphone is fully designed and engineered here and as our nation is gearing up towards becoming a manufacturing hub, our products are also manufactured here with vendors from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, NCR, Maharashtra who are producing the materials that goes into making Sonic Lamb.
We believe that India has the talent, the resources, and the potential to become a global leader in audio technology.
As we ramp up our production, we will scale our manufacturing setup for producing our proprietary audio drivers.
We are committed to investing in R&D and innovation, and we believe that we can create an ecosystem for manufacturing high-end audio devices in India.
We are confident that our headphones will help to put India on the map as a global leader in this field.
What challenges did you face in establishing Rapture Innovation Labs, and how did you overcome them?
Navajith Karkera: In the initial stages of starting Rapture Innovations We were presented with several challenges:
Firstly, we encountered the lack of an established ecosystem for developing and testing audio technology in India.
This meant that we had to navigate uncharted territory and build many components of our headphones from scratch.
Finding the right resources, expertise, and facilities was a time-consuming process that demanded considerable effort and perseverance.
Secondly, sourcing high-quality materials for our headphones posed another obstacle. Developing premium headphone proved to be a challenging endeavor for us, as we aimed to achieve a product of exceptional quality, performance, and aesthetics.
We had to extensively reach out to various vendors and conduct sampling with each one before identifying the best fit for our needs.
Securing contract manufacturers willing to work with a startup and handle low-volume production was a challenging task.
To ensure the utmost quality of our products, we had to import critical test equipment, adding complexity to our operations and expenses.
However, despite these hurdles, our dedication and hard work paid off when we got accepted into the Sound Hub audio accelerator program in Struer, Denmark.
This milestone provided us with invaluable support in the final phase of testing our product before moving into mass production and will pave the way for accelerating new technology and product development.
The program also granted us access to top-notch facilities for development and testing, further enhancing our capabilities.
While we faced significant challenges in the early stages, each obstacle served as a learning experience, and we emerged stronger and more determined to create a remarkable impact in the audio industry.
In your opinion, what are the key factors driving innovation in the audio technology industry, and how does Rapture Innovation Labs stay ahead of the curve?
Navajith Karkera: Key factors driving innovation are the rapid advancements in digital signal processing, wireless connectivity, and miniaturization of components have enabled the development of sophisticated audio devices with enhanced features and performance at a very small form factor.
Increasing consumer demand for high-quality audio experiences and increased consumption of music, streaming media and gaming.
Changing content consumption habits, such as the rise of podcasting and audio streaming platforms, are driving the need for innovative audio technology solutions to cater to diverse content formats and user preferences.
Use of AI-driven audio processing algorithms to enhance sound quality, noise cancellation, and adapt audio output based on individual preferences, creating a more personalized listening experience.
The demand for realistic and immersive audio experiences in VR and AR headsets for work, entertainment and gaming will drive innovation in hardware and software technologies in audio.
To stay ahead of the curve at Rapture Innovations we aim to continuously invest in research and development to find new use-cases for our technology in headphones and beyond. With innovation and value first approach we focus on providing a unique audio experience.
We prioritize user feedback and insights to develop products that address specific pain points and deliver exceptional user experiences as well as embrace emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, virtual reality and 3D audio to incorporate them into our products.
We look to collaborate with other companies, engage with music artists and industry experts to leverage their expertise, resources, and distribution channels for mutual benefit.
Finally, develop a strong brand identity to differentiate us from competitors beyond our technology and value proposition and build a strong customer base.
What are the potential applications or industries that can benefit the most from the audio technology solutions developed by Rapture Innovation Labs?
Navajith Karkera: The immediate use-cases that we are working on as a part of our product roadmap beyond consumer headphones includes
- Headphones with fully immersive audio for multi-sensory gaming experience to feel in the zone.
- Professional reference headphones with subwoofer emulation for music producers and artists.
- Headsets for people with minor hearing loss.
- VR headsets for entertainment and gaming.
How do you envision the future of audio technology? What trends or advancements do you foresee that will shape the industry, and how is Rapture Innovation Labs preparing to leverage those opportunities?
Navajith Karkera: I believe that audio technology will evolve to become hyper-personalized, tailoring sound profiles to individual preferences, hearing abilities, and even physiological characteristics.
We will see more immersive and realistic reproduction of audio experiences, especially in virtual and augmented reality applications, gaming, and home entertainment. This is something that we at Rapture would leverage.
Wearables will become smaller in size and may even interface with humans non-invasively, which would pave the way for health and wellness monitoring.
High-resolution audio formats would become more mainstream, delivering studio-quality sound to consumers even in wireless mode.
Voice-controlled audio devices and smart speakers will continue to evolve, becoming more sophisticated and integrated with other smart home devices and it may become a key part of human-to-machine interaction.
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