Catching up with our AIT 2017 alumni, Heelium

By Prateek Sharma, Co-founder, Heelium

What happens when two sports enthusiasts from IIT-Roorkee come together? It’s simple, they innovate. After thorough research and several brainstorming sessions, Heelium was launched in July 2017. Started by Prateek Sharma and Siddharth Jain, Heelium is focused on sports safety, high performance, innovation and design.

“In 2016, when we started discussing about what we can do in the sports industry, the market was just picking up. Right now, the market is growing. Apart from cricket, people are interested in other sports like football, table tennis and athletics,” Siddharth explains.

As this industry sees a steady increase, running in particular has seen a faster growth. According to India Running, in 2016 there were 600 marathons in India. In 2017, this number skyrocketed to 1700 and 2018 will see above 2000 marathons taking place in the country.

Before the official launch of Heelium, the founding duo received a grant from the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India under the Nidhi PRAYAS scheme. This grant specifically enabled Heelium to work on their technology by giving them access to facilities and testing centres. In March 2018, Heelium won the ET Power of Ideas challenge.

“In the initial days when we were still bootstrapped, the grant helped us immensely and also exposed us to other programmes like the Academia Industry Training (AIT) camp run by swissnex India and SINE IIT Bombay. We also got the chance to improve on our technology. AIT was especially interesting in the sense that we got a chance to visit Switzerland and explore the market there. We were able to establish partnerships with a few Swiss partners, details of which we’ll announce very soon.” says Prateek.

Heelium launched the Bamboo Athletic socks as its first product in January 2018. Made from bamboo fibre, these premium socks are designed to secure the feet from bacteria and odour growth. So far, more than 2100 pairs have been sold in India and internationally in countries like Singapore, Switzerland and UK. Heelium is presently selling through online retailers like Flipkart and Amazon.Heelium’s flagship product is a pair of high performance running shoes. The shoes will see a launch in December 2018. To provide the best for its customers, Heelium is also looking at customising insoles.

Heelium is also the first entrepreneurial venture undertaken by its founders. As they face new challenges and find more solutions, the best part, they say, is the uncertainty.

“In a way it’s very exciting to do something and empower yourself. But the most interesting part is the uncertainty. You don’t really know what’s coming next. As an entrepreneur, it is very difficult to know what the next step is. The learning curve is very steep. You have to make the standards and create the processes,” the founders agree.

To survive in the constantly changing market, Prateek and Siddharth stress immensely on the importance of research and development. “There is a huge gap in research and development in India at least. We are the only footwear brand that is centred on technology and innovation as opposed to just the aesthetics of it. We have also decided to keep iterating or launching new products every six months. In the long term, we want to make Heelium the most innovative and safest brand.”