Leaving his job and higher studies, this man made people walk to their own dreams by making one of a kind lightweight, eco-friendly prosthetics so amputees can run, play and even dance, writes Alice Sharma.
In June 2009, 25-year-old Prajwal Ranjith a running enthusiast and body builder met with a road accident while on his way back home. He survived, but his left leg had to be amputated. Regardless of his disability, Prajwal wanted to continue engaging in sports. His quest led him from Jaipur Foot to Rise Legs, a Bengaluru based start-up which makes prosthetic legs with cane. Today, Ranjith is a happy runner who flaunts his designer leg (which was custom made) without feeling the need to cover it.
Rise Legs was founded in October 2015 by Arun Cherian, an advanced robotics engineer and a PHD alumnus of Purdue and Columbia University, who left his PhD in Mechanical engineering at Purdue University, USA to develop Rise Legs.
As the story goes, on one of his visits to India for his sisters marriage, he realized that cane was everywhere in his home in the form of furniture. Fascinated by how it could be bent in different sizes and shapes and still retain the weight of a human, he decided to experiment and went to find a local cane artist who made furniture. He asked him if he could bend a piece of cane to the shape of an inverted question mark and if that could take the load of 80kgs. When the artist replied saying that it absolutely could, Cherian had his eureka moment.
It was then that he decided to make artificial limbs out of cane which would not only be long lasting, but also affordable. Cherian then approached the Indian Institute of Science’s Aerospace department for design inputs. After testing 1200 varieties of cane, they decided upon one particular variety which could be used to make artificial limbs. That’s when Cherian left the US to create something different that could change the prosthetic industry forever.
Currently there are more than 26 million people in India who live with a disability that restricts their mobility and although amputees have access to free prosthetic legs, the adoption rates for them are extremely poor. Being the low-cost, free products that they are, they are often heavy and painful to adjust to, leave alone walking. There is also no follow-up sessions for readjustments that are imperative. The better products are way too expensive for most in need.
The first customer of Cherian’s prosthetic leg was Madhusudan, who lost his legs in a train accident when he was 13 years old. In the trial he was able to give away his crutches and walk freely. In not more than three days, Madhusudan was able to hit a soccer ball.
In comparison to Jaipur foot which costs about 1800 and weighs around 8 kg, Cherian’s prosthetic leg weighs around 1.2 kg and costs only 1500. “After customizing it to different lengths, we make the whole artificial foot and choose the different level of cosmetic finishing that each customer wants. It can be from the bare naked leg to increasing levels of cosmetic finishing all the way up to a skin textured finish,” says Cherian.
Cherian’s company now works closely with organizations like Red Cross and MIT. He has also designed India’s first cane sports wheelchair for basket- ball players and also took a team to Cyblathon, a race for amputees which took place in October this year in Zurich.
In just over a year, Cherian and his team of professionals has helped around 50 people to walk freely when they lost all hopes of ever standing on their legs and has helped a lot of people in realizing their dreams and taking their aspirations on another level through their own progressive steps.