By: Michael L. Jackson
Rishi Chandra has always wanted to create. And the entrepreneurial spirit in the Kelley School of Business graduate was only strengthened during his days on the IUPUI campus.
As a sophomore, Chandra and classmate Jim Plew partnered with students in the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology to help move a patented invention to market as part of the Center for Research and Learning’s Innovation-to-Enterprise Central (ITEC) program. During the spring semester of his junior year, Chandra entered the Ideas for Solving Social and Economic Change student pitch competition and finished second.
“Even after I graduated and got a job, I was still looking for a new project for myself to work on after work,” said Chandra, who graduated in 2014 with a dual degree in accounting and supply chain management and now works as a financial analyst for Cummins in Columbus, Ind.
When the snow started arriving in the Midwest in mid-November, Chandra finally found the project. After having thrown out the rubber floor mats in his Toyota Corolla, his fabric mats became “messy and mushy.”
Internet searches to solve the problem of the mushy mats yielded few results. “The easiest answer was just banging your foot against the door,” Chandra said. “I was just not satisfied with that solution.”
The concept of a doormat for your car was stuck in Chandra’s head. He began investigating materials that he could apply to the sill guard of his door, eventually ordering a $5 roll of Velcro hook from Amazon. His first attempt to secure the Velcro with a tube of glue worked only temporarily. He realized that he needed an industrial strength adhesive that would hold the hook to the car but not damage it.
During the next few weeks, he experimented with more than a dozen samples from a handful of different suppliers in the Columbus area. Once he found a good fit, he ordered a 25-yard roll of the adhesive-backed Velcro and started cutting it into 1-foot strips. He put them on his car and distributed them to friends for additional testing and feedback.
“I learned a lot from my time in ITEC,” said Chandra, a two-time IUPUI Top 100 student, and a Top 10 male in 2014. “I know that you can’t just get into a business because you think you have something. You have to test the market, test the suppliers. Things like that. That’s what I did.”
Chandra developed a website (cardoormat.com) using online resources and launched a Kickstarter campaign earlier this month with the hopes of raising $500. The goal of the campaign, he says, is to build sales and awareness of the product. With just under four weeks to go in the drive, nearly six dozen backers have already pledged nearly triple that amount.
Along the way, Chandra has enlisted the advice of former Kelley professors as well as the Indiana Small Business Development Center.
“Professor (Curtis) Wesley gave me a lot of advice, and that really helped,” Chandra said.
Though he knows there’s still work to be done with product development, Chandra hopes to be cutting as many as 800 of the 1-foot strips when his Kickstarter campaign ends in early April. And just because this season’s snow may have come to an end (hopefully), Chandra says that shouldn’t discourage would-be backers.
“The car doormat is not just good for snow, but also dirt, gravel, sand, you name it,” he said. “It’s not a replacement for your car mats, but it certainly is a great complement.”