Arnav Kedia may be in grade 9 at Gems World Academy but he is already making a mark in the world of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Combining his interests for humanitarian issues with his passion for technology and coding, the Dubai student has invented a child-friendly device called Buddy Bear that potentially can elevate healthcare services for children. "Buddy Bear is a teddy bear for children aged 2-9," says Arnav, excited about his invention that bagged the Global Entrepreneurship Challenge. "It includes a set of sensors to measure vital stats such as heart beat, pulse rate and temperature, as well as excess UV radiation in the surroundings, traces of harmful gases such as carbon monoxide and methane, excess moisture or sweating. The values detected by sensors is transmitted to an app that can be accessed by parents and doctors. If the values do not correspond with recommended figures, an LED flashes and a buzzer will sound alerting parents/healthcare providers."

The kid-friendly way in which Buddy Bear collects vital information gives it a competitive advantage over other healthcare products for children and Arnav is sure that his Buddy Bear "will be extremely valuable for families, hospitals, clinics, and schools".

Winning the Global Entrepreneurship Challenge was no easy task. An entrepreneurship competition for high school students aged 11-18, it attracted over 300 submissions in January. After rigorous selection processes 10 top teams entered the finale of the Challenge.

Arnav was keen to participate in the challenge the moment he heard about it. "I felt it was the perfect platform to kick-start my entrepreneurial journey. I was sure it could provide me with the support and mentorship necessary to launch my product in the market."

What helped him win the challenge?

"The innovation of the idea coupled with the versatile functionality of the product," he says. "And of course – the cute aesthetics of the product is quite appealing!"

Peter Davos, who served as judged at the Global Entrepreneurship Challenge, was impressed by Arnav’s vision, particularly given his young age

Arnav is grateful to his mentors for offering valuable advice. "The challenge was a fantastic way to refine my entrepreneurial skills, especially the financial management portion," he says. "I also picked up valuable lessons on market opportunity, profitability and monetisation. Another major takeaway was learning about the extensive process of forming a company, financial projections and marketing strategies.

"This challenge has truly developed my confidence, and made me a more thorough and knowledgeable entrepreneur. I am now working with Peter Davos, founder of Hale Education Group, and Dr Vinod Gauba of Imperial Eye Center to further develop Buddy Bear."

Peter, one of Arnav’s mentors, says that securing recognition at the national level in a competition such as this is validation of a student’s vision.

"The competition was judged by entrepreneurs, and the winners received invaluable resources in the form of mentorship, funding, and guidance. [The challenge] also serves as a wonderful platform to highlight their ideas to a wider audience, including potential investors," he says.

Serving as a judge for the competition, Davos was impressed by Arnav’s vision and its actualisation, particularly given his young age. "As an educator and entrepreneur myself, I was delighted by the creativity and passion demonstrated by all the finalists, but Arnav’s entry particularly stood out because of the quality of his presentation, as well as the advanced stage to which he had already brought his idea to fruition.

"We only started working with Arnav after he entered the entrepreneurship competition, but we put him in touch with accomplished medical entrepreneurs and practicing physicians who are helping him navigate the regulatory processes surrounding the approval of medical devices in the UAE," says Peter.

The founder of Hale Education Group encourages students like Arnav to make the most of free online courses like MIT’s Introduction to Entrepreneurship, as well as similar courses offered by Babson and the Wharton School of Business, which offers a four-course entrepreneurship specialisation. "MIT also offers a very competitive LaunchX summer program that is the best of its kind in the US. Some books I highly recommend to students interested in entrepreneurship, include The Lean Startup, Good to Great, and The Virgin Way... but the best way to learn is by doing – start a small business and make sure you find a mentor that can help guide you through the journey, which will be marked by both highs and lows," says Davos.

Not content to rest on his laurels, Arnav is busy working on other projects including an iScan – a non-contact infrared thermometer with LED lights to indicate whether the temperature of a student is high, and a tracking system linked to students’ school ID cards to identify potential Covid-19 cases. "Like Buddy Bear, this product aims to help our community, during the unprecedented times," he says.

Arnav’s ambition is to serve the society developing products to support the planet. "My dream is that Buddy Bear is in every home around the world, and that every child aged 2-9 has access to this product."

He is also keen to use the knowledge he has gained to mentor younger students at his school, and support them with their entrepreneurial journeys.

Anand Raj OK

Read more