Punarjeeva – Kerala startup’s ‘game therapies’ try to make life easier for neuro-divergent

This startup is trying to reimagine the rehabilitation of children who require special care through what it calls gamified physiotherapy. Photo: Special Arrangement

Compassion is the biggest investment in this company for it was born out of listening to the pain of one of the most vulnerable sections of any society – neuro-divergent children. Punarjeeva Technology Solutions, based out of Thiruvananthapuram, is a social impact and research startup which is trying to reimagine the rehabilitation of children who require special care through what it calls gamified physiotherapy. 

Launched in 2019, the startup has already helped over 5,000 beneficiaries as over 100 institutions, including schools and hospitals use its products, aimed at improving the gross motor and fine motor skills. The products, according to the company, remove the monotonous walls of conventional physiotherapy and creates an immersive and indulging therapy experience through latest technology.

A nightmare called school and an avatar-like escape
Punarjeeva was not started as a company in its current shape. It had its origin in the form of a corporate social responsible project that dates back to a decade. The team behind the project, including Robin Tommy of Tata Consultancy Services who now mentors Punarjeeva among several other startups, used to visit schools with neuro-divergent kids as part of their initiative.

The long days they spent in such schools taught them many things about the children, their needs and their therapies. However, one particular experience they came across during a one-week stay in a Kochi school made them understand things better. In schools where they went, they used to hear children crying in pain inside the physiotherapy rooms. The painful therapy sessions made schools a nightmare for the kids. The schools and the parents were also helpless as it would have made the children’s life more difficult if therapies were not given to them. 

The team developed a ‘virtual habilitation’ game which encourages children to make simple movements in simple environments familiar to them. Photo: Special Arrangement

When they were in the Kochi school, the CSR team noted that the children were keen to observe and play with them when they were playing some games in their mobile phones. It struck them that using technology as a disruptor of the existing therapy systems might help. They were also inspired by the 2009 film Avatar in which scientists send a paraplegic marine to a whole new world called Pandora. 

The team developed a ‘virtual habilitation’ game which encourages children to make simple movements in simple environments familiar to them. The feeling that they are playing rather than carrying out arduous physical tasks took a lot of pain from the kids. The products started gaining acceptance gradually and children began to show interest to go the school for the games. The beneficiary system include parents, teachers, trainers and doctors too. 

Collaboration with NGO

Now as a company, Punarjeeva has five products, each addressing different body parts. The products, through games, encourage children to do activities like backward walking, stair climbing and dancing. 

The testimonials on the company’s website are proof of the positive changes the initiative have made in the lives of many. A major change the products brought in is that now many of the mothers who used to accompany their children throughout the day in school are able to go to work. 

As a startup, Punarjeeva works in association with Inclusys Org Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation for empowering the neuro-divergents and people with disabilities. Punarjeeva and Inclusys have been working together in vocationally training and employing the neurodivergent citizens in data annotation, data entry and software testing skills.

"Inspired by a profound commitment to the well being and a vision to empower children with special needs, I joined forces with a team of vibrant engineers post-retirement to establish Punarjeeva Technology Solutions, where we are innovating in assistive technology to transform physical rehabilitation and create a world brimming with newfound opportunities," Leelamma George, managing director, Punarjeeva Technology Solutions, said.

Punarjeeva is a bootstarpped business which is registered with the the Kerala Startup Mission and Startup India. In business terms, it’s aware of the huge potential it has all over the world. However, it’s humble ambition is to thrive as a B2S – business to society.

"Having observed the evolution of many startups, Punarjeeva's voyage is notably unique. They intertwine assistive technology within their products, platforms, and rehabilitative services, transcending conventional innovation—it's a heartfelt endeavor rejuvenating the lives of persons with disabilities. They're not merely forging livelihoods, but cultivating self-sufficiency, significantly advancing the inclusivity narrative in India. Punarjeeva is not just delivering solutions; they're crafting hope, leaving an indelible imprint on the social impact canvas, setting a benchmark in fusing empathy with technology for a more inclusive horizon," said Tommy, the mentor who has seen the startup’s growth from scratch up and close.

(Startup Saturday is Onmanorama’s weekend series featuring promising startups from Kerala. Find the previous stories here

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