“Every day when I arrive at work, I am welcomed by the majestic sight of the river Maas, with old cranes and infrastructure in the backdrop, surrounded by the high-tech equipment of companies located at RDM. This offers a beautiful contrast.” Gaurav Genani, founder of Skelex speaks of Rotterdam fondly. He loves the city where he has lived and worked for the last three years, developing his Skelex exoskeletons.
Gaurav Genani wasn’t destined to become an entrepreneur. When still living in India as a young man, working with heavy machinery, he often found his mind wander, dreaming of different and more exciting things to do. He became more and more interested in industrial design. “I started looking around to see what options I had. TU Delft in the Netherlands, very close to Rotterdam, came very well recommended, so I decided to go there.
From guiter playing to ergonomics
One of Gaurav’s many interests was and is playing the guitar. And this lead him into ergonomics. I saw that a lot of people that play the guitar actually have a bad posture. I wanted to see if there was a way to improve that in such a way that it would help me play better and faster. I wanted to push the limits of performance. “A lot of people every day do a lot of repetitive motions, for instance in manufacturing or logistics. And any repetitive motions can cause injuries. I wanted to help people be better equipped dealing with these repetitive motions.”
He started sharing thoughts and ideas with various people at TU Delft and they advised him to check out technology incubator YES!Delft. With the learnings from the TU Delft, his interests in ergonomics and his wish to do something to improve the quality of life for people who have to deal with many repetitive motions on a daily basis, Gaurav started designing and developing at YES!Delft what would later become the first Skelex exoskeleton. “Our first device was used to pick up a crate of beer. That was a cool moment. We had built something that people could love and use.”
From the first prototypes things started happening. “Appearing on a TV show in the Netherlands gave us a lot of attention. We got more questions and even customers after that. That period of time was really the birth of me as an entrepreneur.”
Be where the action is
To find the right place for his newly founded company Skelex, Gaurav looked at various locations. “For us, that was right here in Rotterdam at the RDM grounds! Our first customer was Bilfinger, located practically just a stone’s throw away from where we are now at RDM Rotterdam. From Rotterdam it’s easy for us to reach out to customers in different countries.”
“From Rotterdam it’s easy for us to reach out to customers in different countries.”
Relationships and contacts are vital
“Relationships and contacts are vital. Rotterdam is a place where people from other countries are accepted and where people actually want to develop a relationship. The people at RDM, some of whom I got in contact with when I was still at YES!Delft, were really important to the start of my company. They introduced me to the RDM facilities, showed me the potential there and helped me setup and make the most of this opportunity. From the moment I found the RDM Rotterdam facilities, I felt that it could really happen for us here.”
“From the moment I found the RDM Rotterdam facilities, I felt that it could really happen for us here.”
Rotterdam feels like home base
For Gaurav, Rotterdam didn’t only turn out to be the right choice as location for his business. “I like being in Rotterdam. It really feels like home base and I want to also give back to the city. To ‘Make It Happen’ is not just a tagline, it is really embedded in the attitude of people here in Rotterdam. Practical, hard-working people are easier to find in Rotterdam, which is really important for the manufacturing industry. Is Rotterdam for everyone? Probably not. But it is for me.”
“Is Rotterdam for everyone? Probably not. But it is for me.”
This is a shortened version of an article that you can read in its entirety on the website of Rotterdam Partners.
Photos: Rotterdam Partners and Gerhard van Roon, Kunst en Vliegwerk RP