The student won, but it was the master who received all the praise. With four out of five contenders in The ET Startup Awards’ ‘Best on Campus’ category directly linked to the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, several jury members suggested that the institute be conferred a special award.

DeTect Technologies, founded by IITMadras alumni Daniel Raj David, Harikrishnan AS, Karthik R and Tarun Mishra along with professor Krishnan Balasubramanian, was chosen as the best startup to have emerged from a college campus. It shared the roof at IIT Madras’ Incubation Cell with HyperVerge, Maximl Labs and Planys Technologies, albeit in different years. The fifth contender was Project Mudra, started by BITS Pilani alumni.

DeTect is using its key technologies — a drone called Noctua for inspections and an ultrasonic sensor called Gumps — to cater to the energy sector where inspection of pipelines and other large assets needs remote monitoring and inspection for leaks. “DeTect is solving a huge problem with innovative technology,” said Flipkart group chief executive Binny Bansal, who was on the jury.

Apart from the energy sector, DeTect’s technologies are also seeing adoption in the chemical, fertiliser, power and nuclear industries. Starting with Reliance Industries, DeTect has expanded its client base to BPCL, HPCL and Tata group among others. The company has filed for patents in India and the United States.

“We are ecstatic to have our work recognised,” said David, the CEO at the young company. “We are looking to explore the Indian (process industry) market to the fullest, and also slowly expand internationally.”

Still based at IIT-Madras’ Research Park, DeTect Technologies has mostly employed students of the premier engineering school and its R&D team comprises mainly IIT alumni and students. “Much credit goes to Professor Balasubramanian, who has not only backed DeTect but several other startups at IIT,” David said.

The professor of mechanical engineering, who is also in charge of IIT-Madras’ new centre. for innovation and entrepreneurship, explained how the institution has put in place a framework to take a business idea to the execution stage. “The ecosystem has several entities that play key roles,” Balasubramanian said. “These include primarily the R&D laboratories and centres of excellence as well as the faculty and research scholars in the 16 academic departments that generate the ideas and work on those for several years before it becomes feasible to recognise the commercial potential.

Planys Tech | Tanuj Jhunjhunwala
The firm provides underwater inspection and survey services using remotely operated vehicles. The tech spans marine robotics,non-destructive testing and post-inspection analysis tools. Clients include 3 public sector firms & 2 dams in Kerala & TN.

HyperVerge | Kedar Kulkarni (centre)
Started as a consumer-focused app for photo sharing & face recognition, HyperVerge has now pivoted to enterprises, integrating its image-recognition tech for firms in the satellite imagery, security camera & BFSI sectors. It has filed for 8 patents.

Maximl Labs | Pankaj Pawan
The startup provides hardware and software that help industries manage their complex processes, reduce downtime and increase efficiencies. It focuses on using AI and machine learning to coordinate different jobs in large-scale industrial projects.

Project Mudra | Sanskriti Dawle
The founders aim to put Braille within reach of all the visually impaired, especially children. Their mobile app makes learning Braille intuitive by acting as an interface between the user and Braille hardware using speech-recognition