Sakthi Ranganathan came to New Zealand as an international student, arriving on the day of the 2011 earthquake in Ōtautahi Christchurch. It was a devastating experience, but the event gave him a strong emotional connection to the city he now calls home.
With a background in computer science and engineering, and work experience as a digital designer under his belt, Sakthi pursued his interest in technology at the University of Canterbury’s Human Interface Technology (HIT) Lab, where he got to test and play with cutting-edge technology. After taking part in Startup Weekend in Christchurch in 2017, Sakthi decided to give up his job and jump into the startup world as the founder of JIX Reality. JIX embraces the latest technology advancements to create digital experiences, with a particular focus on commercialising Extended Reality (including VR, AR and MR) and Artificial Intelligence. The company is driven by a desire to solve problems in real-world settings, Sakthi says, rather than simply using the technology in marketing or gaming applications. “We partner with industry leaders to prototype real-world applications of XR technology, proving it’s commercial viability and ensuring a return on investment.”
Located at Te Ōhaka – Centre for Growth and Innovation, JIX is surrounded by startups and technology enthusiasts “who further challenge our thinking and encourage us to constantly push our boundaries”, Sakthi says. “At the beginning, I was a bit sceptical about how I was going to start a business or run a technology company. I just jumped into it in a belief that this technology could create an impact.”
Sakthi now employs a passionate team of “researchers, designers, developers, thinkers and doers” and credits his company’s success to the support he received from Christchurch’s innovation ecosystem, including mentors and other founders at Te Ōhaka, as well as support from ChristchurchNZ and the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce through programmes such as the Regional Business Partners Network.
Sakthi Ranganathan - JIX Reality
I think when it comes to innovation, larger organisations are always reluctant to engage a small start-up or even a medium-sized company because of the risk, but in Christchurch there’s no barrier between a larger or smaller organisation. The city is well connected; you get the right support and word of mouth travels quickly. It's about collaboration and that willingness to take a risk – and it's in the DNA of Christchurch companies.”
JIX was almost a Wellington startup, after Sakthi took part in Mahuki in 2018 – a four-month residential accelerator programme at Te Papa, but he says he made the conscious decision to return to Christchurch due to the opportunities the city presented. JIX went on to become the Regional Winner of the city’s inaugural New Zealand Space Challenge in 2018 and won the AI for Good Challenge (a hackathon in Auckland) in 2019.
The last major project JIX completed was for the developers of Te Pae – Christchurch Convention Centre, who wanted to virtualize the centre’s interior, so they could still market it to potential clients despite Covid-19 travel restrictions. “We took their architectural model and created an accessible, mobile application, where anyone can actually go and see how big it is [virtually] and make a decision,” says Sakthi. “We were fortunate to work with Te Pae; we’re not a big company, but we were able to deliver.” Sakthi is also proud of what JIX achieved with Ara Institute of Canterbury in 2018 when it delivered an immersive, augmented reality Mars experience to thousands of school children as part of the New Zealand Careers Expo at Horncastle Arena. It was an ambitious undertaking that paid off. “I think when it comes to innovation, larger organisations are always reluctant to engage a small start-up or even a medium-sized company because of the risk, but in Christchurch there’s no barrier between a larger or smaller organisation. The city is well connected; you get the right support and word of mouth travels quickly. It's about collaboration and that willingness to take a risk – and it's in the DNA of Christchurch companies.”