Innovation is a word many ventures throw around but very few actually deliver. The ventures that can innovate and create new technology/products are few and far between. Among the few and the proud innovators “UNIKEN” is a tried and tested veteran since 2003. Holding multiple patents in America, their research ranges from information security to biometrics. Simply put “UNIKEN” is an example of innovation at its entrepreneurial best. Founded by Sanjay Deshpande, Prakash Salvi, Nanjundeashwar Ganapathy, and Nilesh Dhande in 2003 UNIKEN has several patents to its name and has been keeping well ahead of the competition.
Yourstory was taken on a tour of the workings at UNIKEN guided by the answers of co-founder Sanjay Deshpande
What is UNIKEN’s sector of specialty as a company?
UNIKEN is a technology and product innovation company. It was started in 2003 by senior professionals from Infosys, GE, TCS & Motorola in Boston (USA). Today our teams work out of our Corporate Office in Florida (USA), Innovation Center in Pune (India), Malaysia & UK. Over the past 7 years we have filed for multiple patents in the US and have developed several cutting-edge products. We conduct research in information security, embedded systems, biometrics and intelligent information systems, and apply the technology to solve problems across various industries, primarily BFSI, Media & Entertainment.
What is the basic idea behind the service that you offer?
The idea is to develop solutions that significantly impact human lives. We primarily provide various security solutions to the Banking & Financial Service Industry, Internet Media & Entertainment industry and Enterprises. Our technologies benefit not just employees and customers of large corporations, but the larger universe of internet users.
What is the business idea that fuels your venture?
Our primary objective is to build an ecosystem of innovation and specialize in innovation life cycle management right from concept development to unlocking the commercial value of that technology. We firmly believe that it is India from where the next generation technologies will originate, and as such the creative talent in this sub-continent has not yet been tapped to its full extent. The basic business model of Uniken is to develop new cutting edge technologies and optimize their revenue potential.
Is there a specific target market that your company seeks to dominate?
Each of our products has their own (mostly unique) target markets and geographies. For example, the first product we have successfully launched in India is TruBank (Secure Internet Banking) which is powered by the cutting-edge Rel-ID technology (for Secure Data Access & Transfer). This has already been bought by two of India’s largest public sector banks – State Bank of India and Bank of India. In fact, this revolutionary technology was also presented to U.S. Dept. of Defense and is in the process of being implemented in leading banks and corporates across the world. On the other hand, another product – InSense (Wi-Fi Network Intrusion Prevention System) currently being launched in India & Malaysia is in the process of being evaluated by leading telecom providers for implementation in hot-spots across these countries.
Can you give us an overview of the size of your market? Any close competitors?
The internet security market is in the upwards of USD 50 Billion dollars based on most of the reports. We do not have any direct competition to our breakthrough – VIRTUAL PRIVATE INTERNET – technology (and the corresponding products based on this core technology). There are other players in this space who provide some aspects of our solution like identity (2FA), digital certificates etc.
What kind of unique identity is UNIKEN building for itself?
We are probably the only company of our kind to be successfully operational in India with “innovation” as our business model and key differentiator. In fact, we have cracked the code of managing the innovation life cycle without any external funding and over the last 7 years have managed to successfully create a dynamic, self-sustainable innovation ecosystem. Uniken’s business operates at two levels – the first is innovation, or R&D that goes into developing new technologies and products; and the second is taking it to market, or commercializing it and optimizing its revenue potential.
While each technology starts being incubated within the Uniken ecosystem, once it reaches a certain stage of maturity, we build a business unit around it. For example, REL-ID (among the first of many such technologies developed by us) provides mutual authentication of end-points in a network. It’s a path-breaking concept in the realm of identity theft, and one of its multiple applications is to ensure the authenticity of the web-sites that internet users connect to, thus preventing phishing attacks, man-in-the-middle and man-in-the-browser attacks, along with protecting the user from most known threats such as spyware, Trojans, malware, key-loggers, screen-scrapers, and so on.
How have you managed the finances – bootstrapped, Angel Investors or VC,s? Are you looking at raising more money?
We have been primarily raising the required growth capital through internal savings/profits. Last year, we capital from individual investors (business people who have seen the long term viability of our business). We are in the process of raising more capital to expand our sales and marketing effort world wide.
What is the predominant Technology platform that is used by Uniken?
We have built the entire technology platform for VIRTUAL PRIVATE INTERNET grounds up in core C/C++. We provide this infrastructure in a hosted or cloud model as well as on-premise model.
After such high flying careers why did you opt to become entrepreneurs?
We firmly believe that India is at a stage where it needs an innovation ecosystem for sustainable growth. Being a scientist, I realized early on that while India had all the basic elements for innovation life cycle management, what we clearly lacked was the commercialization of technology or the ability to unlock its social and economic value. It was this passion to develop such an ecosystem that made us start Uniken.
What are the learning lessons you came across an amateur entrepreneur?
Managing a business is a real-time school, in the sense that you constantly learn on the job. So we too made our share of mistakes in the last 7 years, but the key thing is that we have learned from them. I don’t think I can classify a single one of them as the biggest one, because every mistake made by a small organization impacts it tremendously and is hence a big one. The key is to be extremely flexible and adaptive, accept the drawbacks as they come and continuously work towards trying to correct or improve them.
What plans does UNIKEN have for India for the coming 2 years?
I would like UNIKEN to be seen as the innovation power house from India, with a few cutting-edge, revolutionary technologies to our credit and taking our products across global markets.
What do you think are key challenges an Indian entrepreneur needs to prepare for?
There are 3 most important challenges for an Indian entrepreneur, more so in the context of innovation: (a) one has to develop a customer base that is open to absorbing new ideas and technology – traditionally, most Indians are risk averse, and they do not easily see the benefits of being the first mover (b) Raising the innovation capital – the venture fund in India is still in its very early stages, and most of them continue to impose the western models of growth in the Indian scenario (c) ensuring that the core values and business ethics are not compromised while keeping the business growth objectives in focus – at times, this leads to slowing down the growth and one should be willing to take hard decisions at times.
Yourstory wishes Uniken and its four founders Sanjay Deshpande, Prakash Salvi, Nanjundeashwar Ganapathy, and Nilesh Dhande many more bright innovative ideas and hope to always see them lead from the front in the race to innovate better and bigger.