Infosys, Airtel veterans’ startup raises Rs 15cr to end call drops, improve connectivity in bldgs

13th Jan 2016
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iBus networks and infrastructure, a leading provider of connectivity solutions inside buildings, announced that it had raised Series A growth capital of Rs 15 crore from Vallabh Bhanshali of Enam, N Squared Management, USA, and the family office of Jagdish and Sandeep Mehta.

iBus also announced that former Micromax chairman Sanjay Kapoor would become its non-Executive Chairman to steer and provide strategic direction to the company. Mohandas Pai, Chairman of Manipal Global Education and ex-Infosys board member, will be an advisory board member and mentor at iBus. Kapoor and Pai were also early investors in iBus.

YourStory-iBus
From left: Sunil Menon, Ram Sellaratnam and Subash Vasudevan

The story so far

Founded in 2012, iBus Networks provides connectivity solutions inside buildings. Using proprietary technologies, it provides ‘talk solutions’, data, proximity marketing, as well as Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. The founding team of Ram Sellaratnam, Subash Vasudevan and Sunil Menon brings with it many years of operating experience from companies like Infosys, Airtel and Essar. 

iBus endeavours to work closely with all eco-system players, including service providers, device players, content and storage partners to enhance consumers' in-building data experience. Connectivity is a pain point in most large and high-rise buildings. Call drops and poor or intermittent internet connectivity on smartphones are common issues. Ram (CEO), said,

Today connectivity is basic utility. When people look at premises, they check water, electricity and connectivity. Inside buildings, connectivity is a multi-dimensional problem. Our patent-pending technology platform solves voice, data, proximity marketing and machine-to-machine connectivity problems. That makes us a unique and innovative solutions provider.

iBus claims to have been profitable since inception. It is deploying its solutions across major shopping malls, hotels, commercial premises and hospitals, etc. While iBus works closely with builders and telecom players, it earns revenues through services provided to telcos. Ram says they have so far signed multi-year contracts with several telcos. They currently rely on their partners to help them deploy their solutions across different buildings and malls. 

Cipher-Plexus, one of their investors, was also their exclusive investment banker for the transaction. Kunal Kumthekar, Founder and MD of Cipher-Plexus said:

Mobile devices were historically designed to be used on the go while outside and don’t function very well inside huge buildings. An average person now relies on their smartphone to communicate and spends almost 70% of their time inside buildings. So there is a huge opportunity, and I am happy to be associated with the iBus team and will keep on adding value as we have been doing so far.

iBus plans to use the funding to drive deployment of their solutions across the country and multiple segments to deliver connectivity inside buildings. Their target is deploying in about 20 sites across 14 million square feet in the next couple of quarters. The company currently has a team of 12 people and plans to expand to about 20 in the next few quarters.They have offices in Kochi and Bangalore and hope to soon set up an office in Mumbai, which is a big market for real estate.

How iBus works and use cases

iBus aims to improve connectivity in buildings with their four products and services and running their lines across buildings:

  1. iBus Talk: Through a grid of antennas, base stations and passive hardware components, iBus looks to ensure uninterrupted mobile signals to prevent call drops and provide connectivity inside buildings.
  2. iBus Find: Acts as instant and accurate GPS through a set of pseudo-lites, which emit datasets at ultrasonic frequency. The ultrasonic signals are parsed through Software Development kit (SDK) components embedded in users’ mobile devices.
  3. iBus Sync: Acts as a single Wi-Fi platform that provides Wi-Fi bandwidth to retail users and offloads data from voice spectrum.
  4. iBus Sense: An IP grid that connects multiple devices on diverse protocols. The device data on these IP protocols are ingested on to elastic big data platform for decoration and real analytics.

So through one main grid, iBus aims to provide four solutions. Speaking to YourStory, Ram explained that their technology can be deployed across existing buildings and also upcoming ones. For existing buildings, iBus runs surveys and generates a heat map of the building to figure out optimal points to set up their lines. Other than the more mainstream use cases of providing uninterrupted connectivity, their technology can be used for proximity marketing in shopping malls and help in evacuations during emergencies in high-rise buildings.

iBus claims that its business model is almost cost-neutral for builders and it has therefore been able to onboard a number builders and developers. Telecom providers too have shown great interest in iBus’s solution as they can otherwise be punished for call drops and intermittent services.

YourStory take

Considering the real estate market in India, JLL builders estimates that there is ‘1,000 million square feet’ in terms of a potential market that iBus could go after in India. With rapid urbanisation, there has been tremendous growth in the real estate and smartphone markets. So there is a deep-rooted problem that can only be solved with new and innovative technology solutions.

There are players that utlize iBeacon technology and provide proximity marketing solutions, but iBus aims to stand out by providing four different services through one grid. With an experienced yet lean team that has the backing of recognised industry experts, it will be interesting to see how iBus Technologies grows further and meets the goals it has set for itself.

Website: iBus Networks 

(Disclaimer: Mohandas Pai is an investor in YourStory)

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