A year ago, Senthilkumar M was visiting his pregnant sister in Madurai, and upon meeting her, he realised that she had no idea about the frequency of visits that she had to make to the doctor. He even realised that his sister and her husband did not know the importance of measuring regular pulse rates. What worried him the most was that there was no way that she could reach emergency services to get to the hospital when alone at home.
Being an engineer, he came back to Bangalore - where he worked - and in under a month, he made a watch for her that could capture pulse rates, notify her of doctor’s appointments and dial emergency services based on the readings of the watch. There are colour coded dials in the watch which alert her to make it to doctor appointments. The watch can sync with the phone if need be and its APIs - when synced with a utility app - can dial emergency services or call taxis. After four months of using the watch, the entire pulse rate data of the baby and the mother was recorded on a graph. "I realised that this could be a great business and that there was a need to build affordable IoT products," says Senthil, who went on to found IoTranic. He says that the company was born in 2016 out of this experience.
Since then, Senthilkumar has been building products that could benefit health care, agriculture and transportation. The product that he built for his sister has now been tested for robustness and is awaiting commercial roll out.
Senthilkumar was an electronics engineer from Anna University who graduated in 2010. He funded his education through a bank loan and repaid it by winning electronics competitions in every college fest. Being a voracious reader of engineering literature and an avid product builder, he was employed by the likes of Samsung and Qualcomm. He worked with the R&D team that worked on the Tizen operating system in Samsung.
"I always liked dabbling with technology and understood how things worked. So becoming an entrepreneur was a life-long dream," says Senthil.
The competition and the business model
Gartner, Inc. forecasts that 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015, and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. In 2016, 5.5 million new things will get connected every day.
Gartner estimates that the Internet of Things (IoT) will support a total services spending of $235 billion in 2016, up 22 percent from 2015. Services are currently dominated by the professional category (in which businesses contract with external providers in order to design, install and operate IoT systems), however, connectivity services (through communications service providers) and consumer services will grow at a faster pace.
"IoT services are the real driver of value in IoT, and increasing attention is being focused on new services by end-user organisations and vendors," says Jim Tully, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.
There are several IoT companies springing up in India and there are several of them that are already in business. Altiux Innovations builds software that enables the IoT platforms of large companies. Software is the foundation of IoT companies, it connects different aspects such as apps, hardware, databases and networks. They work on a B2B model where they sign long term contracts with clients. Other well-known names are Altizon and Cooey. The biggest of them all is Ineda Systems, funded by Qualcomm Ventures, which has raised close to $45 million.
IoTranic is still a young startup with zero revenues. But Senthilkumar has invested close to Rs 25 lakh to keep his startup dream alive. "I am talking to several healthcare companies to use our products," says Senthilkumar.
His product, SaveMom - which tracks the heart rate and sleep patterns of pregnant women - works without networks or bluetooth connectivity, has zero radiation and has a battery life of nine months. It has a simple SD card, which captures the heart rate and sleeping patterns. The SD card can then be ported on to a laptop of the doctor or the health care provider to get the data on to the hospital applications. This affordable device, which is targeted at being retailed at very affordable price (the company will disclose the price by next year), will be mass manufactured from China. The product will offer all analytics dashboards to hospitals and other corporates. IoTranics will work with hospitals to deliver this product to pregnant mothers.
SAP's Startup Studio picked them as one of 15 startups that could pitch to VCs. IoTranic is a two member team and hopes to work with a few hospitals by the end of the year. The company plans to make products that help track water supply, help transportation in the form of intelligent parking solutions for cars and sensors that can measure moisture in fields. "All this is part of a larger platform that the company hopes to build," says Senthilkumar.
IoT companies in India have not scaled up because there have not been comprehensive business models. Most of them are one man teams and these are ideas that need to test the waters. "It is very difficult to determine how the device play will pan out in India," says R Natarajan of Helion Ventures.
However, there are more than 20 odd IoT companies that have cropped up just this year. Let us hope IoTranic can crack it too.