After being in stealth mode for two years, racking up a Rs 13 crore-3,00,000 units deal, Open App wants enterprises to ‘throw away their obsolete keys’.
The lock and key have, for centuries, been used as a means of protecting prized objects and storing confidential documents. While they have worked well for personal use cases, lock and key systems pose problems in business scenarios where multiple keys and third parties are involved. The situation is more complex, and security can be compromised quite easily - keys can be duplicated and unauthorised persons can open locks without detection.
Open App is an Indian technology startup specialising in smart locks that operates under the Internet of Things (IoT) sector. They aim to provide a scalable solution for solving key management and theft issues for enterprises across sectors. Here is their story.
Story so far
Open App was conceptualised in March 2014 and officially incorporated in early 2015. The founders, Gotama Gowda (26), Rajshekar Jenne (28), Siddhesh Keluskar (25) and Mayur Chavan (27), researched the sector and pivoted from their initial idea of a services-oriented model to focus on an end-to-end smart lock solution for enterprises.
While Gotama is a BA in Journalism from Christ University and might not come across as the CEO of a technology startup, he seems to have learnt everything from scratch and can rattle off and explain technical specifications and different aspects of his products and facts and figures about the smart lock space with ease.
Open App isn’t Gotama’s first experience with starting up, though. He had earlier helped launch a creative design and tech agency, NMTIY, which was acquired by Hashtaag, a unit operated by KGJ Software Technologies. While Gotama looks after overall operations, he is aided by a lean team with diverse backgrounds - Rajshekar, a graduate of Lancaster University, functions as the venture’s COO; Siddhesh, an M.Tech from IIT KGP, functions as the CTO; and Mayur, who has a Masters in Design from IISC, is their Chief Product Designer.
Gotama admitted that back in 2014, he wasn’t really aware of the IoT sector, and it was only after a friend told him about the promise the sector held that he dove into it. With the goal of building a digital smart lock ecosystem that can be operated from anywhere in the world, Open App kicked off 2016 by delivering a consignment of 500 smart locks to the fourth largest ISP (Internet Service Provider) in India. Talking to YourStory, Gotama noted that the ISP had local hubs spread out in different localities. Service personnel would have to regularly check up on them or service them in case of customer complaints. He said,
For a long time, this equipment was protected by traditional lock and keys. The keys, though, could easily be duplicated, and ISPs had no control over when their personnel were accessing the equipment and if something valuable was ever stolen.
From raising Rs 30 lakh to signing a Rs 13-crore deal
Gotama and his team noted that the above pain point is prevalent across other industries, such as logistics, petroleum and even banking. So, Open App decided to focus on giving enterprises the ability to better monitor their equipment and prevent unauthorised use.
Currently bootstrapped, Open App is in touch with investors to raise an external round of funding. The startup had initially raised Rs 30 lakh from friends and family as convertible debentures, to function as working capital to suffice existing orders from clients, with the intention of then rotating the revenue generated to continue production and deployment.
May 2016 was the biggest month for the company. Gotama noted that they had sealed one of the largest B2B orders in their space with two of the largest ISPs in India, at a deal size of over Rs 13 crore ($2 million), to digitise all switch boxes, to the tune of 3,00,000 units owned by the company. The order is currently being processed in batches. While ISPs are their bigger clients, Open App currently has clients in other sectors as well, but requested us not to name their clients for confidentiality reasons.
By August 2016, Open App had set up their entire supply chain, and by September, they claimed to have shipped 2,000 of the 3,00,000 smart locks promised. The startup is currently in the process of expanding their team. Gotama noted that the most difficult part of the entire journey was setting up the supply chain and finding the right manufacturing partners. Talking about the sector, he said,
Open App is the only successful 'startup' in the IoT smart lock segment in the country, and the only company in the world that is focused on enterprises. Nobody else is doing retro-fit for enterprises.
While there are some security concerns in the mass adoption of IoT, and the sector is still in its nascent stages, the global smart lock market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 75 percent during the period of 2016-2020. The global smart lock market is expected to reach $24.2 billion by 2024.
Globally, most of the market leaders in the space, like August Home, Kwikset and Lockitron, have their focus primarily on the residential market. Open App competes to a greater extent with players like Astute Access, which focuses on both homes and enterprises. Closer home in India, legacy players like Godrej too are looking to enter the ‘smart lock’ space for homes and enterprises.
A demo of how Open App’s enterprise lock works
Gotama said that the USP of their enterprise smart lock solution is that it can be operated from remote places without any dependence on the internet. He said, “The smart lock acts as a router that emits its own Wi-Fi signal by being connected to a power supply and then allowing the user to connect to it through the Wi-Fi discovered on their phone.”
Enterprises can sync multiple phones with a single lock and also multiple locks with one phone, as needed. Gotama noted that their locks are made of fiber-reinforced, heat-resistant composite material, which has built-in reverse voltage protection and sturdy electronics designed to work at up to 100 degree Celsius.
Mechanism of Open App's lock, GIF credit- Open App
With a smart lock solution, enterprises can have better overall control. For example, ISPs can monitor their service agents and get a bird’s eye view of their movements and also find the people responsible in case valuable equipment is stolen from their hub boxes. This can also be extrapolated to other industries like petroleum and banking, where delivery personnel have been known to siphon off small quantities of fuel and money respectively on a regular basis while avoiding detection.
Gotama noted that he and his team are in the process of filing 15 patents in the smart lock space to protect their proprietary technology and techniques. He said that they were in stealth mode for two years, and hence did almost no marketing and tried to avoid unnecessary attention. They had not applied for patents earlier because of the high costs associated with them and hence preferred to re-invest their capital in the venture.
While their main focus so far has been on enterprises, Open App aims to release a ‘smart padlock’ for the masses by mid-2017. Gotama noted that he tends to forget where he keeps his keys but never forgets his phone, and this is common behaviour today. Talking about their latest product, he said,
Product development is already underway, and the added advantage of having done this for more than a year now has allowed us to accelerate.
Gotama shared a video demo of their upcoming padlock, and noted that it would be able to take four tonnes of force, have a battery life of about six months (with USB charging facility), and also have a mechanical override in case of emergency situations.
While there are still some security concerns about the mainstream applications of IoT, it is still considered to be one of the better alternatives to some of the current anarchic systems in different use cases. Open App is going after a specific use case where the pros of adopting to the new technology outweigh the cons. The startup will now have to play the patient waiting game and keep innovating to ensure they 'click' with their customers.
Website- Open App
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