While providing security, convenience, and value, devices made by Pert enable customers to interact with and monitor their home lighting, fans, air conditioners, water heaters, and more.
From the lows of conducting an office experiment that caused small fires and burnt several appliances to the highs of showcasing its innovative products at CES Las Vegas, Pert has come a long way and now considers itself a contender in the Indian market.
This more than a year-old startup develops and manufactures products from the ground up in Hyderabad and has sold 3,000 units in the last 14 months.
The journey started in 2014 when Arun Cheela noticed how developers working late in the night wouldn’t switch off the lights, systems, coffee machines, etc., before leaving; this would push up the monthly utility bills. Solutions like timed switches and switching off the mains were hardly effective.
All this led Arun to do some basic research about installing a simple automation solution. What struck him was the absence of affordable alternatives; the couple of options that existed were costly ones and needed to be installed in the construction phase.
The only solution left for managing electricity consumption in offices was putting together some relays and rewiring a few switches. Arun realised the opportunity of building a prototype around this solution to address this market.
In 2016, Arun, a computer science and information services graduate from DePaul University, Chicago, launched a range of products like plugs, sensors, cameras, and switches that allow one to automate home or office.
He started Pert with a seed investment of Rs 1 crore, put together with the savings of his, his co-founders, and family.
Pert addresses three key aspects—security, convenience, and value. Its complete home solution enables customers to interact with and monitor their home lighting, fans, air conditioners, water heaters, and more. Says Arun,
“We would give our customers value by aggregating the data and giving them a dashboard with intelligent algorithms that will recommend actions leading to money saved on electricity bills and device wear and tear.”
After getting back to India, he tried his hand at a restaurant business and finally ended up building a technology platform for restaurants. He then pivoted into a digital agency where he worked with a number of startups to prototype their ideas between 2011 and 2014.
How do the devices work?
Pert claims its home automation system to be the first Indian IoT device to be IFTTT integrated with voice support on Google Now and Amazon Echo. Once the device is installed, users can interact with it through the Pert app installed on their mobile. The smart switches can be installed in under 15 minutes.
The startup is also very particular about after-sales support. It has a team of trained technicians at all dealer locations who can service the product on-site and in-premise.
The direct sales channels include website, e-commerce, demo kiosk in malls, exhibitions and trade shows. The indirect sales channels include dealers and distributors, system integrators and large format electronic outlets. E-commerce sales contribute five percent of total sales with the rest coming from offline channels.
Hurdles on the way
According to Arun, procuring and creating moulds for semiconductor boards and plastic enclosures was a tedious and expensive task. The other challenges were attracting and retaining talent in the instrumentation and embedded systems area and managing the product development cycle.
The prototype was expected to be completed within six months, which, however, took more time owing to several levels of standardisation and miniaturisation.
They developed prototypes in more than three RF technologies before finalising on Wi-Fi. They initially did market validation by installing the home automation systems in 10 homes of early adopters, which was then expanded to 100 homes in Hyderabad to test performance and durability over three months.
Arun says that 90 percent of the components in their devices are sourced in India. The Pert board is built locally and the Wi-Fi controller is sourced from Hong Kong. Moreover, it has an in-house mobile app and web app for process automation that help in testing, calibration, and dispatching.
Pert has 14 dealers in over 10 cities in India. Through online presence, it serves other remote parts of the country. The company has a team of 40 people, and is in the process of increasing points of sales to allow customers to buy from retail stores and multi-brand retail chains like Croma and Reliance Digital. For the next fiscal year, the company aims to earn a revenue of Rs 10 crore.
According to research and market report, the home automation market in India is expected to cross the figure of Rs 30,000 crore by 2022. Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru and Ahmedabad account for more than 50 percent of the total home automation market.
Given the size of the market, it is apparent that there is no dearth of startups in the space. Oakter, Inoho, IFIHomes, Silvan Innovation Labs, SharpNode, Home Brain, Cubical Labs, and Thasmai are a few of them.