Shruthi Gilla has created Cashew, the world’s first smart wallet with fingerprint protection for which she received equity-free seed funding from Zone Startups India.
Shruthi Gilla, an outsider to the STEM ecosystem at various levels – what with her lack of a tech background in a notorious old boys’ club - has still swooped in to stake her claim, riding on the uniqueness of her invention.
The spunky entrepreneur has created the world’s first smart wallet with fingerprint protection that gives it an edge over its competitors – for which, she even won equity-free seed funding from Zone Startups India recently.
She tells HerStory about how she transitioned from her career in consultancy to tech, and from “fine-dining to hot dogs at the gas station,” to create Cashew.
Shruthi has always been a hustler – she sold life insurance policies at Aviva, worked the graveyard shift at a call centre and attended college in the morning.
She completed her Masters’ Degree in Computer Applications from Vasavi College of Engineering, Hyderabad, and went on to work for Deloitte Consulting, for eight years, in India and in the US, until she decided to start out on her own.
Her now co-founder and then best friend, ex-Facebook and online sales expert Sunny Malhotra suggested taking on the physical wallets space, sometime early in 2015, stating that it was “still untouched in terms of technology.”
“Though I had a lot of push from family and friends, I am someone who is very driven by clear goals and priorities. So, we started cracking on the idea for the next few weeks, and soon, my company-provided fancy hotel room turned into the "living room" of a 1BHK apartment shared by three; restaurant dinners turned to hot dogs at the local gas station,” she says.
They floated Revol Inc., to make tech-enabled lifestyle products. Not having an electronics background – when Shruthi started out, she hadn’t a clue what a PCB or even soldering was. “I literally had to read "Electronics for Dummies" to pick the pace and start talking at our product meetings,” she recounts.
Cashew Smart Wallet is its flagship product. When they first thought of Cashew, it was very futuristic, Shruthi tells me. “We even planned to put an LED screen on it to show balances,” she says.
After putting in more research, learning, and market research, they pivoted and arrived at an MVP to go to the market as swiftly as possible.
They decided to get validation for what they were building through a crowdfunding campaign. “We worked on making the initial prototype, made a video, launched a Kickstarter Campaign in May 2016, which was a success and we made a little more than the goal. This was our 'aha' moment and we did not look back since then,” she says.
With some feedback from Kickstarter, they spent six more months reworking the original prototype. The final industrial prototype, which was much sleeker, had an added RFID feature as an additional layer of security to prevent electronic theft. They then launched another crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, in November 2016.
The world's first smart wallet, the fingerprint access-enabled Cashew can hold up to seven cards and twenty bills. It runs on a battery which lasts up to four months on one charge, and has smartphone connectivity with Bluetooth.
Therefore, the 'Buzz my Wallet' feature on the app can be used to locate your wallet.
Its crowd source GPS feature enables tracking, and its electronic latch can unlock the wallet only for authorised fingerprints.
“We are the world's first wallet with fingerprint print access and smartphone connectivity. There are other smart wallets in the market but none of them solve the basic problem of unauthorized access to wallets. Anyone who has access to those traditional smart wallets can easily throw the tracker chip out. We are the only smart wallet to combine Fingerprint access and Smartphone connectivity. We have built a technology that can be incorporated into any other lifestyle product. Our product scope is huge,” she explains.
Through just crowdfunding and pre-orders on the website, they have made $200,000 in revenue so far. Shruthi feels that they are only at the tip of the iceberg currently, with their crowdfunding and website. “Our next step is to make Cashew available on all the popular e-commerce sites like Amazon, Flipkart, etc. and get into retail and distribution channels.
In 2018, they are on course to sell 50,000 units and make four million dollars in revenue. “We plan to grow 200 percent every year and by the end of 2019, we aim to reach 12 million dollars in revenue. And this is only with Cashew Smart Wallet, we are also building other products under Revol.
Having just launched Cashew Smart Wallet in three different colours, they intend to add three more. Apart from this, they are on track to launch other product lines like women’s clutches, handbags, passport holders, and luggage bags.
“As we keep progressing, we will also keep making technology upgrades to all our product lines and release them in different versions. And as an entrepreneur, I get to be the designer, technical coder, product tester, accountant, customer support executive, salesperson, and every role you can think of. It feels like I'm discovering myself every day,” says Shruthi, signing off.