November 8, 2016 – Demonetisation Day.
For three people, it was also the day that got them out of their comfort zone and spurred them to take the plunge into entrepreneurship. At the time, Sitesh Mishra, Suresh Patter and Ashish Srivastava were working for NXP, a Dutch global semiconductor manufacturer, in the area of connectivity domain and microcontrollers. With a strong focus on NFC and embedded Secure Element (eSE), their work on a host of NFC-centric solutions had been integrated into phones, PCs, tablets and wearables.
Their work was both interesting and engaging, but as Sitesh says, “At the back of our minds, we always wanted to work on solving a challenge unique to India and create value. We saw a great opportunity in Aadhaar. We believe that Aadhar will solve multiple challenges for India as it is based on biometric data.“ When demonetisation came into effect, the instant push for online digital transactions led them to translate their ideas into action and launch iClimb Systems.
At iClimb, Sitesh is the CEO, Suresh is Director-Technologies and Innovations, and Ashish is Director- Execution and Delivery. Aravind Pai, a well-known name in business development with over 20 years of experience, is on board as a consultant for BDM.
iClimb Systems is an IoT-focussed company for products and solutions in the wearables, payment, healthcare and industrial embedded domains. According to the founders, iClimb Systems acts as a ‘one-stop solution provider’ for IoT-related products. The team has also developed two products in-house. The first is an end-to-end electronic shelves edge label (ESL) in the IoT segment where prices of goods can be updated centrally over the cloud, which then gets reflected across retail chain outlets. “This is extremely helpful when the prices of hundreds of products, or even a single product, needs to be changed dynamically over a day or a week. With our product, retailers can eliminate the tedious process of printing price labels with bar codes and promotional offers, and bring in greater efficiency,” says Suresh.
The other interesting product that the team has developed is “iWarranty” which can eliminate paper-based warranty systems. iWarranty allows auto-diagnostics to be enabled on products. Sharing an example of how it works, Sitesh says, “When iWarranty is integrated in products such as a water filter or washing machine, if a problem arises during usage, customers will come to know if their product is under warranty or not, while the service centre will know the exact problem upfront. The customer will not even be required to make a call to the service centre, because of the automation. This goes a long way in enhancing customer experience, and thereby loyalty.”
The iClimb Systems team is now working on launching a Smart Aadhar L1 certified device for use-case scenarios related to Aadhaar-based PoS, Aadhaar-based PoV, recording attendance, subsidies and scholarship grants and Public Distribution Systems (PDS). According to Ashish, “This Aadhaar device can become the base for any applications related to Aadhaar.”
Having worked extensively in the area of security, the team is looking at integrating those learnings into the Smart Aadhar device to make it extremely secure. Suresh says, “We believe these security features, along with the product features, will be the biggest differentiators, while improving efficiencies and customer delight for service providers.” The Aadhaar L1 device can be used for transactions that require a high level of security, for example payments, eSigning and PDS, etc.
Sharing how the device has generated interest among potential clients, Sitesh says, “When we demonstrated the product to a public sector bank, they could not believe that authentication for payment or eKYC was possible, even if customers couldn’t remember the Aadhaar number! It was a wow moment, and they are excited about our product.”
iClimb Solutions has filed for a patent for this solution. They are working towards launching the integrated smartphone-based Aadhaar-enabled device in early 2018 and subsequently they plan to launch discrete Aadhaar devices.
The device and the potential it has, especially at a time when Aadhaar is becoming indispensable for day-to-day transactions across India, has helped the team gain a strong footing. iClimb Systems has been shortlisted for Cycle II of Qualcomm Design in India - Challenge 2017 (QDI-C 2017) and is among the six startups receiving mentoring and technology support as part of the run-up to the finale of the challenge.
“With Qualcomm’s mentoring and technology support we have got insights about OEMs and the overall product offerings that iClimb can bring to the market. Qualcomm is playing a key role in helping iClimb with their hardware and software platform and integrations. “With their help, our product development has gained better pace. They are not only supporting us but also guiding us on ground which is a great motivating factor.”
iClimb will be using one of Qualcomm’s 4G phone platforms for integration in the Aadhaar PoS/Authentication/eKYC devices. “This phone platform has security features which will be the add-on security aspects for the L1 and L0 Aadhaar devices.”
Talking about the market for the Smart Aadhaar devices, Ashish says, “Our solution will be deployed in the market through OEMs. Major buyers will include banks, government departments, telecom operators, individuals, universities and hospitals, among others.”
The team is excited about how Blockchain technologies will be a game-changer in banking systems. “We do have plans of working on integrating Blockchain with our in-house Aadhaar devices. But that’s after we have launched our Smart Aadhar L1 and have refined and strengthened our product portfolio.” says Sitesh.
The eight-member team at iClimb does have its hands full, but Sitesh says, “This is exactly why entrepreneurship is exciting. While there are global companies where you do get opportunities to solve challenges that few dare to, the contentment of having the freedom to do what you want to and do what you believe in comes only when you start up.”