How these entrepreneurs turned their weekend project into a million-dollar startup IoTfy
There is a rapid upsurge in the demand for emerging technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT) and Cloud across all sectors.
In consumer electronics, companies like Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Sony, Xiaomi, Havells, Hindware, Bajaj and others are making significant inroads by using IoT effectively.
Amidst all these developments, Delhi-based startup IoTfy hopes to become a big player in the next four years. IoTfy is not competing with the biggies, but providing them with solutions so that they can ride the IoT wave in India.
IoT refers to a network of devices and sensors connected through the internet.
Started by serial entrepreneurs Arpit Chhabra, Sushant Taneja, Shashank Saxena and Shivam Dikshit in 2017, IoTfy is a chip-to-cloud company that helps consumer durable brands add IoT capability to their device categories with its chip-to-cloud IoT products.
“We offer ready-to-use IoT designs for most home appliances. These chip-to-cloud IoT designs are production-ready, cost-optimised for appliance categories such as air conditioners, water purifiers, water geysers, smart lights, smart fans and others,” says Arpit Chhabra, Co-founder and CEO of IoTfy.
Explaining further, Arpit says that four components go in IoTfy’s chip-to-cloud solution. “These include the Nucleo WiFi module, which communicates with the cooler control card and provides data connectivity, the iACE IoT Platform, and pre-configured device schemas topped with IoTfy’s analytics as per the OEM or brand’s demand.”
IoTfy also offers a white-labelled mobile app for end consumers to control appliance functions such as ‘on’ and ‘off’ using the app, and even Voice Assistant Integration with voice assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home, which enables consumers to control the appliances with their voice.
The co-founders claim that IoTfy is the only company in India that provides chip-to-cloud solutions and caters to the entire life cycle of IoT products.
A team of serial entrepreneurs
Arpit (35) is a serial entrepreneur having built four startups and successfully exiting two of them. His last exit was an IoT product startup called Ad-Box.
Sushant (32) who is the Vice President, Technology, IoTfy, has hands-on experience of over a decade in IT technologies, especially with working at scale. He earlier stint before he joined as Co-founder of IoTfy was at Snapdeal. Sushant is also a serial entrepreneur and is the co-founder of Ekayan Software Labs, and was the founding member of StoreMonk.
Shashank Saxena (30), Vice President, Embedded Systems, is in charge of all things hardware. Shashank has 10 years of experience in designing and developing hardware products. Prior to IoTfy, Shashank ran an IoT consulting firm where he catered to more than 200 customers. He was awarded two monetary grants of over 20K USD from MSME, Govt. of India for two innovative IoT products in 2010 and 2011.
Shivam Dikshit (29), Vice President, Marketing, previously headed business development and marketing at an IoT consulting firm and was able to establish a diverse customer base ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies. He is a community builder and was a founding member of PeerHack, Bootstrap Weekend & Hack4India.
From a weekend project to a profitable company
“IoTfy was started as a weekend project in December 2014, when we used to meet and conduct development hackathons. The idea at that point was to build a Wordpress-like platform for IoT that can be used across sectors for various IoT use cases,” says Arpit.
“Based on inputs from the market, we realised that sticking to a vertical will keep us focused and help us in the long term. We started focusing on the Appliance and Consumer Electronics (ACE) space because use cases of IoT were plenty and numbers of appliances with IoT has a drastic growth potential compared to Industrial IoT,” he adds.
Market and competition
According to the International Data Corporation’s (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Smart Home Device Tracker, released in March 2019, the global smart home market is expected to grow to 1.6 billion devices by 2023.
Sushant says that companies in the appliance and consumer electronics space are sourcing IoT solutions for their product lines majorly from three channels. First, by Indianising technologies from their global resource pool, but challenges in these channels include that localisation is a problem and India specific engineering change approvals take a lot of time, like a year, and cost optimisation is another challenge here, he tells.
Sushant adds that other channels are implementing solutions available from China or are building from scratch using multiple vendors.
The problems with Chinese channels include data privacy issues, and lack of local support during production while building from scratch entails integration challenges that results in a jury-rigged and tattered solution.
The startup believes it has disrupted the space by providing ready-to-use IoT appliance designs, that ensures production friendliness, thus making it suitable for mass production and adoption. It also gives brands control of production without falling into any traps.
In the last two years, IoTfy has closed deals with prominent Indian appliance manufacturers alongside Japanese and Korean appliance manufacturers.
“We also have managed to reduce the sales cycle from a typical period of six-eight months to two-three months,” says Shivam. He adds that the company currently has ready-to-use IoT solutions for over 12 products lines including ACs, air coolers, fans, water purifiers, air purifiers, water geysers, chimneys, lights, etc.
“Since we have NDAs with all our clients, we cannot share names, but what we can share is that we are working with almost all leading Indian appliance manufacturers and marquee Japanese and Korean appliance manufacturers.”
The company is also helping three major air cooler brands to enable IoT in their product line. “These products will hit the market in the summer of 2020,” tells Shivam.
Business and plans
IoTfy has put investments to the tune of a few crores till date and it is totally a bootstrapped company. According to the founders, the startup turned profitable in FY 2017 itself. Arpit adds that IoTfy will be ending this financial year close to $1 million revenue with over 500,000 devices hitting the market with its technology.
To achieve this target by 2021, IoTfy is planning to raise Series A funding by the end of this year, and is in talks with multiple investors to bring in more talent and add more device categories such as smart cameras to its IoT product catalogue.
Presently, the startup is laser-focussed on the Appliance and Consumer Electronics (ACE). “IoT in this segment has just started taking root, and in the coming four years, we will emerge as the single biggest player in India. We also have plans to target international markets like the Middle East and the US next year,” says Arpit.
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)