Why this young graduate turned down a job offer from Estee Lauder’s CEO

Estee Lauder CEO William Lauder personally offered Aditya Narang a position at the New York-based cosmetics MNC. But the 26-year-old had other plans and in 2016 launched SafeHouse Technologies, a mobile-first cybersecurity startup that provides military-grade safety.

Delhi boy Aditya Narang left home at the tender age of 11 years to join boarding school in London. It wasn’t unusual as it was a family tradition for all boys to attend boarding school in England.

Aditya comes from a family that has produced a long line of entrepreneurs, starting with his great-great-grandfather Dr GC Narang, who started one of India’s first sugar mills in 1908.

It was not surprising that Aditya decided to study entrepreneurship when he went to college in Boston at Northeastern University.

Aditya Narang, the Co-founder of SafeHouse Technologies, wants to democratise the entire cybersecurity framework for the everyday user.

Aditya’s first paid job while he was still in college was a six-month gig in London, working for Estee Lauder on the Tom Ford account in digital marketing. The Lauders (who own the cosmetics giant brand Estee Lauder) and the Narangs have had a relationship for four generations. In fact, Aditya’s grandfather, who ran several businesses, had at one point got into cosmetics and partnered with Estee Lauder. The two families have been close family friends since.

Turning down Estee Lauder

When Aditya was trying to figure out what he would do after college, he met William Lauder, CEO, Estee Lauder, for advice. William asked him to join the New York-based cosmetics giant that manufactures and markets skincare, makeup, fragrance, and haircare products.

The young graduate told the corporate czar candidly that he was not keen on the business.

“My mind was not into it, I told him. So he asked me what I am interested in, to which I said I was interested in the cyber world,” Aditya reminisces.

Interestingly, it was only earlier that morning, before the meeting, that he had read an article detailing how the next wars are going to be fought in cyberspace. This had prompted Aditya’s response.

Learning the ropes

William made a call to a friend in Israel who ran ARD Security, a cybersecurity and intelligence consulting and project management group. And thus, Aditya moved to Israel. “That was my gateway into the world of cybersecurity,” he says.

This is where Aditya learnt the ropes of cybersecurity and cyberdefence technologies. He worked with homeland security and national security agencies of Southeast Asian countries at ARD for about six months.

He also met some of the “world’s foremost hackers” and his future business partner, Liad Herman, an ex-intelligence officer from Unit 8200, Israel’s elite defence force and one of the world’s foremost cyber ops units.

A SafeHouse with a BodyGuard

The duo set up their startup, SafeHouse Technologies, in 2016 as a mobile-first cybersecurity company that provides military-grade cybersecurity to internet users.

The company’s flagship product, BodyGuard, is a one-button app that encrypts and secures mobile phones. It secures end-users from a wide range of cyberattacks such as phishing, ransomware, and malicious links. BodyGuard comes in two variants - Personal and VIP. While the Personal subscription is available at Rs 599 per year, the VIP subscription, which gives access to global servers, retails at Rs 799 per year.

Aditya says SafeHouse aims to “democratise” the entire cybersecurity framework for the everyday consumer. India today is the largest mobile data user in the world with more than 80 percent of traffic coming from mobile phones. 

“The objective of SafeHouse Technologies is to secure India and her citizens, one mobile phone at a time. In doing so BodyGuard will also optimise the internet experience on mobile phones, providing more utility to our users. The cyberdefence technology we have developed is being made accessible to all types of users: government institutions, banks, SMEs, and even individuals,” he says.

The company had been in stealth mode since 2016 and only made its operations public recently.

Fundraising and future plans

Earlier this month, the cybersecurity startup raised $2.2 million in funding, led by Barclays UK Ventures (the venture capital arm of British multinational financial services group Barclays). Other investors that participated in the round included Purnendu Chatterjee, the Founder and Chairman of The Chatterjee Group (TCG).

SafeHouse plans to use the funds to promote BodyGuard and increase its investment in research and development (R&D).

In 2016, the late ESP Das, former Vice Chairman of Merrill Lynch, invested in the company as an angel investor. The following year, the company was picked up for incubation by CyLon Labs (which is backed by British defence and aerospace company BAE Systems and Winston Capital). And in 2018, it was chosen to be part of the Techstars and Barclays accelerator programme.

Quizzed on the financials of the company, Aditya says he cannot divulge any numbers as part of Barclays’ standard policy.

When asked about competition, the 26-year old entrepreneur says that BodyGuard competes with antivirus software such as Quick Heal and McAfee in India, although it is not an antivirus itself. Internationally, it competes with US-based companies such as Lookout and Zimperium, which have offerings similar to BodyGuard.

The mobile security market is expected to be worth $42.18 billion by 2024, according to global market research and consulting organisation, Market Research Engine.

And, SafeHouse wants to build on that!

(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)


Updates from around the world