[Product Roadmap] How apartment management app MyGate is tapping tech to ensure security and safety
A product roadmap clarifies the why, what, and how behind what a tech startup is building. This week, we take a closer look at security management startup MyGate, how it is using automation to disrupt the sector, and how the app ensures social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The management of gated communities has, for long, involved wearying, inefficient, and error-prone processes.
Keen to bring security and safety into the ever-expanding world of gated premises, Vijay Arisetty, Abhishek Kumar, and Shreyans Daga started security management startup MyGate in 2016.
“Every Indian household, on an average, lets two to three people come to their homes in a day. It is difficult for one security manager to check who is allowed and who isn’t. That is how MyGate came into being,” Vijay says.
The end-to-end “community management” platform, which is using automation to disrupt the sector, serves 1.6 million homes in 17 cities. Prior to the coronavirus-led lockdown, MyGate was doing close to 90 million visitor validations every month.
The need for security
Security isn’t new for Vijay; having served in the Indian Air Force for 10 years, he sensed the need.
An alumnus of the Indian School of Business, he has a Shaurya Chakra award for his role in evacuating victims of the 2004 tsunami in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Before turning entrepreneur, he also served as a vice president at Goldman Sachs for four years.
MyGate provides real-time information and alerts to users. The aim was to use technology to ensure a seamless connect between the internal and external worlds of these gated premises.
The platform has three interfaces - the resident app, security guard app (all interactions that happen at the gate happen through the guard), and an app that gives the resident management committee complete visibility into all visitors. “These details are taken as per the local police authorities,” Vijay says.
Each has a layer on top of it, to make the product more interactive and engaging, and ensure a seamless experience.
Citing an example, Vijay says if you have booked a cab, you can go on to the MyGate app, and inform security in advance that your cab will soon be arriving, and to give it an easy pass.
“We have also integrated with the likes of Swiggy, Dunzo, Zomato, etc. If an individual in a gated community orders on one of these platforms, the delivery startup feeds in the information on the MyGate app. It’s mentioned that this particular delivery personnel has an order for flat number XYZ. There is no information on who is there in the flat or what the delivery is; all that is shared is that a particular delivery is planned,” Vijay says.
The MyGate team, in turn, reaches out to the resident to confirm if s/he is expecting a delivery. This ensures that the right delivery partner, whose background is verified by Swiggy, actually delivers.
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Learning on the job
It was vital that the security side of the app be easy to use to ensure that all the three interfaces work smoothly. “For that, we co-founders worked as security guards at different apartment complexes to understand what they face on a day-to-day basis,” Vijay says.
They found that there was a pattern: the security guard talks to every visitor, gets him or her to write down details, and then uses the intercom to check if the resident wants to give the person entry or not.
Explaining how they simplified this process, Vijay says, “We realised that every interaction happens between 0-9. So, we built an integration system where every delivery partner gets a unique six-digit code that they just have to give to the guard. Cab drivers need to furnish the last four digits of the cab; the security punches them in and provides access.”
Residents can give visitors an invitation code. If you don’t get a visit code, then the visitor can put in the phone number. “Thus, the security guard again just needs to punch in the numbers 0-9.”
Every input on the MyGate app sends an ‘approve’ or ‘deny’ notification to the resident, who has the final say on whether the person should be sent up to the apartment or the parcel needs to be left at the gate as nobody is home.
Reducing costs, saving time
The MyGate founders also realised that apartment complexes were investing huge spends on systems that were not really being used. For instance, an intercom costs Rs 1,000 per flat and the entire network needs an annual maintenance contract to keep it up and running.
“We saw that 73 percent of the time when you make a call, there is nobody at home to pick up. The other 27 percent time, they are asking them to send the person up to the apartment. That means complexes are spending Rs 10 lakh for a one-time installation and monthly spends of Rs 1 lakh for maintenance,” Vijay says.
The MyGate offering is priced at close to half that cost.
The security guard stint also revealed that many calls come in from residents keen to know if their help has come into the apartment complex or not. It seemed to be the most frequently asked question every morning. The MyGate team decided to build a system that would give this information.
Every domestic help who works in the community is assigned a unique six-digit identification number. The code must be given to the security at the gate, which sends the residents a notification that their help has arrived.
The MyGate app has also integrated payment gateways to ensure that the domestic help can be paid on the app. “One of the unintended consequences has been helping the community. If someone needs a domestic help, they can go to the MyGate app and look at who they can hire,” Vijay says.
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Ensuring social distancing
In the pre-COVID-19 era, the design philosophy was: let the right person come in without any inconvenience. As coronavirus spreads, everyone has to be stopped at the gate.
The MyGate system allows essential services, but there are checks.
“We have built something as ‘mandatory leave at gate’ for all deliveries. The flat owner comes to know that there is a particular delivery and goes to pick it up,” Vijay says.
Multiple parcels landing everyday leaves room for errors. Technology has solved this pain point as well. A code is generated for every parcel and is sent to the flat owner who has ordered that particular parcel.
“The individual goes for the pickup with the unique code. The photo of the item is sent to the security guard, who then gives the right parcel to the right person,” the co-founder explains.
To ensure clear social distancing, the app also informs residents about the number of people at the gate to collect parcels at that time. A digital manual on COVID-19 information is available and safety guidelines for all security guards are in place.
The ISO-certified platform has no ads, and has a no-data sharing policy to ensure privacy and safety.
Incidentally, MyGate has also built the e-pass system for delivery executives for the Karnataka State Government and police.
Even today, the team follows a strong user-feedback loop with WhatsApp groups of over 9,000 communities. “I am a part of them all and get over 300-400 useful feedback pointers on a daily basis,” Vijay says.
App-based security management services for gated communities and apartment complexes is a rapidly evolving sector. The many players in the space, including Reliance’s JioGate, GateKeeper by ADDA, NoBrokerHOOD, Smart Guard, and Lockated, let communities improve security processes, manage visitors and deliveries, and auto-generate gate passes.
MyGate has raised $56 million in Series B funding led by Tencent Holdings, alongside US-based JS Capital LLC and Tiger Global Management.
The startup aims to deploy the funds to achieve 10x growth. It is also looking to serve nearly 15 million homes across 41 Indian cities, on its platform and scale to almost 60,000 gated communities by the end of 2020.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)
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