Pivot and Persist: this Delhi-based IoT startup is fighting COVID-19 with Made in India ‘Go Corona’ bags
At a time when companies are struggling to continue their work due the coronavirus-led lockdown and restrictions, Delhi-based IoTfy has found its idea of survival.
Started by serial entrepreneurs Arpit Chhabra, Sushant Taneja, Shashank Saxena, and Shivam Dikshit in 2017, IoTfy is a chip-to-cloud startup that helps consumer durable brands add internet of things (IoT) capability to their device categories.
The three-year-old startup's operations came to halt when the coronavirus pandemic seeped into the world, and India went on a series of lockdowns, starting March 24. But the team, with an entrepreneurial spirit, did not sit idle. It continuously used the lull period to accelerate work on future capabilities, and found its idea of survival in the online food delivery space.
IoTfy has now created UVC LED enabled GoCo bags, which are designed to disinfect the articles inside the bag. The bag is operated with a button installed on the bag or with the Android app, which enables users to operate it from anywhere.
Arpit says, the name GoCo is inspired by the common sentiment ‘Go Corona’ that India and the whole world harbours right now.
Overcoming challenges during COVID times
Arpit tells YourStory that since their business depended on enabling IoT for product lines in the home appliances and lighting sector, the lockdown affected the startup due to production cuts and supply chain disruptions.
As a result, cash flow got stuck. Arpit says that till June, the team continued feeling unclear as predicting sales pipeline continued to be an issue during these uncertain times.
“Since we had to pause a lot of talks with our clients, it became tough for us to determine what would be the movement of that pipeline. This also resulted in a cash crunch,” he says. Additionally, being bootstrapped, IoTfy did not have a massive cash reserve.
Arpit says, the young generation in India relies on ordering food online, and there was a general fear amongst everyone when they discussed about ordering food. He points out that the fear of contaminated food and the possibility of a virus in the delivery bags discouraged many from ordering items as well as food. This became the use case for the startup and a reason to resume work again, says Arpit.
Thus, the idea of a UVC box was conceived by the team, and it immediately started working on its production.
IoTfy also takes pride in the fact that the company fits Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s clarion call for ‘Vocal for Local’ and Aatmanirbhar Bharat, as it contributes to this vision.
The ‘Go Corona’ bag comes with a 30 litre capacity, and allows users to disinfect multiple items such as mobile phones, groceries, food, milk packets, gloves, masks, clothes, shoes, baby products, etc., in a single shot.
“One can start the sterilisation process at the click of the ‘Start UV Disinfection’ button, or simply use the app to start the process remotely,” explains Arpit.
A research by Harvard, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Oxford shows that viruses can last on masks, cash, phones, clothes, and packages for three days, making them potential carriers. Various studies show that ultraviolet light can help fight COVID-19, and that a short exposure to UVC light can destroy the nucleic acid in viruses and bacteria, and finally terminate them.
Arpit says the bags were initially developed to help online brands and food delivery companies to deliver items in UVC disinfected bags to reinstate trust and comfort in the minds of users while ordering food and other items online.
“However, with Covid-19 positive cases rising in India, we have been witnessing a lot of queries from our professional and personal networks for these bags, which people want to purchase for their personal use,” he adds. It is then the startup decided to make these GoCo bags available to users for direct purchase through the GoCo Bags website.
Arpit says, the bags are foldable, lightweight, and power backup-compatible, and are also travel-friendly. According to him, since its launch in July, the startup has sold about a thousand bags to individuals as well as some e-grocers and food delivery companies, which the startup has refused to name. The cost of one GoCo bag is around Rs 7,500.
IoT no more a convenience but a compliance
Arpit believes the company’s relevance grows all the more now. “Before the coronavirus pandemic, we were seeing IoT as a convenience, but now the technology is seen as compliance and trust in the ‘contactless’ world,” he says.
Along with the new product line, the company is able to generate capital to survive, and its core business is back on track with the ‘unlock’ phase in various parts of India.
The said it is now working with large brands to add UVC filters in air conditioners so that ACs kill the virus in the air, and other innovations on similar lines.
To support its scale and development, IoTfy is also planning to raise external funding by this year or early next year to bring in more talent and add more categories and continue its line of business.
“IoT is our DNA and there will be many outcomes as per the need of the hour,” says Arpit.
YourStory’s Pivot and Persist series spotlights Indian startups that are pivoting to seize new business opportunities, transforming their business models, and offerings to navigate the current COVID-19 crisis.
Edited by Megha Reddy