Cybersecurity startup HackersEra aims to secure the virtual environment
While at school, Vikash Chaudhary routinely took apart his classmates' radios and toys to see how they worked. This childhood tinkering led to a keen interest in electronics and technology.
Vikash’s passion for entrepreneurship evolved as he pursued a degree in computer engineering at University of Pune. While exploring different operating systems, he became curious about ethical hacking and joined the ranks of self-taught hackers.
In 2015, he realised the need for cybersecurity service providers in India and two years later, in 2017, incorporated Pune-based, a cybersecurity consultation service provider that allows users to “operate in a secure environment and produce more value”.
The cybersecurity startup offers services such as Industry 4.0 Security Services - IoT, ICS/SCADA, cloud security, blockchain solution security assessment, penetration testing, and application security.
It also offers automotive cybersecurity to help car suppliers and manufacturers protect against cyber-attacks. In its end-to-end vehicle pentest, HackersEra executes automotive security audits during the software development lifecycle and penetration testing on real vehicles.
The startup also works with telecom companies (2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G) to provide telecom signalling penetration testing and amp up cybersecurity.
“I started with a vision to secure the virtual environment in terms of architecture and network, and to provide innovative practices that give businesses greater security and productivity,” says Vikash, who bootstrapped the startup with Rs 40 lakh from his personal savings.
The founder says his startup’s flagship services include security assessment for sectors like automotive, aviation, maritime, telecom signal penetration, SATCOM, and hospitality.
How does it work?
HackersEra offers three types of consultation services:
Onsite. When customers have intellectual property or internal networks to secure, engineers travel to the site to provide cybersecurity services.
Offsite. If customers have public assets like web applications or mobile applications, engineers provide services from the office only.
Remote. When it's not feasible to travel to the client site, engineers use systems remotely to provide cybersecurity services.
The onboarding process for cybersecurity services begins with generating leads and sending proposals. For example, if a vehicle manufacturer needs a component-level penetration test or an entire vehicle penetration test, the HackersEra team will send a tailored proposal.
Once committed to the task as a potential vendor, it deploys resources with requisite hardware equipment. For example, devices such as HackRf, BladeRf and USRP are used for radio frequency issues and CANBUS-related devices such as USB2CAN are used for automotive security issues. This is followed by signing an NDA and managed service provider (MSP) agreement with the client.
HackersEra’s customers include car manufacturers, telecom companies, ecommerce firms, and SMEs.
The startup has completed over 600 cybersecurity projects, and partnered with 20 MNCs for services like ATM penetration testing and automotive cybersecurity consultation.
It works with companies like L&T Technologies, Hotel Key India Pvt Ltd, Tata Elxsi, Tata Motors, Observe AI USA, Casepoint LLC USA , RACAMI LLC USA, LTTS India, and Digiport UAE, to name a few.
Consultation charges start at Rs 5,000 to Rs 8,000 per hour for India, depending on services provided. “We have different rates for other countries, as per their requirements,” Vikash says.
Deal durations range from two to five years. "Earlier, we used to get projects for a short period of time. Now, we have clients who have given us contracts until 2024,” the founder says.
Currently, HackersEra has 34 employees spread across Vietnam, France, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and India.
The knowledge hub
Along with cybersecurity services, HackersEra also offers ethical hacking courses. The pre-recorded courses are available on the HackersEra University app.
"During academics, I became curious about ethical hacking,” Vikash says. HackersEra published its first course in 2016.
Presently, eight courses are on offer: Offensive Approach to Hunt Bugs, Offensive Approach to Hunt Bugs 2.0, Offensive AndroHunter, SDR Exploitation, Offensive Automotive Security Assessment, Offensive API Penetration Testing, Offensive Thick Client Pentesting, and Offensive Firmware Exploitation.
“Hacking is a complex process, and I want to share my knowledge,” he says.
The courses – priced between Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,40,000 and ranging from 10 hours to 60 hours – see participation from 10,000 users each month.
Revenue and growth
The startup, which competes with players like Payatu and SecureLayer7, is witnessing 30% year-on-year growth.
Vikash says HackersEra onboards about 15 new clients every month and has served over 600 clients till now. The startup says that it has around 80% market share in automotive cybersecurity, with customers in India, Germany, Dubai, and China.
HackersEra has a presence in India, the US, APAC, and Africa. The startup says India accounts for roughly 40% of its revenue, with foreign clients accounting for the rest.
Consultations account for 40% of the business; the rest comes from courses. The founder says courses generated Rs 7 crore in revenue in FY22.
The founder refused to disclose revenue details but says the plan is to generate Rs 18 crore revenue by the end of FY23.
Market and future ahead
According to Mordor Intelligence, the global cybersecurity market was worth $150.37 billion in 2021, and is expected to reach a value of $317.02 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 13.3% during 2022–2027.
HackersEra plans to expand to the Middle East by next year, and is projecting Rs 15 crore in revenue by the end of FY24.
It has plans to hire 200 people by the end of FY23 and aims to launch a sister company, Hackerspice.com, an ecommerce website for hackers to purchase hacking gadgets like ESP32 WROVER KIT Developer Board.
“We are focusing more on the service sector. It provides us opportunities to grow exponentially by providing customers with effective services such as automotive cybersecurity,” Vikash says.
Edited by Teja Lele