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Give Your Home a 'Smart Makeover'

Bangalore-based home automation start-up Pluggx aims to fully leverage the untapped Internet of Things (IoT) space in India by providing a budget-friendly, hassle-free and a smart makeover to your home by letting you control your home lighting, appliances and electronic gadgets from your smartphone.

Tags: Srihari BT, Pluggx Labs, iot, Internet of Things, Tiszta Services, hardware start-up, hardware design, manufacturing start-ups

BY Swadha Mishra | July 29, 2014 | COMMENTS ( 0 ) |

Give Your Home a 'Smart Makeover'
Srihari BT Co-Founder & Director, Pluggx Labs

In a tete-a-tete with SMEntrepreneur, Srihari BT, Co-Founder & Director, Pluggx Labs, shares his views on his entrepreneurial journey, how Pluggx come into being, the products offerings, challenges faced and company’s future growth plans.


Take us through your entrepreneurial journey.

I tasted success with my first company Tiszta Services at a very young age of 19. It gave me a lot of learning opportunities. By the time I was 22, we had more than 4,000 customers, and I exited successfully from this company. Later, I founded Torquel Electronics after engineering. During this period, I was selected for Executive Management Programme for Entrepreneurship in IIM-Bangalore, becoming the youngest person to get selected into this programme ever.


Torquel was a home and building automation distribution company, and we had completed more than 25 turnkey projects that gave me a lot of industry exposure. This also gave me a picture of all the pain points in the industry as well. Hence, I co-founded Pluggx with Harinarayanan and Nikhil with an intention of designing world-class products in India in the IoT space.


What are the challenges that you face today?

The biggest challenge that we faced, and we still face is the lack of talented resources in hardware space. Investors, vendors and partners still do not believe in a hardware start-up of India. There is absolutely no government support, manufacturer support, electronics raw material and components available in India. Every individual component needs more than four weeks lead time to arrive to India. Also, there are a lot of problems when it comes to the ecosystem of the hardware design and manufacturing start-ups in India.


The next pressing issue is the cost of starting up. A hardware start-up is five times more difficult to start than a software start-up. It has hardware design, hardware manufacturing, firmware programming, application software development, and mechanical design as its main components; if any of these components fail, then the start-up will also fail.


Certifications, compliances, field tests and initial market acceptance are next major challenges. The certifications and compliances are capital expensive but absolutely important to gain customer confidence. At the same time, no customer is willing to experiment with a hardware product in the initial stages. They are conscious about buying a hardware product and wants warranty services across major geographical areas and significant brand presence to get convinced. There is always a threat of a Chinese or a Taiwanese product ready to flood the market.


Tell us what does Pluggx offer and its pricing range.

Pluggx Labs has created a smart device that allows you to control your home lighting, appliances and electronic gadgets from your smartphone. It does not need any re-wiring or changes in the home or building. Hence, it can be easily installed in new spaces as well as in existing constructions. It has all features of a traditional home automation system like profile settings, scene settings and master on/off control.


Users can schedule any light or appliance for a pre-determined data/time and also schedule routine activities like switching on/off the water heater, switching on the foyer lights and living room lights according to the need.


Users can get the energy consumption and alerts for any load in the home, when they exceed the normal consumption or stops working or goes beyond their previous monthly bill. The app learns from their daily activities and suggests actions to improve energy and efficiency tailored for cutting down the monthly bill by up to 40 per cent. Users can control and monitor their home from any part of the world.


The pricing of any product of Pluggx will fall under Rs 2,000-5,000 bracket. The installation with DIY model takes 15 minutes, and we provide the service support in more than 100 major cities of India. It has zero monthly service fees.


What is your projected turnover for the next two-three years?

Currently, we have been in the market only with beta installations and not actual sales. We are in the final phase of R&D. It’s been one year to develop all these products to this extent. In this year, we are confident of having more than 10,000 installations with revenue of $2 million (Rs 10-12 crore). So far we have generated Rs 10 lakh revenue with the beta installations, without any effort in marketing.


What are your future growth plans?

We have rolled out four products into the market and have appointed 15 distributors across India with dealers under them. Each distributor has a target of about 600 unit sales in the first year. We are also hiring direct marketing employees for receiving better feedback from the market. We also have OEM partnership with a lighting/appliance manufacturer. In future, we plan to tie up with major consumer electronics stores like Chrome, Girias, and Reliance Digital Express and participate in more than 10 national and international events for branding and promotion.


Have you secured any funds recently?

We have secured an angel fund from a well-known investor who runs a private investment firm called Cube9 capital group. The funding will be used to strengthen the R&D, production, brand positioning and marketing. This funding is also sufficient to keep us afloat for the next 18 months.


What would you advise to other aspiring entrepreneurs in this space?

I would advise them to start working on hardware products and platforms rather than software products and services. Never give out any product or platform for free in the initial days because paid customers are always the best. This will ensure you two things – first is that there are customers who are willing to pay for this idea, and second is that they will give you an honest feedback.


Try to build a solid team with complementary skills even though it is very difficult and portray the vision rather than a monetary benefit. Get a few meaningful advisors from early on who will criticise you in a constructive manner. Since this space is completely new, do not allow any one person to undermine a potentially good idea.

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