ICOSYS: Keeping your Home Safe and Secure

Rituraj Shailendra, CEO, ICOSYS

Do you remember when your family was about to go on a trip and suddenly realise that you might have left AC or geyser on? You had to turn around to check on them, which blemished the vacation mood. Those days are long gone by introducing intelligent home automation, a system that allows you to control your home from your handheld devices. From switches to the smart bulb, from door to temperature, even security, you can control all the appliances under automation.

We can agree that ‘There’s no place like home.’ Thus, to keep our home safe and sound, Virisa Icosys Technology Pvt Ltd provides home automation services that are top-notch and gives your home best-in-class security by keeping your private world interconnected. 

Rituraj Shailendra, CEO and Lovelesh Patel, CTO of the ICOSYS, is stirring the company to be a dynamic startup in the Home Automation Industry. In the following interview, we get an insight into the company’s journey.

Below are the highlights of the interview:

Kindly mention in detail about your startup, its inception story.

Icosys started in 2018, but the idea had been in the making for at least two years before that. MBA classmates Vijay Chowdhary and Ritwik Ghosh had seen the impact of automation in the markets of China and the US and wanted to bring this convenience to the masses in India as well.

They got another partner in Sandeep Gupta and laid the foundation of a home automation company that could be the champion of causes for customers who were looking for an integrated service in the domain. At the time, the market was full of players who provided automated products or were system integrators, but hardly any did the complete setup of their products, platform, and app.

Rituraj Shailendra and Lovelesh Patel joined in early 2020 and have been instrumental in pivoting the company from a B2C organization to a B2G/ B2B model to negate the effects of the Covid-19 on the buying pattern of people and to speed up the process of bringing automation to everyone in the country.

What is the current scenario of the industry that you are catering to?

There are three aspects to this question.

Spending on automation was on the rise when COVID started, and it led to a sudden force stop onto the same. With the situation, however, getting better, people have started to come out of the savings mode and spend on non-essentials, too, which is a good sign.

Secondly, the Galwan clash generated an Anti-China sentiment in the whole of India and multiple organizations which had tie-ups sourced from China suddenly found it very difficult to react. Even our company faced many issues. We source our hardware from a Chinese company but with an exclusive partnership in a way that Icosys is the one which is responsible for all guarantees related to the products and the brands. The Chinese partners act as manufacturing vendors only. Most of the hardware in India is sourced from China owing to the low manufacturing cost, even for big groups. The problem which the government clearly identified when they banned multiple Chinese apps in India last year was data security with software companies; however, companies like Icosys, which are entirely Indian, have faced the impact as well.

Thirdly, the last 1.5-2 years have seen a different type of growth in the automation space. More prominent players like Google, Apple and Amazon have entered full-fledged into the voice assistant area in the Indian market and are now getting start-ups to come and integrate their products with their platform. This, in fact, has created enormous opportunities for smaller players to generate volume in terms of product sales; on the other side has wiped out the requirement of a dedicated platform, thus limiting the USP of these start-ups.

Is your start-up bootstrapped, or are you looking for funding options?

We are bootstrapped as of now with the complete ownership of the company with the founders and a couple of senior employees.

As we move further towards a role in mass automation of the country, there is a requirement of funds to grow, which cannot be supported entirely by the founders or by operations. Icosys is working for the Indian Railways to develop a system that could identify and thus mitigate the reasons for the delay of a train. The product has already crossed the prototype phase and has been tested and verified. The ongoing stage of the process is now implementing it for a pilot project and then distributing it to all divisions in the country. It requires many resources, and to meet that, and we are looking for investments from VC firms that prioritize scale over immediate profit. We are talking about a 100 times business growth in the next 5-7 years and the chance to be a part of something which will impact the whole of India. India travels in trains, and Icosys, through its Made in India system for traffic monitoring, is primed to drive this travel.

How has the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic influenced your business operations?

Almost coinciding with the time Rituraj and Lovelesh joined the organization, the COVID situation in the country forced the government to impose lockdown in the country, which has been in effect since then in varying degrees. This external environment change dictated that people started spending less on tertiary goods (home automation products are still considered a luxury in Indian households). With revenues drying up, there was a need to move to a model which would provide operating cash till the situation improved.

The team came out with a few products on a war footing and got them in the market in less than 45 days. The smart sanitization chamber was one of its types and found customers almost immediately.

Also was of huge importance was the development of the Traffic monitoring system, which I talked about earlier. We sat down with people from the Indian Railways and tried to understand the issues which were most pressing and then realized that the government agency was sitting on a pile of data which could be turned to information if complimented with a separate set of data, unavailable at the time. IoT has been our forte, and we decided to pivot our research for new products into the direction of government and government agencies.

The sales from our original customers have reduced in the last 1.5 years, but we have been able to construct a pipeline of new types of customers in the time which will fuel the company and more importantly the country in the coming years.

What kind of products or services your start-up offers?

There are two categories of products that we offer. We have an automation range of products, including security, convenience and aesthetic devices which cater to the general consumer. We market it through channel sales as well as online platforms and target consumers, builders and architects who are involved with new houses/ redecoration. This is a growing market that recognizes brands and is taking time to grow in the Indian market.

The second category of product is for B2G agencies which are developed in house and are now undergoing pre- pilot installation procedures and are, we believe, just a couple of years away from an explosion in terms of demand.

What kind of challenges have you faced while incorporating your company?

We have been facing and still face two major challenges:

Hiring and retaining the right people who are motivated enough to the cause and yet are willing to give themselves a chance to work with a non-funded start-up is very difficult. We all are ready to ‘try out’ working with a start-up but run away at the signs of the first roadblock. Cash is not always handy, and thus salaries sometimes get delayed, which can act as a deterrent to many capable candidates.

Also, our original model is quite labour intensive and thus requires interaction before the sales are made in most cases. This was also one of the reasons we decided to shift to B2G/ B2B during the pandemic when it was not possible to meet prospective customers.

Where do you envision yourself and your company to be in the long run, and what are your future goals?

We remain bullish towards our goal of bringing IoT to the masses. The route has changed, but the objective has not. We want to be the preferred supplier of IoT for the Indian government in the next five years, be profitable and remain nimble in terms of manpower.

Our start has been rocky, but the fact that we are still here and fighting and recently got an award from TiE for being the ‘Most Promising IoT Startup- Scalability’ in the country keeps us going and keeping our spirits up.

Once the situation in terms of COVID improves, we also plan to bring the entire value chain of our existing products in India and grow upon our brand of automation to the Indian masses.

About the Leaders

Rituraj Shailendra, CEO has worked in various capacities in Sales, Operations and Strategy across companies of different sizes ranging from an Indian MNC to a Chinese conglomerate that wanted to and were successful in expanding to the Middle East and with a European organization that was trying to translate its brand from Europe to China. In his own words, learning new technology has always motivated Rituraj, so he has consciously tried to steer his career to more technology-oriented roles. He joined as VP of Sales and Operations and now leads the company as the CEO.

Lovelesh, CTO of the company and has been involved with multiple programs of the government even before joining Icosys. Through his previous company, he was instrumental in the installation of a feedback management system for Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. These were connected devices that were used for real-time collection and solving of issues. He was also a part of the GMR airport Hyderabad automation project.For print design purpose.


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