It is said that most innovations happen with your own experiences and mine was no different. In 2008, my driver disappeared with my car for a personal errand. Unable to contact the driver, I started devising a method to locate my car if the same situation were to repeat itself. Often there exists a risk of car thefts and misuse by drivers. Cases of vehicular thefts have been on a constant rise. If serious facts are to be looked at, up to 105 vehicles are stolen in the capital city of Delhi on a daily basis. To add to that, car thieves now are even more tech-savvy, which means even the most secured vehicles have a possibility of getting stolen. This is when Trak N Tell’s idea was born.
After earning a B.Sc. in Computer Engineering from the University of Florida in 1995, I began my professional career as a Systems Analyst with Exxon Exploration Company, the world’s largest publicly traded Oil and Gas enterprise. In 1997, I joined Yahoo Inc. as a senior technical executive and played a vital role in transforming the company into one of the world’s biggest tech organization.
Following years of training and gaining vast experience in this field, I quit my job at Yahoo and set up my first venture, Pran Enterprises, LLC (Cupertino, CA, USA) which offered custom web solutions to our customers. In 2003, I moved back to India in 2003 and and went on to founding Bits N Bytes Soft Private Limited in May 2007 and subsequently, incepted Trak N Tell. I got our first OEM customer in 2013 and successfully raised first round of funding within a year, followed by a second round in 2015-16.
Back in 2009, buzz words such as IoT, M2M, VTS or even “GPS tracker” didn’t exist. After a long search, I found a device from a German company that cost $400 at the time. Being a software engineer and an auto-enthusiast, I wrote the software for the German device and put together a working prototype. Smart phones hadn’t been invented by then. So, I built an entire interface that worked over SMS so that our customers could easily locate and control their cars over SMS instead of being forced to access a website. I readied a platformand put it to test on my own vehicles. The GPS-based unit was even built to understand the structural dynamics of a car, which upon impact or an accident would dial the nearest of kin to the driver and update them about the accident and the location. It also allows the driver to talk to his kin.
After three years of product testing and getting it certified, I took the product to several automobile manufacturers. My first client was a home grown tractor and construction equipment manufacturer, which used the Trak N Tell platform, in 2013, in its vehicles. The revenues from this business covered the company’s initial cost of operations. The Indian group that he worked with has so far sold more than 1,200 units of construction equipment, in two years, and its revenues for the financial year 2014-15 were Rs 4,133 crore.
But I soon realized that while the corporate business was steady, at best, I was not able to scale up the business. The problem is that most automobile companies in India have their own telematics solutions.
It was in 2009, when I got my first customer. I vividly remember the day when we demonstrated our immobilize-over-SMS feature to this potential customer. After successfully immobilizing the customer’s vehicle by simply sending a SMS, my next task was to explain the “magic” to my customer. No one had ever controlled the engine of a car via SMS, and here was this three-person start-up doing exactly that. Of course, a $400 price tag didn’t help either.
Fast forward to 2011, I felt the need that the off-the-shelf tracking devices weren’t reliable enough for the Indian infrastructure. This was owing to several factors including the whether condition, roads, heat, dust, telecom blind spots, etc. I started looking for a company to design a device according to certain specifications that would make it suitable for Indian conditions which majorly included the experience that I gained in the past years. In 2012, we got our first OEM customer and the product was made a standard feature in every vehicle that came off the assembly line.
Today, with the onslaught of cheap Chinese devices, the going is tougher than ever. However, with tens of thousands of vehicles on the platform and another tens of thousands of satisfied customers, we are up to facing the competition. Trak N Tell has built a reputation for itself in Delhi/NCR and other parts of the country.
IoT market in India is projected to grow at a CAGR of more than 28% during 2015 – 2020. Growth in the market is anticipated on account of ongoing technological developments in IoT technology for providing better connectivity and coverage as well as real-time monitoring & tracking of services and systems across diverse industry verticals to reduce operational and manpower costs. This has been a positive outlook for us and we continue to provide our customers with solutions that make their life easier and convenient.
Pranshu Gupta is the Founder & CEO of Trak N Tell, a Gurgaon-based IoT company that provides sophisticated vehicle telematics solutions. His chief responsibilities entail looking over the business operations of the company.