Smartron India, a leading technology OEM company and an Internet of Things (IoT) startup, recently announced a new innings with cricket legend, Sachin Tendulkar. Besides being the brand ambassador of Smartron, Sachin is also a strategic shareholder in the company thus making it his first investment in a tech startup firm. The company recently launched two flagship products, tbook and tphone, fully designed and engineered in India.
Smartron has been operating in stealth mode since August 2014 and is set to launch a slew of smart devices including phones and IoT products for consumer and enterprise markets. “IoT is the basis for every product we develop. We are riding on the IoT wave to innovate in the areas of smart, sensor, robotics, artificial intelligence, cloud and big data technologies to bring next generation smart devices, services and care targeting consumer, enterprise, industrial and infrastructure markets,” says Mahesh Lingareddy, founder and chairman. The company has tied up with Foxconn, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer, to manufacture a range of smartphones, tablets, ultrabooks and IoT devices.
Mahesh, who is also the co-founder and CEO of Soft Machines, a US-based semiconductor company with operations in US, India, and Russia, says that the company (Smartron) aims to build a global product brand from India. Soft Machines, is currently valued close to $1 billion, raising more than $150 million from a diverse group of global investors. It is building a team of more than 275 employees with development operations in the US, India and Russia. Prior to founding Soft Machines, Lingareddy worked at Intel, where he held a series of engineering and management positions.
Funded by investors from the US, India and Middle East, Smartron has R&D centres in Hyderabad and Bengaluru and supporting teams around the globe to enable technology sourcing, marketing and sales. It is working closely with vendors, partners and customers to co-create and collaborate in building a strong product ecosystem.
Mahesh say, “IoT offers a huge opportunity to build a variety of next generation smart devices that are more autonomous and intelligent with integrated cloud services and support. India has only focused on services over the last two decades.” He adds: “China started as a manufacturing hub but is now home to many fast growing brands, such as Lenovo, Huawei, Xioami, Alibaba, Baidu. A strong product ecosystem is the key to long term growth and value.
“With IoT, we are going from a handful of devices per household to tonnes of devices like wearables, smart bulbs, smart cameras, smart appliances etc. It is no longer just a desktop/laptop PC and a smart phone/tablet. The challenge is to make all these devices talk to each other and move the data across these devices seamlessly in order to provide timely and highly intelligent information to the user,” Mahesh says. The company has launched an “open innovation platform” called crowdtron through which it plans to source a range of IoT products and offer them through the smartron tronx platform. It plans to partner with various local manufacturing firms to encourage local manufacturing ecosystem.
Mahesh opines that India lacks a robust innovation infrastructure. “It is very difficult to build capital intense R&D driven companies which require a long time to market and break-even. Everyone is focused on building another restaurant or food app. But, now we need real product companies and brands.” He elaborates: “There has to be an ecosystem approach, and this requires collaboration amongst companies. It involves hardware, software, cloud, services and support, which is very capital intensive and would take a long time to market. Some of the verticals are not mature hence it requires one to be patient until these markets reach that stage.”
According to Mahesh, the IoT wave offers a huge opportunity from hardware to software to services to support. “For India of Things to become IoT, we will have to address the product ecosystem and innovation infrastructure challenges. Additionally, we will have to bring back our roots of great innovation and shift our focus to products,” he adds.