Is it possible to create a premium tech brand out of India? Well, Mahesh Lingareddy sure seems to think so. And that is what led the CEO and co-founder of silicon startup Soft Machines to create a brand called Smartron which will deal in everything from IoT devices to high-end computers and smartphones, launching the first products by year end.
“We have a full ecosystem kind of story and have quite a few products lined up,” says Lingareddy, who is finally ready to bring Smartron out of stealth mode. The brand envisions everything from a unique design language, high-end products, and a grip of all segments of the tech sectors. What it does not envision is a price play, like most of the other Indian tech brands.
Lingareddy wants Smartron to develop into what he calls an app store for hardware. “Some of the products will be from the parent brand, but other products will be from smaller manufacturers who are unable to sell these on their own,” he says on how the brand wants to aggregate products from India and abroad. “We will enable small teams and companies to come up with very innovative products. The teams we have brought in under this umbrella are already working on a number of products,” Lingareddy elaborates, adding these teams also have the option of being part of the brand and use the platform to offer their devices and services.
For now, Smartron has R&D centres in Bangalore and Hyderabad with plans to shift production to India in the near future. “All our products are designed in India from scratch, industrial design to hardware to software to UI to QA. Some of the products are ready for manufacturing in India and some are not. We are closely working with our partners to bring those missing capabilities,” he says. Lingareddy is categorical that his emphasis is on innovation, design and engineering with engineers at heart at the core building smart things for life, from mobile to home to enterprise to infrastructure markets.
“Ultimately, we want to be a global brand. We want Smartron to be an India-based brand, but one that leads and rivals global brands,” adds Lingareddy, whose Soft Machines is valued at over $1 billion and has teams in India and the US. “All these are ways to accelerate the pace of innovation. We are at least 15 years behind on innovation as a country and we are trying to leverage crowd innovation.”
Lingareddy wants to ensure that data does not go out of India and be able to offer cloud services and support that offer a rich experience to the end user. He also sees a huge opportunity in fusing IoT to add to this experience with smart sensors, robots, artificial intelligence and big data. “When you see our products you will see a design philosophy. We are looking at the product and innovation and know that some products will fail. But the customers will see the ingenuity and commitment to the product. A customers is looking for that before becoming loyal to a brand,” he adds. So, it is clear that the devices will be premium and not aimed at the budget conscious Indian customer. That in itself is a differentiator for a tech brand in India.