You look a little bemused when KLN Sai Prasanth tells you that he has climbed a few mountains – Kilimanjaro in Africa and Elbrus in Russia and done the Everest Base Camp trek — Sai notices the look on your face and quickly adds with a smile, “not any more”. “I have put on a lot of weight,” he says, as he talks to you about his passion – to build smart products that find everyday use.
The company he co-founded, Conzumex Industries Pvt Ltd, being incubated at IIT Madras Incubation Cell, made its first product, MuConnect, a fast-charging magnetic adapter for mobile devices.
It sold nearly 17,000 units of this through crowd-funding platform Indiegogo, in just 40 days in 92 countries, at prices ranging from $12-16 a piece.
“Our ambition is to build consumer products,” says Sai, an engineering design graduate from IIT Madras. His co-founders are Ajay Yathindra and K Karthik Reddy, both alumni of IIT Madras, and Prathyusha K, from NIT Warangal. Sai had worked in Africa for a year before returning to India and launching Conzumex.
The crowd-funding experience for MuConnect, says Sai, was amazing, because they were able to understand price sensitivity, marketing and sales. They got it manufactured in China and shipped it from Hong Kong to buyers all over the globe. There has been demand for a newer version of MuConnect with more magnetic power. Sai and his co-founders decided to licence the product to a Hyderabad-based start-up in return for a 30 per cent equity in the company.
“We started working on our core vision of building an ecosystem for smart products,” says Sai, 27. Conzumex has raised about ₹2.35 crore in seed funding, including from the Keiretsu Forum Chennai chapter and a few wealthy individuals.
It hopes to close the seed round, at around ₹3.25 crore, shortly, as the company gets ready to launch its second product, a smart analog watch with a fitness tracker combined with a chatbot and a gamification-based mobile software platform. “We are entering the wearables segment. I know it is a competitive segment, but we are different from a lot of players,” says Sai, confidently.
Conzumex hopes to address various issues with the new product. One, wearing a watch is a fashion statement, whereas a fitness tracker is just a device. Two, people carry around a number of devices, each of which needs a separate charger. Three, there is limited use of the data that is generated from the fitness tracker. “What we are making is an analog smart watch with a one-year battery life. It connects to Bluetooth and it has automatic time-changing capability wherever you go,” says Sai.
According to him, the chatbot platform will connect to both Internet and the wearable. The platform itself, he adds, can be connected to content providers and professionals so that the users can get professional advice. This, asserts Sai, will set the product apart from competition.
This watch too, will be assembled in China and Conzumex plans to launch it for bookings in October with a hard launch in January. The pop version will cost $69 and the classic version $99.
In India, Conzumex will partner with a leading Chennai-based men’s apparel retailer launching offline sales. Here, Sai credits Rajan Srikanth, co-President, Keiretsu Forum, Chennai and Singapore, for the mentorship. “Srikanth,” says Sai, “is the backbone of the company. He shapes our thought process. It was through him that we were able to tie up with the retailer for our offline sales.”
(The article first appeared in The Hindu BusinessLine.)