Making smart homes more affordable: Page 2 of 2
By Sharmila Ganapathy May 24, 2018
Funding and other plans
According to Tharma, their product would not have seen daylight if not for The Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation’s TechnoFund grant. “We were funded by their RM1.2 million grant in 2013 and it was a grant for R&D only. We also received a productisation grant from PlaTCOM Ventures, which amounted to RM200,000.”
Apart from the grants, the company has been funded internally. “I have tried pitching to an angel investor, but I’ve always felt that angels and VCs are not sure that Malaysia is ready for IoT. In 2017, they were more app-based and targeted at the retail market. But they were not ready for property developers and the B2B aspect. So, we had to bite the bullet and do it ourselves,” he adds.
The company also managed to secure a RM200,000 loan for operational expenses from SME Bank.
The company is now looking for funding as they wish to scale the business. “We’re looking for a regional fund as the product is scalable for the Southeast Asian market. I think it’s a common challenge; first we need to get market validation and proof of concepts, etc.
“Then we had to get traction and get letter of orders. The most difficult part is looking for funding and juggling the business when orders keep coming in.”
In terms of market outlook in this part of the region, where does he see the takeup of smart home solutions?
He names Malaysia and Singapore, and India. The company has established an experience centre in New Delhi and is setting up an experience centre via a network partner in Jakarta.
“We do plan to target the Indian market and their appetite for gadgets is high. We hope to get the first order from India by the middle of this year,” he says.
“We are creating ecosystems for other IoT players itself, it’s a huge market for our device partners from US, China, Europe and even Malaysia. We have bWave network partners to scale the product outside of Malaysia,” he explains.
What has been unexpected about his foray into the smart home solutions market? “I think I would say it is how the market has changed rapidly compared to how it was one year ago. Last year when we used to pitch to potential clients and property developers, they would say that they didn’t have a budget.
“At the current rate, since February 2018, our sales hit rate is 100%. That is what has been unexpected. There has been a major shift,” he says, adding that there is now interest from healthcare companies, apart from hotels and property developers.
“The major change from the last 18 to 24 months is that from a nice-to-have system, a smart home system is now a necessity,” he says.
Commenting on the plans for the business, Tharma says they are actively looking for partners.
“For the next three years, we have to keep innovating. We are very sensitive to what’s happening in China, the US and Southeast Asia. We’re already incorporating the artificial intelligent element into our system. One example is geofencing, where the home is aware you’re 2-3km away and adjusts the home air conditioning system entirely.”
They are also looking to collaborate with universities and device partners. “We hope that another 30-40% of devices deployed will be made locally in Malaysia. We are looking for more partners to scale to other countries, but our focus for now is on Malaysia,” he concludes.