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Taking AI to Indian Homes

Picostone is a Mumbai-based startup founded by young and passionate team of Virang Jhaveri and Niket Sarvaiya.

Picostone is a Mumbai-based startup founded by the young and passionate team of Virang Jhaveri and Niket Sarvaiya. The company which started off as a dream in 2016, is now present in 1500 homes, making users “Live Effortlessly”. The mission is to automate every home in India with the best technology and user experience out there. Apart  from engineering some amazingly user friendly products, the company has been working towards making an ecosystem pillared around some really great hardware, software and artificial intelligence systems to give our customers the best automation experience that is out there. Picostone believes in ‘Make in India’ and their products and technologies are engineered, designed and developed in India. Sanjeev Ramachandran talks to Virang Jhaveri to know more:

Home automation is in. Is the Indian market ready for your kind of business?

Virang Jhaveri

Automation of home and offices is a 4-decade old business in India based on wired technology. With the advent and easy availability of Wi-Fi and the exponential growth of smart phones in India, wireless solutions have transformed the business by creating affordable solutions that reach out to a larger section of the society. The biggest hurdle for the growth of home automation in India was the availability of quality products at affordable cost. Another major boost for the home automation business in India came from real estate developers who were looking at integrating technology to improve product offering and build on the lifestyle quotient for premium projects.

With the right cost and quality assurance, we have seen double digit growth in our business and expanding our reach to over 21 cities in India in less than a year of operations. Our growth is a testimony to the demand and supply gap of quality and affordable products in this segment.

At Picostone, we are focusing on three important factors: energy efficient products that provide savings, quality and durable products that can be seamlessly integrated with existing infrastructure & smart phones and affordability of products.

How did the whole idea of Picostone shape up?

I always believed that the role of technology was to provide simple solutions to existing problems. My engineering background carved the right route to build such solutions. With my family’s stint into the real estate sector as a developer, I realized that this specific segment had the same product offering for nearly a decade with few developers offering wi-fi enabled homes in the name of smart homes. The reason behind not offering home automation solutions as a standard practice was due to the impact on the overall cost of purchase as home automation solutions in India were expensive and had to be integrated at the design stage of the product. This thought over the years lead to the development of affordable and easy to install energy efficient products under the brand name Picostone.

Does Artificial Intelligence really play the role of a charmer in the Indian scenario? Do you see the lifestyle change happening at a faster pace compared to the earlier times?

There is a huge acceptance of technology propelled by the growth of smart phones, inexpensive data packages and the availability of solutions across segments. Today, we are dependent on our smart phones for nearly all aspects of our life from professional to social requirements. This has been further simplified with the launch and success of smart assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Home.

Artificial Intelligence will further transform the home automation industry allowing technology to understand consumer to their full intents.

Urban lifestyle may have come to terms with the fast changing automation possibilities. However, it doesn’t seem the case with the other regions. Do you have a strategy on that front?  

India has over 337 million smart phone users with this number expected to reach 490 million by 2020. India also is amongst one of the few countries in the world that has the cheapest data plans for internet services along with the availability of affordable smart phones and a huge market of used smart phones. Affordability plays a key role in adoption of services and technology.

Affordable home automation solutions will play a major role in adoption of this technology in the Tier I & II locations in India coupled with ease of use, product monitoring & control and monetary savings, very similar to the growth of affordable smart phones that provided low cost connectivity, low data cost and ease of managing professional and social requirements through apps.

We believe that the adoption of this technology in major metros will also act as an influencer in acceptance of home automation solutions in Tier I & II locations.

The government’s work on the Smart City initiatives is also acting as a huge catalyst in the education of IOT and Smart technology in these regions, which would make the penetration a little easier.

Picostone Product Features:
  • Experience unbroken sleep: Sleep undisturbed with the adaptive temperature control feature.
  • Pre cool your home/office: Pre manage, set and step into the temperature of your choice
  • Learns preferences: Your devices learn your choices and behave well to please you.
  • Control from anywhere: From anywhere around the globe.
  •  Simply plug and use: Simply annex Polar and configure it with your phone.
  • Hassle free: no rewiring required. Simple installations and control.
  • Flexibility (works for all Remote controlled devices): You have devices with remotes? That’s all you need for an upgradation.
  • Adaptive scheduling(Using temperature and humidity sensors): Your AC can senses the atmosphere and adapts to it to give you the ultimate cozy experience
  • A Smart Learner : It has a built in Learner that allows it to learn any Remote control and add to its database
  • Save money smartly: Tap your device to its best potential and step down on expenditure

 What is your market like at the moment? What changes do you foresee five years down the line?

The home automation industry in India is expected to reach Rs 30,000 crore by 2020.Currently, the industry is growing at the rate of 20% y-o-y with 60% revenue generation through home renovation and the remaining through retrofitting.

Picostone, in a period of one year, has created a distribution network across 21 cities in India and is currently focusing on improving its geographical presence across other important Tier I& II locations. In the near future, it is very clear that IoT (Internet of Things) devices will have the network effort and will compel the users to buy more devices to stay on the top with technology.

You seem to be in the midst of a competing crowd. Every passing day sees new AI and home automation products coming in. Could you please elaborate on this?

There is a growing demand for home automation products in India. This segment has seen the emergence of multiple domestic and global brands / startups competing with distinct product features and services to successfully reach out to the B2B and B2C audience.

Picostone is focused on providing affordable energy efficient products and we have received encouraging response from both the B2C and B2B segments.

Please tell us a bit about your products you think are unique and how?

We have two major products: The Basic and The Polar.

The Basic: This little compact device fits behind any switchboard and allows control of any four devices that follow our technical specifications like tubelights, fans, dimmable and non-dimmable LEDs. The product requires 15 minutes for installation and one can control devices from anypart of the globe using the smart phone.

Basic also provides usage statistics of appliances so that one can schedule the device to its best possible performance while also monitoring it.

Polar with IR Stones: Polar comes with RF based IR stones that can help to control every remote controlled device. The Polar also controls your TV, Set top boxes, audio systems and any other remote controlled (IR based) devices and provides usage statistics as well.

Product Highlights:
  • 1 – Design and Engineering principles – The products are designed and engineered with keeping the user at the center of the process. The deployment, installation and the ease of use is our primary goal.
  • 2 – Affordability – The product is priced sweetly, for anyone to try our home automation without digging a huge hole in their pockets
  • 3 – Technology – The tech used behind the product is wifi, a tech that our users understand very simply.
  • 4 – Made in house and Made in India – The entire Hardware and the Software stack is built, developed, designed and engineered by us, and nothing is outsourced to China.
Team Picostone

In the midst of imported products, how do you see yourself as a must try Indian vendor?

There is huge gap between the costs of global and domestic home automation products that has hampered users from adopting this technology. High cost products do not attract as a viable option to a majority of people in India and low cost products often default with quality and servicing and people are vary of using low quality products for electrical appliances that does not ensure safety.

With Picostone, we have positioned our products as affordable, simple to use and deploy – by engineering and design, to ensure easy serviceability and longevity. Also, as Indian manufacturers and vendors of the products, we ensure the quality and durability of our products are well tested all possible levels to ensure customer satisfaction at the highest level.

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