Internet is the most dynamic influencers in our daily lives. the concept of smart homes and connected homes is widely accepted although the acceptance level is still at a nascent stage in India. digitally connected home appliances is a trend which can be expected as the sunrise sector for tech lovers. In a candid interview with Faiz Askari of SMEStreet, Manoj Meena CEO and Founder Atomberg Technologies explain some interesting insights and trends regarding IoT’s emergence in India. And he also unleashed is vision and plan for transforming ceiling fans as a product segment.
Faiz Askari: Can you give us a brief overview of the emergence of the IOT market in India? How are you looking at this opportunity?
Manoj Meena: Let me tell you briefly about Atomberg and how we are changing our product experience with IoT. We started in 2012 after graduating from IIT Bombay. We used to do a lot of projects for them related to data acquisition, motor electronics and IOT. It was more of a project mode. We did a lot of learning and survival there.
In 2015, along with my co-founder Sibabrata Daswe started hunting for a scalable idea. Based on our learnings, we had a good understanding of electronics, motors and IOT. We realised that Smart homes are a good market to explore. So, we started identifying opportunities. We also observed that many people were interested in smart tech and innovation – the smart homes had become a trend, which included switchboards smart or certain appliances, or home automation solutions as well. This observation allowed us to explore the smart home market and differentiate ourselves and add value at the same time
In the course of time, we decided to focus on motor-controlled appliances. We then started studying various home appliances including ceiling fans, mixer grinder, air cooler, washing machines etc. The very fact that most of the home appliances are actually motor controlled like air conditioners, washing machines and refrigerator compressors.
Faiz Askari: What are the main reasons you moved your focus to ceiling fans as a product category?
The market size of ceiling measures up to 10 crores in India.
Almost 60 million units are manufactured in India every year.
Fairly easy with reference to the manufacturing process.
While doing in-depth research about the competitors, we realized that there wasn’t much innovation introduced in this category. The use of induction motor technology was in use for quite a long time.
When we studied the product technically, we identified that the gap was even larger, with reference to motor efficiency itself. This enabled us to introduce the bring energy efficiency feature along with smart tech and innovation in our product.
In addition, the latest products launched by Atomberg Technologies are compatible with Alexa and Google Home technology, integrated with Wifi models. One can control them with smartphone applications which are available on android and IOS stores. This also comes with smart remote control, with smart modes such as timer mode and sleep mode. It acts as voice commands and since it is module-based systems, these fans can be controlled remotely.
BLDC motors are energy efficient. IoT enables in engaging with our customers in an efficient manner. The traditional motor consumes about 75-80 watts of power. The gorilla ceiling fan only consumes 28 watts of power – This is almost 1/3rd in terms of power consumption.
Faiz Askari: Do you do intelligent data layering? How does the data benefit the end-user?
Manoj Meena: As mentioned earlier, data is used for better engagement with the end-user. We compile & calculate the data and send it to the consumer for a better understanding of how much electricity one has been successful in saving. This gives them a feel-good factor in making the right purchase choice of Gorilla Renesa Smart Plus smart fans and how this is helping the nation in conserving energy.
We also further plan to integrate some smart sensors inside the motor which includes humidity, temperature and occupancy sensors, thus making the fan smarter. This addresses the common problems faced by customers. For instance, the temperature drops in the morning. If your fan is smart it can control the RPF after reading the ambient temperature. This provides more comfort for the consumer by reducing the fan speed and save electricity at the same time. It adds value in terms of experience and comfort while saving electricity.
We are also working on communication with air conditioners. Air conditioners are responsible for cooling. However, they don’t circulate the air. Ceiling fans are responsible for circulating the air. Therefore ceiling fans are used together with ACs. Studies conducted in Australia have shown that if ceiling fans are synchronized with ACs they can save money and electricity. This enables customers to manage the entire process of cooling. In short, the ceiling fans have a temperature sensor and it can command ACs at what speed it needs to work. This, in turn, contributes to overall comfort and bigger savings.
Since BLDC motors are energy efficient, we have integrated electronics inside the motor. The bottom display interacts with the customer, thus giving them a smart perspective. As we are an electronics hardware and motor company, we don’t want to limit ourselves to ceiling fans only. Our aim is to add more value to home appliances like mixer grinders and air coolers. We will have these products on our portfolio in the next 12-18 months.
Faiz Askari: Do you have plans to work with any OEMs or larger home appliances brands?
Manoj Meena: When we started the company three years back, we had this strategy in mind. We have the technology, so let’s go and identify the big incumbents in the market. There was not much excitement from these large players. They had experience with induction motors which have no electronics. This new tech has all the electronics integrated into the motor. They doubted the cost and reliability and resisted the idea. Initially, the cost was also very high. With time we tackled the cost because it’s an evolving technology. Today, when we launch an independent product approach.
Faiz Askari: What goals have you set for the next year?
Manoj Meena: We manufacture 40-45 thousand units of ceiling fans per month. We have a 15% market share online and majorly targeting the premium segment starting from 2000 MRP onwards. The premium segment contributes 15% today to the overall market share of ceiling fans. The focus is getting 10% market share in the premium category. Consumers under the premium are aspirational, and are constantly on a lookout for smart products and are interested in energy conservation, IOT and smart devices.
The current focus is to increase our consumer reach. We have also launched our offline and general trade in major eight cities including metro cities like Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Bangalore. We are present at premium retail shops. The overall ceiling fan market is growing at CAGR of 7-8%, but the premium segment is growing at 25-30%. The whole market is shifting towards premium category products.
Faiz Askari: The smart home market is limited in India, unlike the middle east. What was your experience in this market? How do you envision its growth?
Manoj Meena: We had very limited experience in the smart home category as we focused on the ceiling fan as an independent product. Whatever interaction we had with the smart home integrators, they liked the concept of introduction of IOT smart product. The major problem they face is that the market is upward growing yet they need smarter appliances. They find it challenging to make existing fans smarter. It is much easier to integrate products which are smart and seamlessly compatible. I’m aware about the Chinese market as we interacted with Xiomi and they have done very well. We have explored the Indian market together. Having more smart appliances makes it easier for smart home integrators to grow. The overall movement becomes faster.
Faiz Askari: Which geographical regions within India are you looking at for the next expansion?
Manoj Meena: Our online market indicates 50% of sales come from the non metro markets and tier cities. This shows that people are very aspirational and are willing to invest in products that are the right fit.
We targeted only metros and Tier I cities at a later stage. We are targeting eight more cities. 25-30% of our sales are owed to institutions like hospitals and colleges. We aim for energy efficiency. In offline and online retail the pitch is smartness and energy efficiency. We are getting demands from across the country but our offline reach is limited as of today. We are increasing our reach to Tier-II cities and rural areas. Online we are able to reach cities like Guwahati and North East in good volume. Other than the domestic market, we have already shipped to Bangladesh, Nepal, Ghana and Nigeria. In Ghana and Nigeria, we have one large distributor who has been supplying. In short, consumers prefer our smart fans because of its energy efficiency feature.
Faiz Askari: Are you expanding to any other product category?
Manoj Meena: In the near future, we have mixers, grinders and air coolers on our roadmap. Such devices produce a lot of noise and vibration. The overall experience of the existing product is not good. With our motor technology, we should be able to bring more stability because the motor is low in noise and vibration. These are electrically controlled motors which can have very good application for mixer grinders because currently, these products use manual knobs. This can be automated according to the ingredients being used.