Cars are one the most convenient ways of private transportation. In India, per capita income has been growing rapidly in the last decade. Due to which more cars are on the road than the number of cars we have witnessed in the last century. Affordability, convenience and good road connectivity are the leading factors enabling people to prefer travelling by cars. Though all the above factors push for using cars, one thing that is essential for car transport is safety and security. In the indigenously built cars, we are always dependent on the driver to look after the safety of the passengers. In addition to this, a majority of car owners employs drivers to run their cars. So, the safety of our lives is in the hands of the driver.
Technology has been an enabler in our lives in major avenues and even in the transportation sector. TrakNTell was founded in 2009 with such a motive to empower the safety and security of cars and trucks. It provides sophisticated vehicle telematics with a solution that helps in vehicle tracking, prediction of engine failure, preventive maintenance notification and fuel monitoring system. It has various other salient features like Car Finder, Geo-Fence Alerts, Over Speeding Alerts, Engine Health Status, Immobilizer e.t.c. Its unique device namely Intelli7 uses IoT (Internet of Things) and connected machines, technologies and everything can be accessed from the cloud on a mobile app or web application. TrakNTell describes their product as “A product tailor-made for your car & family with a personalized ‘watchman’ installed in your car to keep your loved ones safe”.
Recently it has received a Series A funding from Whatsapp co-founder Brian Acton and is the first to happen in the Indian startup ecosystem.
Here is an interview with Mr Pranshu Gupta, Founder and CEO of TrakNTell, and how they are helping owners to keep a track on their car and truck along with various other advanced safety features.
Can you please let me know a brief about TrakNTell?
TrakNTell is an automotive IoT startup that manufactures small devices and gadgets that communicates machine specific data of cars, trucks and bikes and transmits that data to cloud servers. We have a mobile app and website from where one can monitor the data and take appropriate/ recommended action with a click of a button. One of the prominent features that customers find most useful is Engine Immobilizer, which helps the owners to shut the engine and stop the entire car when there is an occurrence of theft. Since we use GPS tracking 24/7, we can detect the location of our car and inform the police about the theft of the car so that it can be easily retrieved. There are many more awesome features in our product.
Can you please tell us the story about what made you leave a lucrative corporate job to start with this idea?
I have left my job early of this concept. As I had the urge from the beginning to be an entrepreneur so that I can be my own boss. In the year 2006, I realized that the driver of my car was misusing it for personal errands. Moreover, in those days cell phone usage is not that most prominent. It was at that fine moment I was struck with this idea on how I can detect the location of my car without having the need to communicate with the driver. Here we are today incorporating more and more useful features in our product to provide safety, comfort and security to the owner of the car/truck.
How do you explain the technology behind Trak N Tell to a layperson?
TrakNTell is basically a small and smart gadget that is fitted to your vehicle and it can be accessed through an app and a website. On purchasing this device, a technician will arrive at your location to install the product in your car and activates the device.
The technician will also explain how to use the app and also change the settings in the app according to the need of your car. Moreover, the technician gives an end to end overview of how to use the features embedded in the device.
There is a 24/7 customer care service to get in touch with in case of any query or device failure. We have a special team for the first call we make to the customer. The welcome call which goes for 30 to 45 minutes in which we explain and demonstrate all the features in the app.
One single factor that distinguishes Trak N Tell from competitors
To sum it up in one go, we are a market leader currently in this field because of three reasons
Engine Immobilizer, a feature to stop the engine in case of emergency or theft.
- No Tampering or cutting of the original wiring during installation of our device and is fairly safe for the car which is the usual expectation of the owner of any new car.
Cost Effective – as we provide a lot of features at a very cheap price as this market has a lot of competition from cheaper Chinese products. We offer an array of services at a moderately cheap price. Also, for the similar features we provide like engine immobilizer, the competition charges a lot of premium.
Have you been approached by any automobile giant for merging or acquiring?
Merging or acquisition has not been really in our mind. Well, we are working closely with a couple of automotive giants in getting approval for our product to suit the Indian as well as overseas market. We work closely with the R&D team to check engine performance, battery life and other parameters related to the car. We work with them to get fully fit TrakNTell device by customizing both at hardware and software levels basing on customer requirements. One such example can be, when you leave your car untouched for two weeks during a vacation, the battery doesn’t function in a normal car. In TrakNTell, we make sure that the battery works even after the car being unused for 2 – 3 weeks. Moreover, we work on the sidelines of Make in India and I feel happy to do it in India for Indian customers.
What are the avenues you think are going to change in the automobile industry in the next decade
The entire automobile industry is going to shift from a normal mechanical engine to a computer controlled device. Take, for example, the case of Tesla where there is no clutch, no engine moving parts, no spark plugs, no alternator. All they do is a software update every time they want to add a new feature to the car. The only thing that is necessary is to connect to WiFi and simply software gets updated from Tesla servers. The update works analogously to an app in a mobile, just that over here the car gets updated with its features like the stiffness of transmission or emission efficiency with a simple software update. In the future, cars are going to be computers on four wheels.
Do you believe India is ready to accept IoT and connected machines technologies?
India is already one of the fastest growing IoT markets if you think practically our IoT product is being accepted in the automobile market. To bring brands like Tesla in India, a lot of changes need to take place in our country on various stages, e.g. good road Infrastructure and discipline of people walking on the streets. India is highly populated, it will be difficult for autonomous cars to operate on the road as there is always someone who doesn’t follow the rules and just across the road or follow lanes. So, it takes a lot of time and effort for the autonomous cars to come to India.
WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton invested in your startup and the first to happen in Indian Market, what was your feeling at that moment?
My feeling was I could not believe it. He mentioned that I want to invest in your idea. I thought that as if I had misheard him and kept on talking. That is when he stopped me to repeat that he is going to invest in my startup. I was on cloud nine and very happy then.
What is your future plan for TraknTell?
We will be launching a couple of new products and are actively working on them. The auto expo is in February and we will be launching our new products there. Also, as of now we are focusing mostly on Indian markets and will be looking forward to expanding to other countries.
Do you have any plan for making TrakNTell enter the self-driving car’s technology?
No, not at the moment. We will develop continuously and be a part of the entire autonomous ecosystem.
What are your learnings working with giants like Yahoo and Exxon?
Yahoo was then a startup and on the other hands, Exxon was a big corporation. While working at Yahoo, getting a certain work requires just the permission from my manager, whereas in Exxon there is always this hierarchy to pass through to get a project approved. I enjoyed working at both the places. As I was a young software engineer then I had a lot of curiosity to learn new skills every day.
One thing about your team that motivates you to go to work every single day?
To sum up, in one phrase, it is the Thrill of Innovation. We are working on new things to be unveiled at the expo in the coming three months. Doing something new, funky, fun and making a product that may change the world is something that pushes me to go to the office every day.
Would you like to give any advice to budding entrepreneurs who have an idea but afraid of starting up?
I would sum up my advice in three sentences
Believe in your idea and don’t hire someone to work on that instead
Dedication and proper utilization of time is essential for any person starting up
- Be 100 % sure about your idea, before leaving a job
What is your success mantra?
I strongly believe in innovation and also listen to the customer and incorporating his/her feedback on the products we launch in the future. Moreover, I attend various expos to get a better idea of what features people are expecting so that we can incorporate them into our products. I try to utilize my time in the most productive way.Click here for reuse options!
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