By Anusha Ashwin
A well-established brand, Jainson Locks, that has been manufacturing locks since 1955, had to escalate its legacy business with modern times. Jainson not only boosted sales via the e-commerce route, but also moved to leverage emerging opportunities in placing digital locks for India’s smart city solutions.
Ankit Chhajed, a new-gen entrepreneur with his father’s lock making family business behind him, has taken the digital route to innovation in next-gen locks. Chhajed has founded his dream venture called AwakeY — a startup that makes smart locks and smartphone-based keys.
To elaborate, AwakeY is a lock accessory that attaches to most of the existing electronic locks. This attaches to the lock from inside of home/office, and it becomes an automatic key. The accessory works on Bluetooth, and is controlled through the smart phone. It allows the door to unlock, without any requirement of manual insertion and turning of a manual key.
Pushing the idea
Ankit Chhajed’s AwakeY is currently being accelerated at the World Startup Factory in The Netherlands. In an e-chat with Voice&Data, Chhajed, discusses how he passionately set up his dream venture and the ups and downs of putting the product in the market.
Posing the first question to Chhajed on how it all began for AwakeY, he answers, “In November 2014, I had joined my father’s company, Jainson Locks. After passing out from IIT Delhi in 2011, I had always been looking to do something fresh, unique, and innovative. At my father’s facility, I got some space to research and think about new product development with them. I began researching on the latest innovation in locks. And, I discovered smart locks, locks that could be operated with smart phones. They looked great. I wanted to have one. But they weren’t compatible with Indian locks. And they happened to be very expensive. I immediately jumped. I thought, if I could create a smart lock for our country, it would just change everything and drive me to my passion of being an innovator and an entrepreneur.”
“Jainson Locks, wanted to bring on new products. But they weren’t aiming as high as a smart lock. Rightly may be, we didn’t get the right R&D facility. No background in electronics. And then there wasn’t any existing market for a smart lock in India. The directors at Jainson Locks, including my father, weren’t convinced. But I was hell-bent on developing one. So, with the help of my uncle, I convinced the management to fund the project. If someone had questioned me at the initial stages on how the idea would sell, I didn’t have any clue and had no answer to it. All I knew was, if I could successfully create a great product, aesthetically, and functionally appealing, it would sell by itself. Like Apple iPhones.”
The days ahead were not easy. Chhajed had no expertise in handling a business. So, his immediate first step was to create a team that could get the idea rolling. He hired Atul Priyadarshi, an Electronics Engineer, and Deep Umesh Dwivedi, a mechanical graduate to sail along his journey of developing a smart lock.
Chhajed continued saying, “The process of having our own R&D lab, and doing our own experiments, was very exciting for me. The whole learning of how things worked, with my two teammates got me excited. We were having fun in this journey. I didn’t assign them equity, but they were more like Co-Founders to me.”
But, by the time Chhajed, and his two other team members, got close to creating the prototype, their funds were close to draining out. The prototype and the actual product took its course of time to match. Chhajed, though, was optimistic, knew his product will see the light soon.
Entering the market
Over a year of troubleshooting every issue, with the development of the product, Chhajed and his team finally launched their product in May 2016. The product was a buggy, initially, but they improvised with all the feedbacks in their trial runs. Today, AwakeY is confident with the outcome of their R&D and is offering two products:
AwakeY Go Smart Lock: This is a Bluetooth mobile-controlled door lock. With AwakeY, the smartphone becomes the key. A tap on the AwakeY app unlocks doors without keys, i.e., from any part of the world. The App allows users to invite, share keys to family, friends, and guests from anywhere, anytime. AwakeY’s app allows users to keep a log of entry and exit.
AwakeY Euro RFID – The Smart Cylinder: This opens the lock through an RFID card. There is no need to carry a physical key. It fits on existing mortice handle locks. A single user can make up to 100 keys. It can be used by any card from the user’s wallet and with just a tap on the card, the synced door can be unlocked.
With the product breakthroughs, Chhajed is now confident that he has created a niche market for a first-of-its-kind IoT product that fits into India’s Smart City Initiatives. He said, “We call it ‘smart access’. Lock with mechanical keys limits access. Sometimes, people themselves get locked out. Locks were created to keep thieves out, but not the owners of the house. At AwakeY, we have attempted to enrich the lives of people by the way they access doors.”
Chhajed hails from Jaipur, hence he began introducing his products in the market at his hometown. Few months back, he expanded to Gurgaon, and has now headed straight down South to tech-savvy city, Bengaluru.
Enters Acceleration at World Startup Factory
The World Startup Factory (WSF), at The Netherlands, offers acceleration programs to startups with impact driven solutions and convincing business models. WSF provides access to funding, mentorship, an international network and expert support and partners with investors and corporates.
Responding to how AwakeY was selected for this WSF’s acceleration program, Chhajed says, “They selected us on the basis of few presentations and Skype calls. Apart from the funding from Jainson Locks, WSF has also extended funds that is helping us improvise on the working of the product.”
Lot more in offing from AwakeY
According to Chhajed, IoT-based smart cities are gaining hype worldwide. Outlining his future prospects, he says, “We believe in creating products that provide real convenience and usage, and not something where people stop using it after five-times of download/installation. We believe in the smart city vision, but with a different perspective. Not every product is successful. Only the ones that really solve a problem, inch towards success. Hence, my team and I would be moving in directions where we see a challenge being faced by the customer and our innovations will solve actual problems.”
Chhajed has already started tying up with courier services and ecommerce platforms that enable customers to receive their goods/parcels even when they are unavailable with their doors locked.