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Friday, 15 April 2016

Bootstrapped and growing at 300 pc YoY – meet the Indian startup behind world’s first wireless charging tablet

We cannot imagine a life devoid of technology: smartphones, handheld devices and tablets today play important roles in our lives. But in 2011, the Indian market was just getting a sense of what has now become a technology overload. It was back then when Ravi Jakhar, Aditya Agrawal and Rohit Sharma came up with the idea of ICE X Electronics.

Today, ICE hasn’t only gone ahead and built one of the first wireless charging tablets, it has also been one of the first Indian companies to be featured on Amazon Launchpad. And moving from smartphones and tablets, ICE has gone ahead to build smart devices, drones and smart rings. Currently, ICE is available with Amazon in US, UK and other EU nations, apart from India.

“As the world is moving towards smart devices, it was important to take innovation to the next level and build a portfolio of smart devices. We expanded the design team to work on smart devices and it took us more than a year to develop the initial set of products,” adds 34-year-old Aditya.

Ravi, Aditya and Rohit in the early days
A run down memory lane

In 2011, when the trio had started ICE, they began with first working on the product and apart from building their own brand, they would make products for other brands. By 2013, they had clocked sales worth Rs 10 crore for their own brand and Rs 40 crore for other brands.

“We had wanted to bring in innovation in the tablet and smartphone space in India, and have been able to achieve several firsts,” adds Aditya. Thus, deciding to focus on building better products by 2014-15 the team decided to work only on their own brand and products and stop work for other brands.

They decided to launch their new products in the overseas market. Most of these devices involved substantial research and investment and hence due to higher price it made sense to sell them in an international market. They developed a levitating speaker and smart glasses and are soon launching smart ring and drones.




Apart from building value products, the team wanted to create something that is price-agnostic, wherein the customers perceive the value of the product based on innovation and utility.

“Ironically, some of our innovative products are not available on Amazon India and we are in talks with them to bring them to India soon,” adds Aditya. Internationally, the products sell at a run rate of close to $one million month on month.

However, the transition wasn’t easy. When the team decided to shift focus from other brands to building their own products, they had to forgo a significant revenue. The next challenge they faced were dealing with the regulatory issues of setting up scale in international markets. From sorting out the methods of revenue collection, payment, testing and overseas staffing, the team had to clear several stages.

Some products such as drones were not allowed to be imported in India and they had to test them entirely outside India. Operationally, they witnessed a sudden scale-up in work both in India and for US and Europe and had to cater to different kinds of products for different markets and clear new testing standards. “We managed all these problems by establishing an overseas presence and through better work planning and expansion of our R&D team,” adds Aditya.

ICE initially was available across online as well as offline channels. The team realised they had to keep up with the management resource demand as organisational needs had to be constantly restructured and finding new talent is also not easy.

“It helped as we stayed focussed on selected verticals and today we are focussed on e-commerce and TV-commerce,” adds Aditya.
Breaking different markets

India is a price-driven market. and it is difficult to bring the lowest price product all the time and at the same time maintain the quality of the product. So this meant keeping the margins tight and removing all the intermediaries.

“We have launched 4G tablet – ICE Ultima at sub-Rs 5,000, exclusively with Snapdeal. We are further building the portfolio of 4G devices for Indian market and would be soon launching a range of 4G smartphones at affordable price points,” adds Aditya.

Their international portfolio has grown from one to four products and the other two are slated to launch soon. In the last six months of their international presence the team has grown 300 percent and in India the team sells close to 60,000 tablets a month, projecting a 250 percent growth in the last year.

In terms of product, the future is all about wearables and ICE wants to be in every device that a person can use and wear. This includes tablets, smartphones and other wearable and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

“In terms of international markets, we are working on increasing the depth of our distribution in the countries we are already present. Apart from this we also have plans to launch in the Middle East. We want to build a global brand and we know that we would achieve our target by 2020,” adds Aditya.
The wearables and device market

It is no surprise that the world is at the brink of a device and wearable revolution. According to an IDC report, the market is poised to witness a growth of over 173 percent. In 2014 during a digital consumer service, consumers in India were ranked amongst the highest in buying wearable products and devices. These included tracking devices, smartwatches and eyeglasses.

There are going to be close to 80 billion connected devices by 2020. The past few years has seen a growing buzz in the space. In the mobile and tablets space, Indian player Micromax has captured a decent size of the market.

However, there were reports that Micromax lost close to 50 percent of its market share, even though the shipments of smartphones in the country is said to have jumped 29 percent, with 103 million units.

The reason for this drop is believed to be a rapid growth of Chinese mobile phones, that are affordable and of good quality. According to a report by Counterpoint research, these brands are believed to have doubled, to 18 per cent. It would be interesting to see if their Indian counterparts and newer brands can catch up.

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