How water purifier brand Kent looks to transform India’s IoT space
Kent is one of the leading players in India’s highly competitive water purifying segment. Founded by IITian Mahesh Gupta in 1999, the Noida-headquartered firm has grabbed the lion’s share of country’s RO purifiers market, thanks to its relentless focus on innovation and commitment to provide best-in-class experience to its customers. Despite covid-led disruptions, the company is reportedly eyeing a 20 percent growth to take its annual turnover to Rs 1200 cr this fiscal. Over the last few years, Kent has diversified its product portfolio and entered the IoT space with KENT Cam Technologies.
In 2019, Kent Cam Technologies launched KENT CamEye, a next-gen car camera that offers a secure traveling experience to passengers. Last year, the company launched Kent Cam Attendance, a face recognition-based system that enables touchless attendance for employees. Kent is also looking to launch a live video call solution to enable shopping over video calls.
Kent RO Systems Director Mr Varun Gupta shares his journey with Plunge Daily and tells us about the evolution of Kent Cam Technologies, its exciting range of tech-based products and their growing significance in the post-covid world
1) Kent RO is known to be a pioneer in water purifying technology. but you have also diversified into IoT products with KENT Cam Technologies. So, what prompted you to enter this sector?
I have always been a tech-oriented person, working on technologies, computers is something that I have enjoyed since childhood. After completion of my MBA programme from Columbia University, I returned to India in 2011 and wanted to do something in the tech sector. It was around the same time, tech boom had started. Android and iOS-supported devices were becoming increasingly popular. So, I along with my sister Surbhi launched an ecommerce setup for luxury clothes, which ran for a couple of years. In 2014, we also started Clicktable technology, a restaurant table reservation portal which lasted around four years. It didn’t scale to a level where it could have grown significantly. My third step in technology was with Kent CamEye. Back in 2014, when my wife and kid had to travel alone with a chauffeur, there was always a concern for their safety. So, I wanted to put a dashcam in the car but couldn’t find a product which can give us real time data. That’s where the idea of Kent CamEye Car came into existence. It took us almost one and a half years to build it from scratch. In fact, we hold two US patents on the product. So, it opened up a floodgate of opportunities for us in tech business. Subsequently, we forayed into facial recognition-based attendance systems.
We are also building an innovative video conference platform, they are currently in early stages of trials with large enterprises. A few home security cameras are also in the pipeline which will be launched very soon. The whole security IoT business seems interesting to us, security of family members is a big concern for people and that’s what gives us an idea of products we can deliver.
2) Please tell us about your products- Kent Cam Attendance and Kent Cam Call, the idea behind the launch, the kind of response you are receiving and significance of these products in light covid-19.
Kent Cam Attendance
So, when the first lockdown happened last year, we were one of the very few businesses which were allowed to operate partially. Because the water purifier requires periodic servicing. While operating partially in April and May, reconciling attendance became a challenge for us because fingerprint attendance was banned by the government around the first wave. So, we started capturing the attendance on Excel files and registers. Around June, when industries started opening up at a larger scale, we had around 60-70% of people back in offices and fields. Then, we realised there is no way we can record the attendance of 4000 people in conventional mode. We needed a more intelligent system that would forgo the need to touch the device. We leveraged our learnings in artificial intelligence that we had put in Kent cameye. Thereafter, we directed our efforts towards facial recognition technology, soon we came up with a small prototype and tested it at our Noida office for marking attendance. And it worked really well, that’s when we realised this could be a great product in the post covid era. So, our team collaborated with Lenovo and Samsung to get the required hardware and developed a face recognition system.
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One of the key USPs of our product is a secure cloud application that manages time and attendance requirements of organizations and a very user friendly employee mobile app. So, it’s been a year since its launch and we have sold the product to 1000 odd organisations ranging from startups to large enterprises. Our customers include state-run firms like NTPC, HUDCO, Odisha power transmission Company Limited. Among private businesses, we have the likes of Thyssunkrup, Minda industries, Licious, Tata group’s retail unit StarQuik as our clients. Recently, we have launched another device, a bluetooth based relay, which enables existing access control systems like door lock, turnstiles, flap barriers to work with face recognition devices.
Kent Cam Call
The need for the CamCall also arose due to the pandemic. After the initial curbs, when our stores started opening up again, there was a need for experts who could explain the product to consumers. So, the next challenge was whether we could do it virtually. Can we have a system where a person could answer customer queries via video call? So, we quickly stitched together softwares and created a QR code-based video calling system. So, when a customer visited our store, all he had to do was to scan the QR code with his smartphone and that would automatically initiate a video call. It didn’t require any meeting invitation or app installation and worked purely on browsers. The call request gets distributed at the backend to multiple agents so whichever agent was free, or closer geographically, he could respond to customer queries. Soon, we realised that rather than restricting it to our organisation, we can sell this product to other businesses. It took us around 3-4 months to come up with Kent CamCall.
From the technology point of view, it’s a challenging product to build because this works on browsers, which could be different on different mobile phones. So, we are trying to iron out these challenges and some of the large enterprises have rolled out this product. They use it to initiate video calls with website visitors.
3) In the recent past, we have seen security issues with big video platforms like zoom. Zoom was recently fined for exporting user data to facebook and also for zoombombing where unexpected people barge in between a zoom conference. So, from the security point of view, how secure is KentCamCall?
It’s difficult to quantify how secure we are. Every software in the market is prone to hacks. But I would still say our products are fairly secure. We’ve looked into what has happened in the past, how people have accidentally entered into zoom calls or have the wrong person listening to their conferences. These are the learnings from our past experiences with other products which we’ve tried to sort out but for me to say it’s 100% secure would be wrong.
4) So you just mentioned Kent CamEye, the automotive security system. What are the advantages of using this device and how successful have you been in this venture?
Kent CamEye was perhaps the first 4g enabled car camera for the Indian market. And the biggest advantage of this camera was that the recordings were also going on a cloud server. In a country like India, where a large number of road crimes happen every year, chances of a camera being physically removed from your vehicle are pretty high but this product, being cloud-based, there will always be irrefutable evidence available for the car owner. We have also introduced some AI features in this product that would help the owner of the car to keep a tab on drivers so that it could not be misused. Our initial target market was people who owned sedans and using the services of a driver but we found greater success in the commercial market. We have school buses, large taxi operators and vehicles ferrying employees to factories using our products. So overall, I would say we got a fair success. Then, we have a new generation of AI-driven product which we are building for driver drowsiness detection. It’s still in field trials. When truck drivers or bus drivers work for extended hours or some drive under the influence of alcohol, they fall asleep on the wheel. These are the major reasons for the high number of highway accidents in India. So the idea behind this is to build a camera, which can detect if people are falling asleep while driving, it would trigger a very loud alarm like siren to alert the driver.
5) AI is touted to be the next big thing. So how integral is AI technology to your products?
With AI technology, we are trying to eliminate or do certain tasks that would have required human intelligence. So, if I talk about the face recognition system in Cam Attendance, it would take an image of the face and then match it with the data already available in our database, this is AI technology. For car cameras, we also do that in terms of driver face recognition. So, it has a fair role in most of our products. And that’s been the differentiating factor. It takes time to perfect AI algorithms, it’s not something that could be developed in a few days of coding. It involves a lot of trial and error and processing and learning to get the least amount of false alarms in algorithms. So I would say the future lies with AI technology. It will remain integral to our tech products.
6) So, there is a huge untapped potential for IoT in the Indian market. How do you see the landscape of the IoT market changing in coming years?
One of the significant advantages of an IoT device is its efficiency. From an industry perspective, if you have a lot of dumb devices generating data which have not been aggregated, it would serve little purpose but the moment you connect your device and analyze that data, you could get amazing insights that would help drive efficiency in your business. It could help you save money or deliver a better experience to consumers. So, I would say, in three or four years, IoT devices would most likely become an important part of commercial establishments in India.
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7) It’s been over two decades since you have been in business. As a brand, You have been synonymous with RO technology. So when you look back, what are the major takeaways from your journey?
One of the major takeaways from our journey is that innovation has been at the heart of Kent’s success story. We’ve always led the innovation curve in the industry and that keeps us ahead of the competition. Listening to consumers is another important learning. We have been very focused in understanding what our consumers want; listening to their pain points and redoing the products to meet their expectations have helped us to grow fast. Whether it’s a product related issue or a service related issue or business process related issue, we are always listening. We also take continuous feedback from our customers. And lastly, marketing has been a key driver in our growth. Reaching out to the consumers through various channels including ecommerce, TV, print so that we always remain in consideration, has also helped us drive brand equity. It’s the combination of all these factors which has made us the market leader in the water purifier category.