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India's energy-saving startup Zenatix targets Southeast Asia

Five-year-old company powered by new owner Hero Group

Zenatix co-founder Amarjeet Singh explains how the company collects and analyzes data as well as builds intelligence to help clients improve energy efficiency. (Photo by Kiran Sharma)
Zenatix co-founder Amarjeet Singh explains how the company collects and analyzes data as well as builds intelligence to help clients improve energy efficiency. (Photo by Kiran Sharma)

NEW DELHI -- Now under the umbrella of India's Hero Group, local "internet of things" startup Zenatix aims to expand to Southeast Asia, offering data-driven solutions that boost energy efficiency for big electricity consumers like retail outlets, restaurant chains and banks.

Zenatix caters to any client that has distributed outlets with physical assets, such as air conditioning, freezers and lighting, where managing energy consumption from a central location is a challenge, according to Amarjeet Singh, co-founder and chief technology officer. Its clients include Domino's Pizza, wireless carrier Vodafone, Mother Dairy and State Bank of India.

Zenatix intends to remain focused on India for the next year or two and then expand into Southeast Asia. Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines are the target markets.

"Singapore is an interesting market," Singh said. "While it's in Southeast Asia, it's very close to a developed nation. So the solution that we may build in the future for Singapore will allow us to expand into Europe and the U.S. So, Singapore becomes strategic from that perspective."

"What we are doing," he said, "is bringing all these [companies'] assets from [different] locations online to our system. By doing that, we are solving multiple problems [such as] their devices are switched on and switched off at the right time, which gives them energy efficiency and savings.

"Secondly, [ensuring] compliance, whether it's around maintaining the right temperature in the cold rooms [or something else] and doing that compliance in an automated manner, and thirdly, [we are] doing predictive and preventive maintenance of these assets," Singh said. Zenatix can tell a client in advance, for example, that its freezer is about to break down within three weeks and requires maintenance. "That's done by collecting a lot of data."

Zenatix says it can analyze more than 10 million data points every hour, leveraging its advanced machine learning model.

Singh said the company continues to focus on retail chains and banks because they have multiple locations, each of which has many unconnected energy-using systems. "Our system learns and automatically controls these assets," he explained. "Everything is happening automatically."

"Today, at 575 of Domino's [1,000] stores in India -- in fact we have got an order for 100 more -- their ACs, their lighting, their signage, they all get automatically switched on and switched off from our system."

One of Zenatix's energy solutions, called Wattman, consists of temperature sensors, power monitors, energy sensors and the like. Data from all the sensors is collected and uploaded to a cloud platform. Using the data, artificial intelligence is built to help big power consumers greatly reduce or eliminate waste and inefficiencies in their routine operations.

Customers do not pay upfront for the hardware and software that Zenatix installs to collect and analyze data. The company charges a fixed monthly or annual fee, and the customer saves up to twice the sum it pays the startup, achieving net positive cash flow from the start at zero investment.

From left, Zenatix co-founders Rahul Bhalla, Amarjeet Singh and Vishal Bansal. From left, Zenatix co-founders Rahul Bhalla, Amarjeet Singh and Vishal Bansal.

On May 29, Hero Electronix, the technology arm of the $5 billion Hero Group, announced it had acquired Zenatix, buying out all its investors, including Indian early-stage venture funds Blume Ventures and Pi Ventures. It did not disclose the amount. Hero Group also owns the world's largest two-wheeler manufacturer, Hero MotoCorp.

"In a true sense they have given exit to the previous investors and put in more investment into the company," Singh told the Nikkei Asian Review in an interview. "Now it's one single investor who owns a reasonable proportion [a majority], the founders and some employee stock."

Zenatix, founded in 2013 by Singh, Rahul Bhalla and Vishal Bansal -- all alumni of the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi -- had raised a total of $1.7 million from Blume, Pi and such angel investors as Google India managing director Rajan Anandan, e-commerce firm Snapdeal co-founders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal, and venture debt fund Trifecta Capital managing partner Rahul Khanna. "All previous investors exited after this deal" with Hero Electronix, Singh said.

Zenatix will continue to be run independently by its founders and their 40-member team, but it now has major corporate backing for its ambitions and will be able to borrow on reasonable terms thanks to the association with a big brand name.

"As a small company, it was very difficult for us to raise debt at a reasonable rate. With Hero's backing, that debt also comes in a much easier way and in much [more] favorable terms," Singh said.

The company also now has the advantage of dealing with only one investor, which wants to build a global internet of thing business from India. Hero Electronix is "very bullish" on the idea, Singh said. "The broader thesis in the Hero family is: why can't India produce big tech companies?"

Hero Electronix was founded in June 2015 by the Hero Group to participate in emerging digital opportunities at the global level. Its previous acquisitions include MyBox Technologies, India's largest multi-operator manufacturer of digital set top boxes, and Tessolve, a semiconductor engineering services company.

Through Tessolve, Hero Electronix last year acquired Malaysia's Spectrum Integrated Technologies and the test lab business of Singapore's Lynxemi.

With Zenatix, it now aims to enter internet of things arena.

According to an Indian trade group, the National Association of Software and Services Companies, the country's internet of things market was worth $5.6 billion in 2016 and is expected to grow to $15 billion by 2020.

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