I walk into SIBM Pune’s entrepreneurship summit, charged with 100s of aspiring entrepreneurs, looking to find fuel to their ideas. I am introduced to Ashish Sharma, a 20 something, fine, young and confident man, beaming with his idea.
Ashish Sharma comes from a small hill station in Darjeeling.
“I did my schooling in Darjeeling before I moved to MIT – Pune. So far, life has been a complete roller coaster”, he says, coyly mentioning how he is currently also involved with someone he met at his college.
Ashish comes from a humble family background.
“My mother is a housewife and my father is engaged in our traditional family business of wool manufacturing in Darjeeling. He is slso equipped in a side business I have a twin brother who he is currently placed in Pune too“, he says.
Of course, making it to MIT-Pune, one of the very reputed technology institute was an achievement in itself.
“I was delighted when I secured an admission in MIT. I fell in love with technology since a very young age and I was sure being here would only facilitate me in making something that could make human lives even better”, he says.
However not everything goes as planned. By the time Ashish reached third year of his engineering, he realized it wasn’t really helping him do what he wanted to.
“I always wanted to be a part of a system which would facilitate my growth. But being in MIT for two years, didn’t help at all. The education process came out to be a total failure for my dreams. I used to even discuss this with my professors, all in vain. I realized how this simply holding me back! “
Hence, after a lot of contemplation, Ashish finally took the dreaded step of dropping out. This was around end of 2012. Letting parents knows about the decision wasn’t an option.
“I stopped going to college in my 3rd year and never appeared for my finals. There was nothing for me at MIT, no push, no motivation!”
Letting parents knows about the decision wasn’t an option.
“Like any other Indian family who wants their son to be well educated, well placed and well settled, my family was no different.”
Interestingly, Ashish broke the news in public. He invited his parents at one of the seminars he was conducting and when the host asked him about his BTech plans, he broke the news.
Here, you can safely say assume, Ashish beer hai.
A passionate maker, Ashish was always creating something or the other. And all of them had a common pattern – they were a fine tuned combination of art and technology.
“I was very active in practical learning. I used to conduct workshops based on entrepreneurship and hardware technology, specifically on microprocessor Arduino. To be honest, often workshops ended up being more of a motivational lecture than the educational one”, he grins.
But wait! Who allowed him to conduct workshops without even being a graduate? And for that matter, an entrepreneur!
“After quitting engineering, I approached many places where he can conduct a workshop. It was really tough to beat without any qualification or experience. But I became a complete ‘chep’ during that time and would keep on meeting people asking for the opportunity. One chance and bam! I never stopped.”
It was a morning after ‘an eventful’ night.
“I had such bad hangover that couldn’t even get up and turn the fan off. That’s when I realized how I could use my knowledge that I had gathered so far to create something.”
This gave birth to Phynart. Though the idea of making such technology that can make human life comfortable came up out of the blue, the challenges to execute it was something this first-time-entrepreneur had no clue about.
“No one took me serious right from the bank employee, to mentors, the investors. Infact people were not even ready to come and work with us since it seem a big risk in digging their hands in a hardware based company. In India, major companies are just software.”
However, like they say, with every problem, comes a solution.
“Challenges could never hold me back. They just gave me a more intense kick every time. I knew I wanted to make my place, something am still striving for.”
Ashish shares a small video of his current office which is fully automated:
This crazy, young brain amusingly recalls how even opening a bank account was a task.
“This was the first time I was applying for a bank account. Ek toh clueless tha, dusra sab ignore aur marte the. I had to make innumerable visits to banks for an account without even being given a convincing reason! So one day, I walked straight to the manager’s cabin, pulled off an argument and that was the very first effort I had put to assert that I am important. Since then, there have been many such incidents. I think it is my age”, he points.
Remember ‘gunde nahi hai…entrepreneur hai b*******?’ 😉
Ashish has bootstrapped Phynart so far.
“I’ve worked in call centers and small companies to earn some money that I invest into Phynart. I also conduct workshops here and there to make some extra cash”, he says adding how he conducted 300 interviews till he could build a team of 7.
For a team to be successful, everything has to be clean, collaborative and coordinated, he mentions. Ashish and his 7 team members for whom he uses the term family include Mangesh – android developer, Prasann- the software designer, Ajit- hardware and R&D, Vishwajeet and Ajinkya- both designers.
“We are also blessed by 2 mentors – Mr. Dilip Ittyerah, the Ex CTO of Zensar who helps us with business and product development and Mr. Vikram Mehmi, the Ex CEO of Idea Cellular, Birla Sunlife Insuarance and Suzlon Green Power who guides us in building up strategies as well as the financial model”
Team Phynart constantly works and re-works on creating smart products that are also aesthetically sound.
“We want our products to be good enough that anyone would love to place in their living room. The only catch is, this showpiece is your best friend – it will monitor your activities, learn your habits and listen to your commands. It will do everything it can to make your life easier”, he says.
Phynart has already received a huge support of 1500+ people with 1000s of people curious to join along with added 2285 members. For a company in its beta, the numbers are pretty convincing.
India, which ranks 24th in the world with only 0.6 IoT devices online per 100 inhabitants according to OECD in 2015.
The company has come up with a prototype of their product named U.F.O which can control and monitor various home appliances including lights, fans, curtains, air conditioner, led lights and presence sensor from anywhere in the world without any physical presence required. They have already invested 5 to 7 lacs for prototyping and are looking for their very first customers in the form of Beta-testers.
“Apart from exporting the majority of raw material from countries like Japan, China and US, the product is completely manufactured in India. The final launching of U.F.O will be in next couple of months and we are planning to hit the markets with 200 pieces at a tentative price of 25 to 30k each.”
The market research about current home automation devices in the market shows how complex designs take away the product’s charm.
“Our target customers are upper middle-class people from between 18-24 in age. Since this technology is very new for the people it will take some time to solidify its place in every household. In most families now-a-days, the decision made to invest into such technologies is often influenced by the teenagers who are therein well-acquainted by the usage of technology.”
Any final words for the readers?
“Be unique. Think differently. Do what you like. It is the time that we all give something back to the society which has served the very existence of us – right from the food grown by some farmer, to chair made by some person and clothes stitched by some other” he says, signing off.
A story by Komal Bansal.