We decided to disrupt the building automation industry
Published by : Industrial Automation
Garima Bharadwaj, Co-Founder, Enlite Research, a building management solutions startup.
What was the rationale for launching Enlite Research?
For decades there has been no innovation or invention in the building management industry. There were building integration technologies created for catering to large buildings by the industry leaders like Schneider electric, Honeywell, Siemens and Johnson controls. These systems have only witnessed slow and limited functionality change over decades, which still remain relevant to the large CRE Market.
The small and mid-sized segments have struggled to find a singular, unified BMS solution due to the sky high cost and complexity of deployment and operations, and they end up using multiple point solutions which waste resources. Small and medium sized commercial buildings (100,000 square feet or less), represent a staggering 90% of total commercial buildings and hold 65% of the total commercial floor space but lack a unified integrated solution for building management.
The customers in this segment are looking at economic yet tech advanced alternatives. The underlying need is to have an integrated and comprehensive building management system at a viable cost. But small and medium building segments do not have the necessary budgets or required skill sets for such a traditional complex solution, hence they resort to other alternatives like monitoring platforms or off-the-shelf hardware devices for basic building level monitoring that are more affordable. This category of users do not shy away from using IoT solutions or products even in a limited capacity as they are looking for a solution that is able to provide them maximum RoI and technical capabilities at the fractional cost of a traditional BMS.
So, we decided to disrupt the building automation industry by creating the world’s first wireless building management system especially created for the small and mid-sized CRE infrastructures! We call it BIOS or building intelligence operating systems. BIOS is an interplay of deeptech wireless hardware and AI driven software and is a game changer in the CRE market.
Applications of BIOS go beyond a traditional BMS in the areas of real time monitoring and controlling HVAC, lights, access control and attendance, asset management, visitor management, fire safety, water consumption, meeting room management, space utilisation/analytics, CCTV surveillance, emergency response, etc.
We do this by spreading our wireless mesh enabled hardware for sensing various parameters and controlling equipment with our devices like Smart Thermostat, Smart Drivers, Wireless Access Controls, etc. The setup of BIOS is non-invasive, cost-effective, user-friendly and requires little or no specialist expertise.
What was the experience with an incubator/mentor?
Enlite has been fortunate to be mentored by one of the industry leaders in innovation – Qualcomm. We got a chance to be a part of Qualcomm’s maiden program QWEIN (Qualcomm Women Entrepreneurs India Network). This 6 month long program was one of the most enriching experiences for our startup.
This mentorship program provided for advisory in all aspects related to a startup – Technical, Business, Sales & Marketing, Financial and fundraising.
For all the aforesaid functions, various industry stalwarts were assigned to our startup. The VP of engineering at Qualcomm was our mentor and sounding board for all technical functions. It was amazing to have such an experienced professional who’d spent quarter of a century with Qualcomm being like an extended part of our startup to solve all your hardware and software questions.
The head of IP strategy and Qualcomm ventures were with us at every step to clear our Business doubts.
The funding mentorship was provided with the Who’s Who of the industry, from the head of Sequoia Capital to the partner at lightspeed ventures, to pi ventures and who not. There were various marketing and growth sessions that were organised keeping the specific business use case in mind (B2B/B2C/SAAS/etc.), by the relevant industry professionals.
As a matter of fact there are global hardware partnerships that we are exploring through our connection with the QWEIN platform, that will redefine how even IoT devices are operating today by creating some breakthrough hardware inventions.
Was the startup part of any Accelerator programme?
Enlite got accepted into BRINC for its spring’20 cohort. Brinc is a Hong Kong based VC and accelerator firm focused on Hardware & IoT. We were one of the 6 portfolio companies selected by Brinc. We graduated from the program in October 2020. It provided for a lot of technical expertise and mentorship in the program, as Brinc is one of the most coveted hardware startup accelerators globally. It helped us reach out to global manufacturers, component partners, device makers and industry leaders. It also opened up doors for us into their network for partnership and sales into the APAC region.
Were there any funding issues?
We are largely a bootstrapped organisation. We raised our initial seed round from friends and family. The idea was to have flexibility on innovation, we did not want to take an external route of money raising very early on as we first wanted to get our PMF right. For our product market fitment we did pilots, POCs, umpteen customer meets and calls, wrote cold mails to the smartest people in the IoT industry to get their time to speak with us. This gave us time to do our R&D and build what the market needed.
In 2020 we applied to a HK based hardware accelerator program, Brinc. Getting accepted into it not only validated our PMF but we have been also funded by them ($225,000), this gave us strategic money as we were looking at the real estate, proptech and hardware network for our funding route.
Now we are looking for strategic investments into our startup, an institutional investor who understands the proptech space or individuals who can provide us with leverage and faster GTM’s.
How was the experience of steering the venture successfully?
Our existence of 3 years seems like we’ve experienced a lifetime and it’s just getting started.
What worked in our favour was a deep focus on innovation of the industry we were operating in. Real estate, facilities management, are not among the most glamorous industries that startups look at for revolutionising; however we wanted to change that. We wanted to innovate these traditional industries and put it years ahead of the curve. We identified and worked with the partners to understand the market problems so as to come up with a universally deployable solution across any small and mid-sized CRE infrastructure.
Another important fact is, Covid became a defining moment in our journey. The lockdown brought the industry that we are operating in to a literal halt. On the demand side, with offices closed and employees working from home, the automation solution for commercial real estate was not on anyone’s primary agenda.
The supply side for us took a hit as well, as we make our hardware which requires component procurement from global partners (US, Taiwan). Covid broke the entire supply chain and our hardware development and manufacturing. However, for us despite all the ramifications it was indeed a good cooling off period to redefine our organisation priorities as to how to sail through these times; re-connect with our partners to figure what new problems the industry has to face due to the pandemic and how we could solve these together.
We took some time to think what next, post which the entire team had a brainstorming session and what followed was a plan to launch some products which would help people to make their workspaces safer once they get back to offices.
So we did months of R&D, used our houses as test beds for products, soldered components at home, wrote codes, collaborated online and once life started restoring to some normalcy, we had products ready to be manufactured and commercially sold!
All the resilience has helped us well. We are in fact looking at entering the APAC and MENA markets this year and already have identified potential partners there.
Passionate about building startups, Garima Bharadwaj is Co-Founder at Enlite Research. In her previous job, Garima was part of the core team at The Moms Co – a digital-first FMCG company as a core team member where she was responsible for establishing the company's online and offline presence, strategic international and domestic partnerships, sales & marketing. In her earlier stint, she has worked as an early team member of one of the globally largest hospitality startups – OYO, where she as an initial member was responsible for aiding the company to achieve exponential scale by enabling strategic partnerships, business development, P&L management, marketing and new product category launches.