iBahn Illumination: An Indian startup that’s betting big on smart LEDs

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The growth of LED lights in India has accelerated and it is a good time to be a startup in the LED industry. iBahn Illumination, a startup in the smart lighting space, is all set to make a splash with its innovative range of smart LED lights. In an exclusive interaction with Electronics Bazaar, Rajeev Chopra (CEO) and Arjun Shahani (COO) of iBahn Illumination share their thoughts on how they are aiming to make smart LEDs more mainstream.

By Shruti Mishra

Rajeev Chopra and Arjun Shahani are two out of three co-founders of a new smart lighting firm. They believe that the lighting industry is now on the verge of one more big transformation, led by smart LEDs. To gain the first-mover advantage during this inflexion point, they set up iBahn Illumination. The company rolled out its first range of innovative app-based smart lighting products under the brand name Svarochi in Mumbai, this September.

At present, 29 Svarochi smart lighting products under the ‘lamps and downlights’ category are illuminating the interiors of many offices, homes and shops across India—in Delhi, Pune and Chandigarh. iBahn is expecting to increase its portfolio to 50 products by the end of 2017 and three years down the line, the company is targeting over 150 products for the Indian market.

How a truly Indian company was born

Chopra doesn’t consider the high penetration rate of standard LEDs a hurdle; rather, he thinks that this will pave the way for smart LEDs. Home automation is becoming the need of the hour as India is moving closer to transitioning to smart cities. And this is where the need for smart LEDs comes in. The co-founders estimate that the smart LED market will be worth ₹ 40 billion by 2022. “iBahn has been founded on the premise that four to five years from now, 30 per cent of LEDs will convert into smart LEDs, while 10 years from now, this conversion is going to be 100 per cent,” says Chopra.

Working in line with the ‘Make in India’ initiative, the company is designing, developing and producing Svarochi lights indigenously with almost zero dependence on imports. The manufacturing units of the company are located at Manesar in Haryana and Nagpur in Maharashtra. “Ours is an Indian company which of course aspires to be international. We don’t import,” says Chopra.

Market share

Talking about the overall market size for smart LEDs in India, Chopra says that it is at a very nascent stage now because this segment has literally kicked-off only after the advent of Svarochi lights. iBahn is the only company right now in India which is fully engaged in the production of smart lights. The few other companies launching smart LED lighting are producing them only as a fraction of their total offerings. He points out that most of the companies that came out with smart LED products earlier are no longer focusing on these products anymore. “Svarochi smart LED lights currently cover about 90 per cent of this market segment in India, and aspires to become a
₹ 5 billion company in five years,” adds Shahani.

Shahani is positive that this segment will grow fast, and expects that smart LEDs will make up 10 per cent of the total lighting market in India within a year. He strongly believes that a well managed local ecosystem for all the components will further bolster the smart LED market.

Phases of expansion

iBahn is on course to achieving its target to be a pan-India firm within 12 months, but is going about things in a phased manner. In Phase I, the company has expanded to 10 cities (as of November 2017). For Phase II, the firm plans to be present in all the large towns with a population of one million, by next year. “In Phase III we are planning to venture outside India,” says Shahani. He adds that the product concept will remain the same throughout the phases of expansion, but the company will keep adding more families of products every two months.

The company is very actively showcasing its products on social media. It is also planning to initiate talks with Flipkart and Amazon to sell its products online. The company’s own digital platform for selling Svarochi lights is still in the works. In the offline mode, it aims to be present at high-end retail stores.

The technology involved

Though app-oriented, Svarochi lights are designed to be serious products and not just ornamental gadgets. These lights are based on a brand new technology called Bluetooth Mesh which got standardised this July. When asked about why the team chose Bluetooth over Wi-Fi, Chopra says, “We prefer Bluetooth Mesh for the simple reason that we envisage our product being used in places where there is no Wi-Fi.”

Another feature that sets Svarochi lights apart is memory retention. “What I mean by memory retention is that when you set these lights to a particular state and put them off, the next time you turn them on, they will come back to the state they were in when you switched them off. Other products come back to the factory state,” he explains.

Target groups

Svarochi LED lights are priced between ₹ 750 to ₹ 2800, which suggests they are meant for the high-income segment. “We are favouring more value conscious customers rather than those who are only price conscious,” says Chopra while commenting on the price sensitive nature of the Indian market. The motto of Svarochi lights is to make interior spaces more beautiful and therefore the company is focusing on homes, conference halls and restaurants.

Maximum demand generating areas

Home automation can be considered the genesis of smart LED lighting, says Shahani, as today, a lot of people are either using this system or planning to switch to it. Shahani is hopeful that these people will look for iBahn products, as these will give them huge flexibility and value. Next come the ‘HoReCa’ spaces (hotels, restaurants and cafes) that are growing at an exponential rate these days, and need such types of versatile lights to enhance their aesthetics. He thinks that the proliferation of smartphones, growing affluence, changing lifestyles, the tech-savviness of buyers and higher aspirational values are some crucial factors that are going to drive demand within this category.

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