“BluArmor Is Bringing Car-Like Intelligence To A Two-Wheeler”

Co-founder Srinivasan Chakravarthy (L) with founder and CEO Sundararajan Krishnan PK (R)

Bengaluru-based start-up BluArmor has developed a new device, C30, which can be attached to motorcycle helmets to offer total connectivity to a rider’s phone and vehicle, as well as a group of riders up to a distance of 1.2 km. Founder and CEO Sundararajan Krishnan PK shared intricate details of his startup’s journey with Yashasvini Razdan from Electronics For You. Read on…

Q. Can you tell me about the background of BluArmor, its offerings, and its business model?

A. We founded this company six years ago in January 2017. Initially, our vision was to bring car-like comfort to two-wheelers. Nobody would buy a car without air conditioning. How do we bring that to the two-wheeler? From 2018 to 2020, we built three generations of cooling products that could be attached to motorcycle helmets. It was a cooler plus an air purifier with Bluetooth connectivity. However, we realized that cooling was a relatively new concept for motorcycle helmets and would take a lot of time to gain acceptance. In 2020, we shifted our focus to bringing car-like intelligence to a two-wheeler. We are accomplishing this through a range of accessories that can be attached to or integrated with the helmet, or through an accessory that attaches to the side of the bike. Our latest product, the C30, attaches to the motorcycle helmet and allows riders to connect to their phones, listen to music, answer phone calls, get directions, and communicate with other riders using the intercom feature over a long range.

Q. How did you come up with the idea to make this product?

A. Similar products exist in other parts of the world, such as North America and Europe. The question was, why does it make sense for India now? The number one disruption in the two-wheeler market today is electric vehicles (EVs), which are often connected electric vehicles. The rider needs to be connected to the vehicle to utilize the connectivity features. As connectivity becomes more common in two-wheelers, the need for a connected helmet becomes increasingly important. That is why the timing is critical, and it forms the basis of what we’re building.

Q. Can you give me an idea of when you started?

A. This product took us about 24 months from ideation to actual product realisation. We launched this product in the market in November 2022. We started development between October 2020 and November 2020. We spent around 24 months building a prototype, developing the product, and testing it in the lab and field before launching the product in the market.

Geeking out on the tech

Q. What is the innovation in this product?

A. The product itself is not original, but much of the technology incorporated into it is. Our team has developed the technology that enables riders to connect over a long range. We have implemented an in-house noise suppression algorithm to address the issue of wind noise during high-speed rides. Additionally, the ability to listen to music while using the intercom is made possible by our proprietary audio mixing algorithms. These unique technological features differentiate our product and enhance the overall user experience.

Q. Why not just use a Bluetooth earpiece and have a con call?

A. There are three types of earpieces — ear headsets such as air pods or any Bluetooth headset, over-the-ear headset such as the Apple headset, which completely covers your ear, and then speaker, which we use in these devices. While riding, you have to be able to listen to the ambient sounds. Laws worldwide are very specific about what type of earpiece you can use in your ear. Speakers are more or less universally allowed because they allow you to listen to any infotainment while listening to the ambient sounds. So if there’s an ambulance next to you, you will continue to listen to that ambient sound while listening to infotainment.

Q. What technology allows two radios to simultaneously operate in the same frequency band? 

A. Our device consists of two radios—one for connecting to your mobile phone and another for connecting to your riding group. We support a Bluetooth connection to your phone and a mesh intercom connection to your riding group. Both of these connections coexist on the same frequency band as Bluetooth. We have engineered our product so that there is no interference between these two radios.

Q. How much battery does it require, and how long does it take to charge?

A. We use lithium-ion batteries sourced from China, which take approximately one hour to charge from 10% to 90%. The battery life is around 16 hours when playing music at full volume. 

Q. Is it wise to have music playing in your ears while navigating through Indian traffic?

A. While it is important to be attentive to ambient noises, North America and Europe regulations provide guidelines on using devices for listening to infotainment while on the road. We anticipate that Indian regulations will eventually follow a similar approach, prioritizing safety. Furthermore, considering the stressful nature of traffic, reducing fatigue and creating a relaxed environment can enhance focus. Listening to podcasts or music while driving a car tends to create a calmer mindset. By extending that experience to two-wheelers, we believe it can alleviate many traffic-related problems. Our device aims to significantly reduce fatigue and contribute to a safer riding experience.

Counting the numbers

Q. What is the cost of this product?

A. The product is priced at ₹10,999.

Q. How many units have you sold till now?

A. We have sold approximately 3,000 units to date. 

Q. What is the warranty period of this device?

A. The warranty period is one year from the date of purchase. Generally, people can use this product for three to five years.

Q. How do you convince the average Indian user to buy this product? 

A. There are two aspects to our approach. Firstly, if you consider purchasing an electric vehicle, it will typically cost over a lakh (INR). Our accessory is priced at only 10% of that amount, offering significant fatigue reduction benefits.

Secondly, similar products are available in North America and Europe at a price of INR 35,000. We offer comparable features at one-third of that price. Our product provides a premium sound experience with JBL audio, appealing to early adopters. As the mass market becomes ready for adoption, we plan to offer more affordable variants. Additionally, we are establishing partnerships with two-wheeler OEMs, allowing our products to reach a wider market.

Q. What was the initial investment in this startup, and how did you secure funding?

A. Our startup is funded by Athera Venture Partners (formerly known as Inventus Capital India) and partially by Karnataka Semiconductor Venture Fund (KITVEN/KarSemVen). To date, we have raised around ₹150 million in funding. The nature of our product requires significant capital investment.

Q. To what extent does KITS support you?

A. KITS provides support based on a well-defined policy considering a healthy fraction of our R&D and prototyping expenses. This policy ensures one to two months of runway, depending on the project’s current phase.

Q. Are you facing any competition from the Indian market?

A. There is no competition for our product in the Indian market as it is a new offering. We have established partnerships with multiple OEMs, strengthening our position across various channels. Once the early adopter phase is completed, we anticipate increased competition as we enter the mass market.

Q. Do you have any external partners?

A. Kaynes Technologies in Mysore carries out the PCB assembly, while different local partners handle plastic casing and box packaging. All these partners are located within a 10-kilometer radius of our facility in Bommasandra, Bangalore.

Q. What kind of vendors or partners are you open to working with?

A. Currently, we collaborate with distributors such as Arrow and Avnet to source semiconductor components. We require a diverse range of semiconductor components for our product. In terms of prototyping and assembly, we are interested in partners who can assist us. Although we have an EMS (Electronics Manufacturing Services) partner, we are open to exploring alternative EMS partners and evaluating their capabilities. Additionally, we are seeking partnerships with testing and measurement companies for end-of-line testing.

Q. How do you plan to expand geographically?

A. We have licensed our technology to a leading global audio brand specialising in professional automotive audio solutions. This partner will take our algorithms to their customers worldwide, including motorcycle and bicycle helmet companies, as well as other potential use cases where they already have an audio solution.

Q. Were there any mistakes you made, and what did you learn from them?

A. One mistake we made was pivoting from one product to another. The initial products we developed did not resonate with the mass audience as we had anticipated. Introducing a completely new technology in a mature market like India requires careful consideration and limited resources for research and development. Educating the customer about a new product demands substantial capital, making it challenging for a startup to sustain itself. Therefore, it is crucial to operate in a space where customers are already aware of the type of product being introduced, eliminating the need for extensive investments in consumer education.

Q. What is your next milestone?

A. We have received feedback from over 1000 customers and are incorporating that feedback into developing our next-generation product. We aim to offer various pricing options, catering to entry-level and premium customers.



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