Meet the co-founder of AirOk Technologies, Pavan Reddy who is helping us breathe easy through innovation and technology.
What were the early stages of your career? Why did you not want to do a mainstream job? Was the plunge difficult? What went through your mind?
Well, in the early stages of our start-up we were about to finish our graduation at IIT Madras. During the last few months at IIT Madras, we started AirOK Technologies at the campus Incubation cell in 2015.
Actually, we never had strong feelings against mainstream job as we had never done one before, but we always wished to do something which gave us the freedom to do what we wanted.
The plunge was not difficult but challenging I would say, as it was a transition of a project from an academic level to the real market. We had done enough research to make the solution fit for the market.
How did you arrive at the idea of your venture? What was your ‘eureka’ moment? Explain the problem statement/ the gap you observed in the market , and your solution for it.
The idea of our venture is about solving Air quality related problems in India which we were working on even during our Master’s degree in Environmental Engineering at IIT Madras. As a part of our vision to be a one-stop solution for Air quality related problems, we started developing an Indoor Air purifier. First 3 years purely went into R&D. We majorly worked on unique product design and novel patented filter technology.
Our eureka moment was when we started testing our product and got great results, many large players in the market approached us for product license. That was the moment which gave us immense satisfaction, the product we had put our heart and soul into building, had actually started showing incredible results.
In terms of the gap we observed in existing Indoor Air purifier products, all of them were focused only on removing particle dust in Indoor space. But the reality is particle dust is not the only problem Indoors. If you consider an IT buildings or any Air conditioned buildings high levels of Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the major problem, if you consider server rooms and data centers, levels of sulfur dioxide(SO2)/nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is the major problem which could damage the assets, if you consider hospitality sector odor removal is the major problem and Airborne bacteria in hospital environments. So we have identified the gap and developed the filter which can remove all the parameters in Indoor environment effectively.
How did you go about addressing the opportunity, what were some strategies you employed to build traction, get the word out, and acquire customers?
We continue to do research on our problem statement regarding air quality across various sectors. Air purification is broad and if we can identify what air quality problem exactly customers are facing then it becomes easier to present the solution to them. Our strategy is simple i.e. building customer specific solution. We offer a free demo for all our customers so they can feel the difference and we will continue to do that.
What have been the toughest challenges you’ve faced so far, what has been your biggest success?
The toughest challenge was manufacturing the product in lines with the market demand as we were doing it for the first time in our careers. Supply chain management/procurement/vendor management has been toughest. But we have learned it the hard way and today we are manufacturing 1000 units per month in Chennai.
The biggest success in a startup journey is to get a good feedback from the customers about the product. We have received some good feedback from our customers which was very satisfying.
Tell me a little bit about your competition and how do you differentiate from them.
There are many other Chinese Air purifiers in the space. We have some players locally as well as abroad. We are completely different from them as we offer comprehensive Indoor air purification solutions with our unique filters.
Do share the details of the investment you raised, if applicable. What were the challenges in dealing with VCs?
Initially, we were funded by IIT Madras Incubation at the seed level and after developing our final prototype, we have raised around 12 Crore from SAR group – flagship product being LivPure water purifier. It not a VC fund but a strategic investment. LivPure is our marketing partner where they do B2C sales of the same technology.