AirOK aims to bring in health and happiness in the lives of working individuals. The primary objective behind the development was to provide a one-stop solution to managing indoor air pollution and serving the working community via efficient air quality management. Air Ok Technologies Private Limited was launched on 23rd April 2015. We are publishing an interview with Mr. Pavan Reddy Yasa – Founder & Director, AirOK:
Q.: What is the problem you are trying to solve? Please share with us any insights that led you to believe that this is a big enough problem?
Ans: Air Ok’s vision is to be a technology company developing products to address Air pollution problem and become a one stop solution for Air quality related problems. Number of deaths because of outdoor as well as Indoor Air pollution as per WHO reports has already crossed millions per year.
Health issues due to Air pollution have been stressed by various research studies especially in China and Delhi (India) which clearly shows this is a big enough problem to address
Q.: Please tell us about the founders
Ans: 3 Founders including myself. Other 2 are Deekshith Vara Prasad and Sravan Krishna. We come from IIT Madras background. We have met during our projects related to Air quality and worked under same professor (who is our thesis advisor) for more than a year. Post our project is when we have decided to work together on a startup
Q.: List all the names of the core Team Members, along with their Designated Roles – How you see them evolving over time. What would be each of their Skill Sets? – Elaborate also if any of the team members has a specific domain expertise.
Ans: Apart from founders, core team members or our first 2-3 team members are from IIT itself. They found the idea interesting and wanted to work with us. Honestly none of us had domain expertise. All of us are starting professional career for the first time. One of our core team member, Mr. Bhanu Prasanna, Mechanical Engineer from IIT started working on market research for Air Purifiers. He developed a report on market size for Air Purifiers in various geographies which helped us to understand TAM (Total addressable market) before we launch our product. Still he is working with us as a market analyst, over the period he evolved as a best market researcher to give right insights about market/competition etc. others team members include Pranesh and Harish evolved as best in Product development team over the period.
Q.: Tell us about the Product / Solution. How did you get your first customer? Explain how you went about the Product-Market Fit Process.
Ans: We have come up with Country’s first indigenously developed Air Purifier. During the development process we have done product benchmarking with competition and found clear differentiation with our patented EGAPA filter technology.
Our filter technology can kill the airborne bacteria Indoors unlike conventional filters that can only trap the bacteria inside the filter (which can lead to bacteria growth inside the filter in the future).
Our first customer is a person who is having asthmatic issues. After he started using our product he noticed significant improvement in his breathing especially during night time.
We have listed down air quality related problems in various segments and developed solution (filter technology) accordingly. For example, for Hospital/ Healthcare the requirement is to reduce airborne bacterial load inside ICU/ OT to avoid secondary infections.
In corporate buildings the requirement is to reduce the CO2 levels indoors due to high occupancy/ low ventilation problem. In the indoors with high foot fall, Banks/ Schools/ offices PM2.5 is high which needs to be addressed
Q.: What is your USP?
Ans: As mentioned earlier, our USP is our filter technology (EGAPA: Efficient Granular Adsorbent Particulate Arrestor). Indoor Air quality problem can’t be generalized always to PM2.5, EGAPA was developed to solve the specific problems in various indoor spaces. Each Indoor environment requires its own solution after scientifically assessing the air quality and analyzing the data. Indoor air quality problem can’t be generalized. It’s not merely same everywhere. What differentiates us from competition is, we work closely with our clients as clean Air consultants by addressing their specific air quality needs rather than being a knocking salesman.
Q.: What were your assumptions when you entered the market, learning that you have? Who in your mind is your ideal customer? Do you have at least one of them signed up?
Ans: Assumption we had when we entered the market is that everyone will be looking forward to have our product. But learning is that there goes a lot of awareness about Air quality problem (especially in India) and need creation before one understands the value of the product. Initially, Ideal customer we have in our mind was hospitals. We have proved scientifically that our product is the best in reducing airborne bacterial load inside ICU/OT at various major hospitals in Chennai. We have successfully signed up few of them
Q.: What has been your biggest failure as an entrepreneur and what did you learn from it??
Ans: There is nothing biggest failure as such but biggest learning would be to be in a right market with a right product. Air Purifier sale requires awareness among customers to understand the need. Over the time we found North India as a market has more awareness compared to South. So we have shifted our major focus accordingly after that. Right product in the right market is our key learning.
Q.: How are you pricing the Product? What is the logic behind it? What is the model you are following – Free / Freemium / Premium etc. ? Explain your thought process.
Ans: Our product pricing is made after benchmarking with similar models in the market. But to corporates with larger BOM size, along with ORP (outright purchase) we also offer SLA (Service level agreement) for a period of 3-5 years. In SLA model customers pays advance for few months and pay monthly rental going forward.
Q.: Please tell us about the investors (if any)
Ans: Our investors are SAR group family office, founding team of Luminous/ Livpure/ Livguard. It’s a strategic alliance wherein they will sell our products (which can go along with their product portfolio) in their brand name in B2C market and invest in us in equity basis
Q.: Is there any interesting success story of your startup? If yes, please write about it. ?
Ans: For me as a founder I take pride in the way we have performed sales in year one in Delhi NCR. Best part about it is as a brand (completely made in India) manufacturing product ourselves we were profitable in the year one of fully into sales. Next our plan is to scale the same model rapidly while staying profitable
Q.: Since inception, give us a sense of the value of business done by your venture? Please explain in detail. (e.g., What is the current turnover? From Launching till date total no. of visitors on website/persons registered/enquiries and enrollment etc.)
Ans: Though company was incorporated in 2015, first three years were spent on product development/ R&D, Validation and to be manufacturing ready. Product was launched into the market mid-2018. After that we have about 100 customers in B2B space with revenue of 4 Cr.
Q.: What is the big picture of your startup? Is this Product/service leading to something bigger? If so, how?
Ans: Big picture of our startup is to become a one stop solution for any air quality related problems. In the process we want to sign up big corporate as their clean Air consultant providing end to end solution related to air quality. In a nutshell, we want Air Ok to become a synonym of Air quality
Q.: Who do You Perceive as Your Competition? How do you differentiate yourself with them?
Ans: Our competition is brands like Camfil. We different ourselves by providing our own proprietary technologies which are superior to conventional ones
Q.: What would be your goal to accomplish in the next six months? Any other information you would like to share?
Ans: In next six months we have plans to sign up several big corporates into our clean air partnership program.
Q.: What message do you want to convey to fellow entrepreneurs?
Ans: Customer satisfaction is key to scale-up in any business.
Thanks Pavan. All the best.