Balakrishnan’s vision behind launching the venture is to enhance security and optimise customer experience when storing valuables such as gold in bank lockers
The startup intends to partner with banks to offer safe deposit storage space (lockers) to individuals in residential communities via its state-of-the-art facilities
The startup is in talks with more than 1,000 customers, including real estate developers
Founder of shoe brand Flatheads Ganesh Balakrishnan has bid adieu to the fashion industry to launch a new fintech venture, Aurm. Balakrishnan’s vision behind launching the venture is to enhance security and optimise customer experience when storing valuables such as gold in bank lockers.
In addition, the founder wants to provide support to Indian banks that otherwise are faced with a dearth of infrastructure and space. The startup intends to partner with banks to offer safe deposit storage space (lockers) to individuals in residential communities via its state-of-the-art facilities.
For his new endeavour, Balakrishnan has joined hands with former core team members of MyGate and retired Indian armed forces officials.
An IIT Bombay and IIM Bangalore alumnus, Aurm is Balakrishnan’s second venture in the Indian fintech space. Earlier, the founder of the bamboo-based sneaker brand founded Momoe, a mobile payments app, in 2013.
However, it is no longer operational. Momoe was acquired by ShopClues.com in 2016. Overall, Aurm is his fifth venture.
Speaking with Inc42, the fifth-time founder said that Aurm also aims to bridge the gap in the whole consumer experience while interacting with the locker services offered by banks.
According to the founder, about 20% or fewer number of bank branches in India have a locker facility within them.
“This is because the cost of setting up a locker facility is very high. On the contrary, it is a very small revenue line for banks. Of the total INR 16 Lakh Cr in revenues generated by Indian banks every year, only INR 6,000 Cr comes from bank lockers. With high costs for setting up this facility, including real estate and construction costs, surveillance team and the tech required to operate the lockers, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for banks to invest a high amount of resources for little revenue,” he said.
He said the startup has cracked the code to trim the cost of setting up a locker room facility by 25%. The company aims to cut this cost by 50% in the near future.
“Not just this, we have also separated the access area of the locker from the actual storage. With this, operating your locker will be like using a bank’s ATM service. Further, one can access their locker service anytime around the clock and throughout the year, just like an ATM service,” Balakrishnan said.
He claimed that these access areas, which will be set up in an average area of 300 sq ft, will have a detailed security system installed to monitor threats. A 300 sq ft access area will house 250-300 safes.
A network operating centre run net of CCTV cameras installed per facility will check for intrusion with intelligent motion detection software. Further, intrusion detection will be ensured by alarms to monitor different kinds of threats.
If an intruder tries to break into the locker area with a heavy weapon like a hammer, it will be detected using vibration sensors. If a gas torch is being used to cut into the metal and concrete, it will be picked up by temperature sensors. Further, the facility also has seismic sensors to check for earthquakes. The rooms will be made using military-grade steel and concrete structures.
The startup is currently in talks with nationalised banks and private banks for setting up these locker facilities. It will be unveiling two pilot projects by the end of this month and the first half of March. The first pilot project will be with a locker facility operating out of the startup’s office in Bengaluru’s HSR layout.
The startup is targeting affluent Indians. The startup already has more than 1,000 potential customers. Aurm is also in talks with multiple real estate builders.
Balakrishnan said that some real estate builders are also looking to make investments in the startup. The reason for this is that Aurm safety access rooms could be an addition that banks and real estate agents both would like to make in gated residential communities where affluent Indians live.
“Banks are seeking to bring their locker services closer to home, catering to digitally savvy, affluent clients. Establishing traditional branches in these areas isn’t feasible due to high real estate costs. Our goal is to provide access to lockers for the entire community,” he said.
Balakrishnan’s prior venture Flatheads was acquired by Styched in 2023. He was looking to recharge and spend time with his family before embarking on his next adventure. However, he was soon approached by security management solution provider MyGate’s CEO and cofounder Vijay Arisetty.
Arisetty and Balakrishnan roped in the ex-MyGate core team members Pratap Chandana and Suraj HS to head technology and sales for Aurm.
The startup is bootstrapped at the moment as working on the capital jointly raised by the founding team. Balakrishnan said the company will be looking to raise its first funding round towards the end of March.