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This article is part of Inc42’s Startup Watchlist annual series where we list the top startups to watch for 2018 from industries like AI, IoT, Blockchain etc. Explore all the stories from ‘Startup Watchlist’ series here.

Once used as a tool for an application, Internet of Things (IoT) has become one of the widest ecosystems today. Currently at the centre stage of industries like energy management, healthcare, logistics, fintech, manufacturing and agritech, IoT, in convergence with AI, has the potential to disrupt all these verticals.

Previously dictated by big players like IBM, Google, Intel, Cisco, Ericsson, Apple and Amazon, the IoT space has now become a startup ecosystem enabler across the world. While it was the Internet that drove the emergence of ecommerce startups in the early 2000s, IoT has been facilitating the growth of this decade’s tech startups.

What lightning does to mushrooms, IoT has done to startups!

As the name suggests, the IoT is a global platform, so are the startups based upon. On the one hand, Indian IoT startups are going global. On the other, IoT startups from the US, the UK, Middle East and Singapore aim to set their operations in India.

IoT: Market, Startups, And Segmentation

It is estimated that the IoT space will garner $6 Tn worth of investments between 2015 and 2020. As per a report by IDC, the global IoT market is set to hit $1.7 Tn by. While the worldwide spending on IoT currently stands at $674 Bn, the spending is expected to reach $772.5 Bn in 2018, which is an increase of 14.6%.

IDC’s Worldwide Semiannual Internet of Things Spending Guide forecasts that the worldwide IoT spending will grow at a CAGR of 14% between 2017 and 2021, surpassing the $1 Tn mark in 2020 and reaching $1.1 Tn in 2021.      

According to Carrie MacGillivray, VP, IoT and Mobility at IDC, by 2021, more than 55% of spending on IoT projects will be on software and services. This is directly in line with the results of IDC’s 2017 Global IoT Decision Maker Survey, where organisations have indicated that software and services are the key areas of focused investment for their IoT projects.

Software creates the foundation upon which IoT applications and use cases can be realised. However, it is the services that help bring all the technological elements together to create a comprehensive solution that will benefit organisations and help them achieve a quicker time to value.

Coming to India, IoT market here is poised to touch $15 Bn by 2020, according to the trade association of Indian IT and BPO industry, NASSCOM. Fueled by a $1 Bn investment from the Indian government every year for building 100 smart cities, the trade association also predicts that by 2020, India will account for nearly 5% of the global IoT market.

Out of existing 971 IoT startups in India, 70% of the startups emerged after 2010. Interestingly, Bengaluru remains the hub as it is home to 51% of these startups, down by 4% from the 55% in 2016. The 971 IoT startups are evenly distributed among segments such as healthcare, transport, agritech, services and logistics.

With 47% of the Indian IoT startups catering to consumers and building solutions such as wearables, connected vehicles and connected appliances and 40% catering to enterprises, the IoT startups have been broadly divided into two categories: Industrial IoT and Consumer IoT.

IoT: Startup Funding

IoT startups are now leading the platform with giants following them either through investments, fundings or acquisitions. As mentioned globally, the space is set to witness $6 Tn worth of investments between 2015-2020. Indian startups too are being incubated globally/by global players.

According to Zinnov, in India, 120 IoT startups have received over $169 Mn funding since 2006 (till may 2017). Large investors that have created IoT focused investment funds are Tiger Global Management, Blume Ventures and Qualcomm Ventures.

Honeywell Ventures and a Tokyo-based venture fund Trend Micro have launched investment funds, with of a corpus of $100 Mn each, to invest in IoT-based startups. Blume Ventures, one of the most active VCs in India, has recently announced plans to launch a $100 Mn Investment Fund III that will also have a focus on IoT startups.

Among the other VCs like Sequoia Capital, Artiman Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, Kalaari Capital, Pi Ventures and Maverick Capital Ventures are among the few that are actively looking to invest in IoT startups.

Based on funding, disruptive solutions offered, scalability and founders’ background, let’s check out the list of Indian IoT startups that are a must watch in 2018!

11 Indian IoT Startups To Watch Out For In 2018

Stellapps

Founded by IITians Ranjith Mukundan and Venkatesh Seshasayee in 2011 and incubated by IIT Madras, Bengaluru-based Stellapps offers end-to-end dairy technology solutions. The startup produces and procures comprehensive farm optimisation and monitoring support solution to help dairy farmers and cooperatives maximise profits while minimising effort.

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Stellaps Fact Sheet

Funded by Omnivore Capital, Stellapps leverages Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, cloud, mobility, and data analytics to improve agri-supply chain parameters, including milk production, milk procurement, cold chain, animal insurance and farmer payments.

The SmartMoo IoT router and in-premise IoT Controller acquire data via sensors that are embedded in milking systems, animal wearables, milk chilling equipment and milk procurement Peripherals. They transmit the same to the Stellapps SmartMoo Big Data Cloud Service Delivery Platform (SDP).

The SmartMoo suite of applications then analyses and crunches the received data before disseminating the analytics and data science outcome to various stakeholders over low-end and smart mobile devices.

In July 2017, Stellapps had raised an undisclosed amount of Series A funding from Blume Ventures, Flipkart Group CEO Binny Bansal, and Venture Highway. Earlier, the Indian startup had received an undisclosed amount of funding from venture capital firm Omnivore Partners in 2013.

There are a number of companies such as Sumangalam Dairy Farm Solutions, VieMilk Engineering and Vansun Technologies which provide automatic milking solutions. However, Stellapps, which has set the world’s largest community milking parlour, has a huge local market to cater to with its IoT-enabled dairy solutions.

Zenatix

Founded by Amarjeet Singh, Rahul Bhalla and Vishal Bansal in 2013, Zenatix is a data-driven energy efficiency company using advanced machine learning based models to provide significant energy savings for large commercial consumers of electricity.

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Zenatix Fact Sheet

The Gurugram-based IoT startup’s offerings include WattMan that aims to help retail and BFSI businesses save up to 30% of their energy bills. The solution ensures governance, quality of service, and risk mitigation across the distributed infrastructure through automated and intelligent controls claims the company.

The product hardware includes components such as sensors for monitoring energy, temperature, humidity, and other important parameters. It also includes control equipment for automated control of ACs and signages. WattMan’s cloud-based software provides accessibility and can be configured over the web and mobile.

In April 2017, Zenatix, had raised about $1 Mn Pre-Series A funding led by Pi Ventures. Existing investor, Blume Ventures, also participated in the round. Prior to this in July 2015, Zenatix had raised $161K led by Google country chief Rajan Anandan; Snapdeal’s cofounders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal; and Trifecta Capital’s Rahul Khanna among others. In December 2015, it raised an undisclosed amount of follow-on funding led by Blume Ventures.

Led by TCS Remote Energy Management Solution, Zenatix, Ecolibrium Energy, Zenatix, 6th Energy Technologies and Connectum are some of the companies that provide IoT-enabled energy solutions for buildings, energy companies and distribution networks.

According to a report, industries in India consume 45% of the 900 Bn units of power produced. 35% of the electric power produced is lost, and the losses are due to transmission and distribution (16%) inefficiencies, theft (10%) and inefficiencies among users (10%).

Given that India is one of the 191 countries to have signed the Paris Climate Change Agreement and unlike the US, has committed to improving its energy affairs, Zenatix has a huge market with limited challenge and competition.

Ecolibrium Energy

Founded in 2011 by Chintan Soni and Harit Soni, Ahmedabad-based Ecolibrium Energy provides energy intelligence to commercial and industrial consumers and utilities. The startup’s big data analytics platform intends to improve operational efficiency by optimising energy usage and asset utilisation.

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Ecolibrium Energy Fact Sheet

The startup helps power distribution companies meet their demand-side management goals. SmartSense connects with their high power consuming consumers and helps them optimise the way they consume power.

It provides targeted energy analytics to clients in a wide variety of sectors such as pharmaceuticals, engineering and FMCGs. Some big names include Coca-Cola, Delhi Metro Rail Corp, Intas Pharma, and Fiat.

In July this year, Ecolibrium Energy had raised $2.6 Mn (INR 18 Cr) in funding from Infuse Ventures Inc, JLL Technology Ventures and an anonymous angel investor. With the investments, the IoT startup eyes to create a global presence and also enhance customer engagement. A portion of the funds is also being used to develop advanced deep machine learning algorithms to ensure better performance of electrical equipment.

While India is the third largest energy producer in the world, Ecolibrium Energy has a huge untapped energy market to cater to.

Smartron

Founded by Mahesh Lingareddy, ex-Intel and co-founder of Silicon Valley startup Soft Machines, along with Narsi Reddy and Rohit Rathi in 2014, Smartron India provides an intelligent connected platform TronX, offering highly customised and personalised experiences, services and care through the next generation of smart devices across various IoT verticals.

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Smartron Fact Sheet

TronX allows one to interact and control various devices at home from TV, appliances, lights, ACs to doors and windows through touch or voice or gestures. TronX enables intelligent and customised experiences, ranging from entertainment to shopping to security to energy management to climate control.

Trying to compete with Chinese tech giant Xiaomi in the global market, the startup had raised over $40 Mn in funding this year from some sovereign funds in the Middle East, investors from the US and corporate investors.

Sachin Tendulkar is one of its key strategic shareholders and brand ambassador. The IoT startup had raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Sanjay Jha, CEO of GlobalFoundries.

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Recently, the company announced an acquisition in the home automation space for $10 Mn (INR 6.4 Cr). Post the acquisition, MiQasa has been brought under the banner of Smartron and has been rebranded as TronX Things. The move is aimed at enriching Smartron’s IoT platform. The company has also announced its plans to invest another $10 Mn in logistics and sales and distribution network.

Smartron is one of the few Indian mobile and other IoT device manufacturers that aim to cater to the global consumers.

Carsense

Founded by IITians Rohan Vadgaonkar, Pushkar Limaye, Urmil Shah and Prathamesh Joshi in 2015, Mumbai-based CarSense, earlier known as Carnot, is an IoT startup offering a car diagnostic solutions.

Besides their existing car diagnostic solution, the company is now also positioning itself in the space of car security by deploying GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope and Bluetooth.

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Carsense Fact Sheet

CarSense plugs into the OBD Port, while its easy-to-use software app ensures whether the electronic systems inside a user’s car (in modern cars, everything comes under electronic systems) is in working order. Once integrated into the system, it can be used to monitor the car to ensure its safety, send alert signals in case repairs are required, give insights on the car’s fuel economy and more.

CarSense is among the early entrants in the car diagnostic solution space, which is estimated at $31.5 Bn globally. Having listed its products on several ecommerce platforms such as Amazon and Techatron, the startup claims to have a success revenue and profitable model.

At present, the $100K Qualcomm Design India challenge winner has a few competitors such as Actia India, iWave and Ampro testing. Most of the companies in the Indian market are suppliers. Carsense with an offering at as low as $100 clearly can count on its edge.

Covacsis Technologies

Founded by Tarun Mishra and Abhijeet Mhatre in 2009, Covacsis Technologies is an IoT-based startup that has conceptualised, designed and implemented a technology framework to optimise the operational and financial efficiency of a factory in real time. The technology combines IoT and the levers of Industry 4.0.

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Covacsis Technologies Fact Sheet

The startup offers tailor-made analytics suite for manufacturing operations. Using machine learning and big data technologies, it offers highly dynamic decision-making capabilities in real time. The Intelligent Plant Framework from Covacsis provides a 360° visibility of the manufacturing floor in real time.

Covacsis helps evaluate the sustainable economics of the shop floor, for a variety of departments across the organisation. The flagship solution IPF is widely used by manufacturing companies across sectors textile, pharma, cement, steel, auto, FMCG, packaging, chemical and renewable energy.

With the government having committed over $100 Bn investments towards creating 100 smart cities as well as Delhi-Mumbai corridors, there will be an exponential rise in demand for shop floor mechanism solutions in the country. And, Covacsis claims to be the first Indian company in this space.

Though there are a number of companies such SAP India, InTouch Systems, RICOH, and Inventrax, which provide MES software solutions in India, considering the market size, Covacsis does have a shot to claim the leading position.

In 2014, the company had raised $3 Mn in Series B funding from GenNext Ventures and Blume Ventures, taking its total funding to $3.5 Mn.

AerX labs

Founded by Sumit Rishi, Kartavya Mohan Gupta and Priyank Sharma in 2015, AerX Labs is Bengaluru based avionics/flight simulation startup that makes professional-grade certifiable simulators for airlines, flight Schools, universities and corporates. The startup is currently working on connected simulators and deep learning to assess risk behaviours for pilot training and mixed reality to disrupt the space for innovative and cost competitive simulation.

Incubated by Intel India and Bosch India, it has an installation base of 40+ products including 18 simulators across all segments of customers, claims the company.

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AerX labs Fact Sheet

Originally started with a single engine simulator, the IoT startup has now moved to multi-engine and fixed-base simulators. which are used by airlines for early-stage pilot training. The startup now aims to build full-flight simulators, which cost upwards of $12.5 Mn (INR 80 Cr) and are used in advanced pilot training.

The startup offers simulator rentals, in addition to maintenance,  upgrade and training services as part of its design consultancy offerings.The simulators that available for rentals are accompanied by DGCA licensed flight instructors, for short and long-term uses, ranging from a few hours to days.

Amid tough competition from other players like CAE Simulation Training, Flightrix, Aviacom, Ray Dynamics and PCI India, AerX Labs can count on its incubators Intel India and SINE IITB as enablers, while sealing deals with Indian airlines companies.

TerraBlue XT

Founded by Rajlakshmi Borthakur in 2015, TerraBlue XT is building a complete health ecosystem for the benefit of people worldwide, connecting patients, caregivers, doctors and hospitals with a common thread.

The Bengaluru-based startup has come up with solutions called TJay and Xaant. While TJay, an innovative solution for the prediction and management of epilepsy, is more about unravelling the mysteries of the brain, Xaant is a therapeutic wearable device that traces the inner realm of a mind’s pathways to generate real-time data when one is trying out any method to calm his/her senses.

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TerraBlue XT Fact Sheet

The company has received funding from Idea2PoC and Intel India Maker Lab.

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While CEO and founder Rajlakshmi Borthakur has been recognised as one of the 12 “women transforming India” by NITI Aayog, the UN and MyGov, her startup TerraBlue XT is also one of the winners of a national innovation challenge 2016 and the Acer Award for Innovation at the APEC O2O Summit, Taiwan in 2016.

Backed by the Government of India’s Department of BioTech, the Karnataka government’s Dept. of ITBT, neDFI, birac, and the IIM Ahmedabad Entrepreneurship Cell, the startup is all set to disrupt the Indian IoT sector.

Bharti Robotic Systems

Founded by Debashis Das in 2015, Pune-based Bharati Robotics aims to accelerate the application of IoT-based robotic solutions in cleaning and material handling equipment such as scrubber-driers and sweepers.

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Bharti Robotic Systems Fact Sheet

IoT-enabled solutions in cleaning and hygiene has been the forte of big foreign players like Sealed Air, Karcher, IPC, and Nilfisk. Sealed Air has already acquired the USA’s leading robotics brand Intellibot and has introduced Internet of Clean across a range of cleaning equipment and hygiene products. Nilfisk too has joined hands with Carnegie Robotics to provide nextGen cleaning solutions.

Incubated at Intel India Makers Lab, Bharti Robotics has developed an indigenous scrubber-drier as well as a material handling machine based on IoT. The startup recently raised an undisclosed amount of funding from its existing investors – Society For Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE, IIT Bombay Incubator), and other angel investors. The raised fund will be used to expand the manufacturing capacity and technology applicability and cater to demand from both local and global customers.

Hug Innovations

Founded by Raj Shekhar Neravati in 2014, Hyderabad-based Hug Innovations offers an IoT wearable Hug Smartwatch that employs gesture control for various activities like playing music and so forth. The smartwatch tracks users’ food intake, water intake along with different activities performed throughout the day. Its nutrition dashboard gives the total calories burnt for the day.

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Hug Innovations Fact Sheet

The smartwatch has an SOS button which could be pressed into danger. This will send an immediate message and help family and friends to live track the location. Interestingly, the watch has customised maps to guide the user to the nearest hospitals and police stations. The product basically provides users access to different kind of emergency services that they can avail in case their family and well-wishers are not available.

For the past few years, a lot of new startups have come up with IoT-enabled wearable devices. Startups that are catering to the wearable IoT space are Actofit, Boltt, Getactive, Goqii, and so on. However, Hug Innovations is offering one of the lightest smartwatches powered with gesture controls, remote capture and SOS button.

The startup has the potential to disrupt the space, provided it continues to innovate. With Titan having invested $5 Mn in wearable IoT firm CoveIoT, the corporate eye is already on these wearable IoT startups. In June 2017, Hug Innovations had raised $5 Mn in Series A funding round during a live instant funding event organised by TiE Hyderabad – The Guardian Angel.

Cyclops Medtech

Founded in 2015 by Niranjan Subbarao, Srinivas Dorasala, and Ravi Nayar, Cyclops Medtech is a medtech startup working on vestibular, surgical and eye-tracking solutions for the masses. The company was conceived with the idea of developing a vertigo diagnostic device at an affordable cost.

Its cutting-edge, complete balance assessment platform Cyclops BalanceEye is an assessment tool that encompasses hardware, software, and machine learning modules on the Cloud.

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Cyclops Medtech Fact Sheet

Their first product, a “complete balance assessment tool”, is a wearable clinical device used to diagnose vertigo. The device has already been tested at a leading ENT centre in Bengaluru for over six months.

The company was incubated at the BioMedical Innovation Centre at BMS College of Engineering, Bengaluru.

The winner of the NASSCOM Emerge 50 Awards, Cyclops Medtech is a Bengaluru-based startup that aims to create innovative and cost-effective medical technology and devices, which can dramatically expand the scope of diagnosis and thereby aid in faster and better cure.

Editor’s Note

Taking into consideration factors like funding status, market spaces, ideas and innovations, founders’ background and scalability, these startups might lead the legion of 971 Indian IoT startups in the new future.

However, the Indian startup ecosystem is certainly not like the Valley, where merely performance attracts funding; but instead, it is still much like the traditional one with some refinements where for a startup survival between the two funding itself is assumed to be a big achievement.

While the future largely counts on the marrying IoT, deeptech with ML, AI and big data analytics, and given that IoT still has low penetration in the Indian market, definitely a big untapped market for IoT startups which are able to customise their services in accordance with the local demand.

*Market figures are debatable as different market research firms have predicted drastically different figures.

While these were the Indian IoT startups to watch out for in 2018, stay tuned for next edition of Startup Watchlist, where we will be featuring HealthTech startups to watch out for in 2018, click here for more stories!

[The startups mentioned above have been selected on editorial discretion, our interactions with the startups and other industry veterans.]

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