On a recent trip to Gujarat, I made a checklist of the electronic items to carry. Mobile. Check. Charger. Check. MP3 player. Check. Power bank. Check. Unfortunately, I did not add an Apple USB cable with which to charge the iPod and, as a result, had to shell out INR 350 to a local ‘mobile repair’ outlet for an unbranded version of the same. The cheaper one worked out to INR 150 and was reportedly not compatible with a laptop’s USB port.
This pain point – of reliable, quality accessories for mobile devices – is one that plagues the average Indian on a daily basis. It certainly did Komal Agarwal.
“I was always running out of battery on my phone, it needed charging multiple times a day. And, of course, I had a nasty habit of not carrying the charger everywhere with me,” she begins with a chuckle. “Power banks, inevitably, were the need of the hour.”
This was as far back as 2013 – when smartphone penetration in the country was just catching fire and Flipkart had just been crowned a unicorn. Komal, armed with an MBA degree in Marketing from IIM Calcutta, did not want to enter the established family business of making power inverters. “I wanted to start something of my own. And when I did a little digging around in the arena of power banks and mobile accessories, I discovered that much of the existing Indian market consists of unbranded items – it was mostly ‘use and throw,’ came without any QA checks, was unreliable and had no clear brand as a frontrunner.”
She put her personal pain (and that of countless friends) to good use and approached her father with the idea of launching a new vertical – one that would cater to the needs of the newly minted Indian mobile phone user – Pebble.
“I Wanted A Happy, Friendly Name”
As she puts it, when she came up with the idea and did her due diligence she discovered that there were no Indian brands in the power bank segment. “In fact, when we asked around, no one even knew what the term meant, although Sony had introduced a model, recently back then,” she said.