As he straps himself in the driver's seat of the latest electric car built by
auto maker Mahindra, Somakumar Kolathur, 45, turns to his smartphone.
With a flick of his thumb he activates an application that will monitor air conditioning, plan his route, set the alert to recharge the battery and lock and unlock the car. Kolathur is testing a telematics application--built by his five-year-old start-up Moonraft Innovation Labs--that combines wireless and computing technology.
"For the e2o (car) we developed a feature rich and sophisticated telematics platform, arguably one of the most advanced in the world today," said Chetan Maini, chief executive of Mahindra Reva Electric Vehicles. In 2011, Maini began collaborating with Moonraft, which blends design with technology , to develop the app. Kolathur, who teamed up with former Infosys colleagues--Sreekumar Paramu, Sridhar Marri and Krishna Kadiri--to set up Moonraft, said his team was inspired by the shift from services to products in the information technology industry.
Embedded mobile technology in cars represents a multi-billion dollar opportunity for application makers, according to GSMA, a global association of mobile operators. New features, spanning safety, security, infotainment, traffic information, navigation and vehicle diagnostics, will boost the potential market to about 3.6 lakh crore by 2018. However, it was not easy. When Moonraft was set up, awareness about technology and design was poor, making it difficult to bag customers.
"Our first project was making illustrations and website for a children's book," said Kolathur, an alumnus of Indian Institute of Technology-Madras. But the biggest challenge was when two partners decided to part after a disagreement . They felt the company should focus on technology services, rather than trying to blend design with technology.
"It delayed a lot of projects," said Kolathur. The company has bagged customers in diverse industries and its client list includes Asian Paints, Axis Bank as well as IT firms Infosys and Mindtree. Mindtree wanted Moonraft to develop a user interface for its intranet portal offering social media connectivity to its 12,000 employees.
"This firm is bringing in fresh thoughts and creativity," said Sudhir Kumar Reddy, chief information officer at Mindtree. Moonraft is also working on applications that allow refrigerators and washing machines to alert users on when to refill the washing powder or order milk and eggs. The start-up expects to have 200 employees and clock revenues of 75 crore in the next five years. "We want to be among the leading design firms globally," said Kolathur.
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