Top 10 Indian Hardware Startups Building Products for India and the World

Hardware isn’t something that India is known for, and it’s also not something that a lot of Indian startups pursue, and there’s a couple of reasons for that. Firstly, unlike in the world of software, bootstrapping isn’t really an option when it comes to hardware. R&D, prototyping, and manufacturing cost a lot of money, and so unless you’re independently wealthy.

Top 10 Indian Hardware Startups Building Products for India and the World
Top 10 Indian Hardware Startups Building Products for India and the World

Hardware isn’t something that India is known for, and it’s also not something that a lot of Indian startups pursue, and there’s a couple of reasons for that. Firstly, unlike in the world of software, bootstrapping isn’t really an option when it comes to hardware. R&D, prototyping, and manufacturing cost a lot of money, and so unless you’re independently wealthy.

bootstrapping a hardware startup just isn’t gonna work, which leaves two other options: crowdfunding, and venture capital. In the United States, platforms like Kickstarter have empowered hardware startups to build products that VCs won’t back, but this crowdfunding trend hasn’t been as popular here in India, which leaves us with a third option: venture capital, but this option too isn't without its challenges: as I said earlier, India isn’t known for hardware, but China is, and so a lot of the international venture capital that’s going into hardware is focused on China or companies that are outsourcing their R&D or their manufacturing to China.

 nobody does hardware, as well as China, does, and VCs know this. But in India, there’s a very strong anti-China consumer sentiment right now, and the government of India is also trying to reduce India’s reliance upon anything and everything coming out of China, while also working very hard to make India a serious source of competition to China when it comes to manufacturing, and by all accounts, they are succeeding.

According to American real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield’s 2021 Global Manufacturing Risk Index, India is currently the most attractive global manufacturing destination after China, which of course means that India is seeing a lot of manufacturing business right now from international customers, many of which have ended their contracts with Chinese manufacturers in favour of Indian ones,

but there’s also a huge amount of demand from the local market for made-in-India hardware, and in the last couple of years, we’ve started to see an uptick in the number of startups that are building physical technology products to meet that demand,

we have Bengaluru-based smart lock maker Openapp.

Back in 2014, Gotama Gowda successfully sold his cupcake company, Cupcakery, and was excited to start a new venture with his exit money, but this time, he wanted to go beyond food - he wanted to start up in the hardware space, and he settled on padlocks.

See, Most people, in 2015, were using regular metal locks, and this is still true to this day, but Gotama, along with his two co-founders Siddesh Keluskar and Rajshekhar Jenne, decided to upgrade these boring locks into smart, IoT-enabled locks. Today, their smart padlocks and door locks are being used across 500,000 locations and they’re currently the largest smart lock maker in India. To date, Openapp has raised $2.2 million from their investors. Next up at number 9 we have Mumbai-based mixed reality startup AjnaLens.

Founded by Abhijit Patil, Abhishek Tomar, Gaurav Godbole, and Pankaj Raut in 2014, AjnaLens actually began its journey at IIT Bombay, and at the time, the company was called Dimension NXG. They were experimenting with 3D printing, 3D scanning, and computer vision, before eventually settling on mixed reality glasses in 2017.

They spent the next three years researching and developing these glasses before eventually launching their first product, AjnaBolt, for the Indian military in 2020. Then in August of 2021, they launched AjnaX for enterprises, which is sort of like an extension of the screens that we use in our day-to-day lives - you can pair the AjnaX with a keyboard and a mouse and open up files, images, videos, and 3D holograms all around you.

To date, the startup has raised $2.2 million from investors. Moving on to #8 now we have Bengaluru-based smart RO water purifier DrinkPrime. Founded by Manas Hota and Vijender Reddy in 2016, DrinkPrime began its journey as WaterWala in 2014 with the goal of bringing structure to India’s disorganised drinking water space.

They did this by delivering clean 20L water cans on-demand but eventually realised that if they were going to truly revolutionise this space, they were gonna need to build a more scalable solution. It was at this point, in 2016, that WaterWala became DrinkPrime, with the launch of their RO water purifier which DrinkPrime’s customers can rent using monthly subscription plans.

These machines were researched and developed in-house, and DrinkPrime has partnerships with a handful of Indian manufacturers who build the purifiers before they’re sent out to DrinkPrime’s customers, of which there are currently more than 25,000 across Bengaluru. So far, DrinkPrime has raised $3.9 million from their investors.

Coming in at number 7 now we have Hyderabad-based healthtech startup Makers Hive. Founded by Harsha Reddy Ponguleti, Pranav Vempati and Suren Marumamula in 2018, Makers Hive’s flagship product, KalArm, is India’s first fully functional bionic hand and it only costs between ₹3.5 and 4 lakh which is about a tenth of the cost of similar products outside of India. KalArm has 18 pre-defined grips, 4 custom grips and an app that monitors the health of the bionic arm and can also be used to teach new grips.

While this product is still in development, Makers Hive has received hundreds of pre-orders, and they've also raised $9 million from Starfish Growth Partners to start manufacturing KalArm quickly, and then eventually go on to build exoskeleton products for defence, industrial and medical applications. Next up at number 6 we have Mumbai-based Atomberg Technologies.

The startup’s founders, Manoj Meena and Sibabrata Das were working on research projects for organisations like ISRO and the DRDO when they came up with the idea for Atomberg in 2012. This idea began with a prototype for an energy-efficient motor, which Manoj and Sibabrata quickly realised could be used to build energy-efficient ceiling fans.

See, ceiling fans in India typically operate at between 75 and 80 watts, but with Atomberg’s special motor, that number is reduced to 28 watts, meaning that they’re 66% more efficient. After setting up a manufacturing facility in Mumbai, Atomberg Technologies went to market in 2015, and have since sold more than 1 million units. So far, Atomberg has raised $20.5 million from their investors. As the startup is now planning to expand into other home appliances like mixers, grinders and air coolers.

Moving on to number 5 now we have Hyderabad-based Smartron. One of Smartron’s founders, Mahesh Lingareddy spent more than a decade building a semiconductor startup called Soft Machines in the United States, which he ended up selling to Intel in 2016 in a deal worth $250 million and by that point, he had already started his next venture, Smartron, which he co-founded in 2014 with Rohit Rathi and Narsi Reddy Bosham. Now, Smartron is both a hardware and a software startup.

They’ve got physical products like laptops, smartphones, electric bikes, and in the future, IoT-enabled home automation products, but Smartron’s larger goal is to build an underlying AI-powered ecosystem called TronX, which would essentially be an Indian competitor to ecosystems like Google’s with Google Assistant or Apple’s with Siri or Amazon’s with Alexa. Now, in case you wanted to know whether or not Smartron is making their products in India, the answer is a hard no.

Here’s a quote from Mahesh explaining that perspective. and you’re welcome to pause the video if you want to read it, but to summarise, Mahesh believes in outsourcing manufacturing to China the same way that companies like Samsung and Apple do, so that Smartron can focus more on the designing and engineering side of things. To do this, they’ve raised approximately $30 million from their investors, 90% of which has been spent exclusively on R&D. Coming in at number 4 now we have Mumbai-based Emotix.

Founded in 2014 by Chintan Raikar, Prashant Iyengar and Sneh Vaswani, Emotix spent their first few years doing R&D, before eventually launching their first personal robot called Miko in 2017, and then an updated version of this robot, Miko 2, in 2019. Now, these robots were designed, developed, and patented in India, but their assembly has taken place in both China and Taiwan, and then more recently in India as of 2019.

But let's talk a little bit about the Miko 2 which can interpret a child’s mood and behaviour using AI and computer vision, and also engage the child in educational conversations on predetermined topics that the child’s parent chooses using a smartphone app.

Besides this, these robots can be used to facilitate video calls between working parents and their kids. Miko 2s are being sold now in more than a 140 countries around the world, and so far, Emotix investors have pumped $50.4 million into the startup. Next up at #3 we have California-based smart fitness startup GOQii.

GOQii was founded in Mumbai by Vishal Gondal, a serial entrepreneur who sold his game development company Indiagames to Disney for $100 million in 2011, but building that startup had taken its toll. Vishal had gone from being fit and healthy to weighing over 100 kg and so in an effort to get back in shape, he used some of his exit money to start GOQii in 2014.

After some R&D, which was done in India, GoQii started selling wearable fitness devices, which were manufactured in China, to track vital health statistics like oxygen levels, blood pressure, and heart rate. Today, GOQii is the second-largest wristband wearables company in India by sales, second only to Xiaomi, with a 13.6% market share, and they’ve also raised $52.6 million from their investors.

Oh, and in late 2020, they announced that they were committed to shifting their manufacturing from China to India. Moving on to #2 now we have New Delhi-based Imagine Marketing. Founded by Aman Gupta and Sameer Mehta in 2013, Imagine Marketing launched the audio wearables brand Boat in 2016. Right away, they capitalised on India’s growing community of smartphone users by selling charging cables and adapters.

Then, as these users began streaming music with their new, affordable Jio 4G plans, Boat started selling speakers and earphones, and they were so successful with this that they’re now the world’s fifth-largest earwear brand. Then after audio hardware, they also got into smartwatches, and today, across all of their product lines, Boat sells more than 15,000 units a day and brought in revenue totalling ₹701 crore in the financial year of 2020, and a profit of ₹49 crore.

To date, the startup has raised a $116.3 million from their investors. A $100 million of which was raised in January of 2021 - they are gonna be using some of these funds to shift a majority of their manufacturing from China to India. And finally, coming in at number 1, we have Singapore-based robotics startup GreyOrange. Founded by Akash Gupta and Samay Kohli in Gurugram in 2011, GreyOrange is the perfect example of a hardware startup building from India for the world, as only about 10% of its revenue comes from Indian customers.

They have R&D centres in Gurugram and Boston, their prototyping happens in Shenzhen, and their robots, which are deployed in over 70 warehouses around the world, increase warehouse productivity and efficiency, and of course, they also lower costs by eliminating the need for a lot of human workers. So far, GreyOrange has raised $170 million from their investors and they’re also planning on going public in the United States through a SPAC at some point in 2021 or 2022 at a valuation between $1.5 and 1.7 billion.

All right, those were our picks for India's top 10 hardware startups. I hope you enjoyed the video, I hope you learned something from it and if you did it would mean a lot to us if you could hit the like button and also if you know of somebody who you think would enjoy this video then please do share it with them that would also mean a lot to us and also if you haven't already subscribed now would be a great time to do so.

We post new videos every single week about Indian startups, entrepreneurs and the latest news. Alright thank you guys so much for watching this episode of Backstage with Millionaires and I will see you in the next one.