Work towards your strengths, surround yourself with the best people, and believe in yourself." - Sagar Apte, CarIQ
Founded in August 2012, CarIQ is a Pune based hardware startup by Sagar Apte. CarIQ helps make cars smarter by allowing the car and the driver to take decisions related to the car based on real time data. The CarIQ device is connected to the cloud and it allows the driver to manage, monitor and interact with the car.
We feel proud to present an exclusive interview with Sagar Apte to know more about CarIQ, the driving force behind CarIQ and the functions of the hardware device. Here we talk about the various technical challenges any hardware startup might face, Sagar's views on leadership and present education system, and his advice to engineers. Read on!
CE: Could you please detail our readers about CarIQ?
Sagar: CarIQ is India's first connected car platform. With CarIQ, owners can remotely manage, monitor, and interact with their vehicle. Your (now) smart car, can understand its condition, review your driving pattern, and notify you of critical actions that need to be taken. Something as common as the head lights being left ON when parked, to something as critical as identifying a potential engine breakdown, is now possible. Your car will notify you to take action! There are 101 things your car wants to tell you. Start listening!
CarIQ is an ecosystem play where we are not addressing just bits of the problem such as vehicle tracking, or road safety. We are building a larger play between all the service providers to the car owners such as workshops, insurance, breakdown assistance, safety, and many more. Not many players are looking at a complete stack to address the various needs of this segment.
CE: What was going on in your mind when you decided to startup with something in the automotive technology domain?
Sagar: It was this experience of my purchase of Hyundai i20 a few years ago, which made me aware of an acute problem. When I made the purchase, I knew what car, make, and model I wanted to buy. I knew what mileage to expect, I read reviews, and before I went to the dealer, the decision was already made. There was so much information available to help me buy. But I was not ready for what happened after the purchase. I had to set manual service reminders, I was not aware whether my car was performing as expected. I was apprehensive when I left my new ride parked for hours at open parking places. I just wished, - what if my car was a smart car and managed this for me? Wouldn't it be cool, if my car could detect problems, remind me of service alerts, or tell me its location even if I was not in the car. That lead me to first investigate mechanical add-on to get this data until I realised that cars have computers, and those computers can talk. I can get data on performance, condition, and even potential unseen problems. That was it. I knew I had to harness this data to convert into meaningful insights.
CE: How does CarIQ work? Is it compatible with all the models of automotives?
Sagar: CarIQ device is simple plug 'n' play. Even a smart ten-year-old kid can connect this to a car. You do not need to open the bonnet. Just open the door, look for a connector (OBD) near the steering wheel and connect the device. Once connected, the device intelligently understands the car it is connected to, and configures itself.
The plugged-in device collects information from the car. This collected data is securely transmitted to the CarIQ platform, which then translates that data into meaningful information. These actionable insights, in the form of alerts, reminders, and insights are then displayed on our intuitive apps (iOS/Android/Web).
Here are some of the features that CarIQ supports:
- Critical alerts
- Technical problems with your car
- Service alerts
- Battery monitor and health
- 'Headlight On' warning
- Location information
- Statistics sharing on Facebook and Twitter
- Social badges for driver, car condition, etc.
- Towing alerts
- Crash alert
- Over-speeding alerts
- Rash driving identification
- Personalized tips for driving (based on your driving pattern)
- Fuel economy
- Download Entire car driving data
Our device works with car models build after year 2008.
CE: You completed your engineering back in 1997. What are your views on the present education system?
Sagar: The education system never changes, the environment does. Today students have access to vast resources through the Internet. Knowledge is so easily available. While we faced the problem of scarcity, the students today face the problem of abundance. I think students today can achieve much more than what was possible in the past.
CE: You have more than 15 years of rich experience. You have managed teams across support, marketing, sales, product management and engineering. Tell us about a time when you made mistakes in leadership. How did you deal with it?
Sagar: There was this one time when I was leading a support team of super experts in Linux technology. I decided that I needed to show the team that I knew stuff too, and so I decided to train them on Windows. Ten minutes into the training and one of the guys said 'Boss, we know this. Anything more complex?'. Ha Ha ha ha, There and then I knew that this team was much more knowledgeable than me, and that my role was different. It was to set a vision for the team, play the role of a roadblock remover. And it worked superbly for us! Together we built a team that was much sought after.
Lesson: Work towards your strengths, surround yourself with the best people, and believe in yourself.
CE: How big is the market that you are targeting with CarIQ?
Sagar: For CarIQ, we are talking about a 1.5 crore plus market. And that is India alone. We are looking at a worldwide play!
CE: The device has been under research for more than 18 months. What were the major technical challenges the team had to face?
Sagar: Building a Product out of India can be challenging. The biggest hurdle we faced was getting a team together which was willing to work with limited budget and yet work on a project that would be meeting world standards. We managed to pull it off and the results are here to see.
The CarIQ Team
CE: What according to you is the biggest factor that slows growth of any startup business?
Nimbleness is that one factor that any startup should not drop. This one quality alone can help a startup keep their ears to the ground and take advantages of opportunities.
CE: What would be your advice to engineers who aim to be entrepreneurs?
Sagar: Engineering is only one facet of business. If you are interested in becoming an entrepreneur, then keep learning other parts of business like finance and marketing. Better still partner with folks who are from business side and cover your weak side.
CE: Thank you for your time. Any message for engineers?
Sagar: Always remember, "Engineers build the new world!