i2e1 says that according to TRAI estimates, till 2016 there were only 30,000 hotspots in the country against the need of more than 1 million.
i2e1 has developed a hotspot management layer that offers retailers and venue-owners the ability to share a portion of their bandwidth that usually remains unutilised with their customers. It helps bridge the access and affordability gap for users while providing its clients increased customer engagement, insights and data-driven decision making akin to Google Analytics. “While there is an intelligent platform like Google for the online space, which is used by almost every Internet company, there is no single unified platform like this for offline businesses,” says Satyam Darmora, a co-founder.
i2e1’s insights help retail companies
understand industry trends, brands understand consumer behavior and non-banking finance companies
underwrite and manage small merchant loans. The start-up also provides real estate companies
real-time traffic insights and research agencies multiple use cases.
While users enjoy free wifi, i2e1’s machine learning algorithm collects business insights for merchants. i2e1 claims there is no other Indian company in this space yet. “i2e1’s technology transforms a regular router into a wifi hotspot that can be managed remotely from anywhere in the world. This makes it the most affordable and most customisable wifi platform. We have the capability to convert any place into a manageable wifi hotspot in less than two minutes,” says the founder.
Airtel, Puma, Ola Shuttle, Redbus and Nestaway are some of i2e1’s clients.
India’s broadband penetration of 7 per cent is well below the global average of 46 per cent. A business model anchored in analytics can open up the potential in the $650 billion Indian offline retail market. Offline retail is much larger than online in even developed countries like the US. “This is the most affordable way to provide wifi to consumers. We provide wifi in paan shops, free of cost, by effectively monetising our analytics engine? Thousands of these people are first-time Internet users,” Darmora explains.
“Our innovation has made even better results possible with machines that cost less than Rs 1,000,” he adds.
i2e1 earns its revenue from sales of hotspot machines and services that include a CRM module and analytics. It charges Rs 6,000-7,000 annually for CRM and Rs 15,000 for analytics from small merchants having one outlet. The charges are customised for large chains.
In 2016-17, the start-up closed the year with $750,000 revenue and it aims to close the current year with $1.5 million.
i2e1 is present in more than 4,000 locations, managing free wifi. It has a large presence in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. We are now present in more than 60 cities and countries like Somalia, Dubai and Bhutan,” says the founder.
It aims to create 25,000 hotspots directly and another 100,000 through its partners in next 18-24 months.
i2e1 plans to utilise the funds it raised recently to scale up operations and launch a mobile application.
Expert Take: Interesting concept but expensive
Neeraj Jain, Founder & CEO of Zopper.com
The concept is very interesting and there are a few other companies that are trying to solve a similar problem. Depending on the depth and relevance of the analytics, it can add significant value to a merchant's business. It is solving a big problem of capturing store visitors’ data. Retailers find it very difficult to capture any information about the customer so the value-add on data capture is significant. It will take multiple interactions with the same device (mobile phone mostly) and some involvement from the customer and the retailer to create a rich profile of the customer. Once that hurdle is crossed, I am sure it will help retailers in growing their business. One other challenge will be that a vast majority of retailers seek instant results. Moreover, the pricing seems to be high for a small single store retailer.