Q. Please tell us about your company Evoxyz.
Ans. Evoxyz is an IoT tech start-up incepted in the year 2014 with the prime goal of building child safety solutions using technology. In the past few years, lot of child safety incidents have started cropping up and lot of reporting is happening which is good because it tells that people and government are paying attention. Whenever a child is away from parents, they worry if he or she is safe or not. When I was young and in grade 4 or 5, I used to go to the school on cycle. When I grew up some more and started taking the bus, I used to go the school and came back home on my own. My mother or nobody else escorted me. But today, my daughter is 11 years old and I can’t imagine that she can come alone from her bus stop to home. There has to be somebody to receive her. Children are becoming more and more vulnerable due to increase in social problems and criminal activities. We have to try all means to make the environment safe for our children. It is not only our government’s job to make the ecosystem safe. We should all try our bit. So Evoxyz is trying to do that bit. We feel that in past few years, lot of technology has grown up; we talk about social media, facebook live, whatsapp, communication but have you seen people using this advancement of technology for a social cause like child safety or women safety? That is what we are trying to do at Evoxyz that lets us use the power of technology and communication for a social cause like child safety. This is the first step towards creating that ecosystem. In next five years, who knows, maybe, every child would have a device just like everybody has a Smartphone! And then, that is the tool, the arm and ammunition that a child needs to feel safe.
Q. How is Evoxyz different from all the existing child safety solutions?
Ans. Present safety solutions for outdoor locations work well but when you get inside, GPS does not work. You would be surprised, research tells us that most of the incidents happen in indoor premises where children are supposed to be safe but they happen because our kids are surrounded with malicious intentions. You don’t know what the maids and drivers are thinking? And that is the time when using technology, we should be able to alert the right people at the right time that an incident is about to happen or the child should have some mechanism to inform that ‘I am getting into trouble, please reach me.’ It should be in a jiffy, it should be quick! So, that is what Evoxyz is attempting to do, through technology.
Q. What are the exact solutions that Evoxyz provide?
Ans. We have our own patented algorithm which is in the area of indoor location because for outdoor locations everyone knows, it works so well, Google has done so much in that area. So, when we started in 2014, we did indoor location algorithms wherein a piece of hardware gets deployed in the school or in any institute and a child is given a small tag known as a Evotag which is wearable. It could be a bracelet or I-card. In schools, we generally sell our I-cards. The child wears that I-card and once he enters the school, you can locate where the child is within the school premises, whether he is in the swimming pool or he is in the washroom. If he is in the washroom for more than 20 minutes, an alert will go to the security department. Security can then come quickly and check why the child is there for so long, is it a health issue or a security issue? If the child is near the swimming pool and it is not his designated period, an alert will go to the security department. They will go and check. If an incident is about to happen, it can be avoided. So, those are the alerts that we are giving in the indoor premises.
Parents were happy with this but they say our child travels through bus to the school and back, what about when my child is in transit? So, we integrated our technology and we gave all those alerts to parents. When the child boards a bus and when he disembarks, the parents get an alert. They are able to see the live tracking of the bus on the mobile app like radio taxis. So, within school premises, we show Harry Potter’s Hogwart’s map, that’s what we call it, the Marauder’s Map. So, when child travels within the premises, parents are able to see the footprints and when the child is in the bus, the parents are able to see it on the map? So, they can also plan about picking up the child.
When we did bus tracking thing, the parents loved it but they said, it was not enough. Their children went to other classes or places like for football matches etc. What about that? So, we said yes, we need to fix that as well. On the other side, there were some parents who said, they loved our products and want them for child safety but the schools were not providing them. So, there was a dependency on school. So, now we are coming up with a new product where it will be a globally trackable device, parents don’t have to depend on anybody. They will buy it from online retail channels like Amazon, Flipcart, Shopclues etc.
The moment they buy the device and the child wears it, as a service, the parents will get all the alerts on the companion apps. They will come to know where the child is, whether he is in a safe or unsafe area. Parents can also publish that a particular area is not safe and this information will be given to other parents too. Most important thing, by our analysis, when a child is in a trouble, we will send the alerts to that guardian who is closest to the child at that point of time. So, when you download the app, you’re going to publish that these are the ten guardians. We will ask that as these guardian are going to be likely around the child’s route, do you want to agree them to be your child’s guardian? When you say yes, even if you are not close to your child but someone else from among these guardians are nearby child, they will get the alert and they may go help the child. That’s what’s unique about our product. Eventually we may link it to the government agencies or to police control room.
Q. What is the USP of your product?
Ans. These features that I am talking about can be built by anybody in few days. But the way we are differentiating is, we are not selling a device, we are selling safety as a service. That one device is just a way of addressing that service. When your child is in school, you need our service through Evoschool solution but tomorrow you can also take that solution in form of other devices. Tomorrow, we want to create that ecosystem where people buy Evoxyz service and hardware can be bought from anywhere. All that transactional thing that happens between the parents (through companion apps) and our servers is what we call as a service.
Q. Till now, what places have been able to get your services?
Ans. Our current solutions are deployed mostly in North India. We have deployments in Ludhiana, Gurgaon, Delhi, as far as Aurangabad in Maharashtra. These are our B2B solutions. The new solution which we are coming up with, is a global solution. Currently, we are going to sell it in India and Pan Asia and eventually, we’ll migrate to the US, Australia, Newzealand as well. We get queries from there.
Q. How do you feel after winning the Tipping Point 1.0, the pitching competition for identifying, mentoring and providing maximum visibility for women entrepreneurs, organized by Global Women’s Network (GWN) and KarmaCircles (KC)?
Ans. It has given us a lot of visibility in the start-up investor network. I think, we won because we are doing something that will impact lives. That was a very strong point for us to be one of the winners. The only part is that we are trying to solve a real pain problem and the vision which we feel that it will help others is what made us win it. We feel satisfied and nice that people acknowledge the work we are doing. So, yes, Tipping point has been a turning point
Q. Why do you care so much about this issue?
Ans. I strongly feel that every child is my child. Why should anyone suffer. Current statistics share that 53% children go through child sodomization. Haven’t all of us gone through it somewhere, haven’t we, when we were young? There were these uncles that used to do stuff with us. It happens with all of us. Why? Why should it happen? I always felt that I need to use my strengths to solve this issue in someway. And I am good at technology so I thought, let’s use something that I am good at to solve this issue in some way. The motivation definitely was this thing that series of incidents were happening, even in my close proximity. Today, it was my friends’ children, tomorrow, it could be mine. That was the driving factor for me. I said to myself, “Shilpa, go do something so that once you go, you leave something behind which is useful for society.”
Q. When you say, you are good at technology, can you tell the readers about your student life and work life and how you gained this technological knowhow?
Ans. I am an engineer by education. I have done engineering from Tech University of Chandigarh, the same place where my father studied. He was also an engineer and I wanted to become an engineer like him. After completing engineering, I joined the R&D department of the Department of Telematics, C-DOT. They used to do telecom software. Few years back suddenly there came a time when getting a fixed line at home became very easy as compared to earlier days when you needed to wait for 4-8 years. Now you could pay Rs. 1500, and get a fixed line at home almost instantly. This was due to C-Dot innovations and new local exchanges. There was a telecom revolution in India. I was a part of it. We implemented that code and all those things.
After that I joined the corporate world with groups like Aricent and Hughes and there I led big teams and worked around software services projects across the globe with customers in Japan, US, Europe. I have travelled a lot and have done that for 18 years. After that I realized that I should start something of my own, do something that it makes a difference. That’s how Evoxyz was incepted in 2014. So, yes, technology is my educational background, business I learnt as a part of my 18 years’ experience in the corporate world.
Q. Was there a time when you had to stay back at home?
Ans. I have always been working. I am a very ambitious person. But yes, there was a time when I had to take a long break during my pregnancy, just before my baby came. After that also, I was on a three months’ maternity leave and had to extend it further. So, close to 7 months, I wasn’t working. That’s the only time, I remember not working. I have very good memories of that time too as I got a chance to spend a lot of time with my family, taking care of my baby. The only fear that came into me was that, I’ll have to start afresh. I thought, everyone would forget about the good work I had done in my past career. I also had a strong fear of getting out of touch of things, I thought, I would forget everything.
Q. How did you face these challenges when you came back to work again?
Ans. Man or woman, whoever goes for a sabbatical for these many months are treated equally because you are out of the system. The lucky part for me was that I went to the same kind of system and people, I had a good reputation already. The other thing is, family support system. It is very important. I always encourage women who have family responsibilities to nurture their relationships with the family because that is what makes your career. I have an amazing family support system. My in-laws are the best in-laws in the world. My husband is my best friend. He has always encouraged me to go out, experiment with things and the like. The reason I feel is, there is a set of time that I have invested with them in terms of meeting their needs and now they are giving back. I can easily say that whatever I have achieved is because of me but that’s not true. There is an entire village behind you to make you what you are today. I always tell women whom I come across to please invest in their family and friends. Invest time and strength to build that bond, it’s the best investment you can do. That is really what has helped me to come out of the challenges. And of course, your studies, it’s like cycling, you don’t forget it. Everything comes back, so you should not worry.
Q. What other advice would you give to women out there?
Ans. It’s very easy to say but still I will say, they should be fearless in all respect. The reason many women, I feel, are not able to, in case they don’t have good family support system, they succumb to it; they feel, I don’t have a support system, let me not do it. They fear that they might lose their family so they take decisions that are not favourable to their career aspirations. I am not saying that don’t sacrifice, because to nurture a bond, you will have to sacrifice a few things, but strike a balance. That is important. It’s easier said than done but be fearless. Go ahead and take steps. All women have this immense power of making the right decision.
Q. What’s the first step that these women can take?
Ans. The first step can be to believe in yourself. ‘I Can DO It!’ is the most important thing and I will do it come what may. That is the first step they have to take. Once this belief comes, then they have to intelligently carve out a plan. Suppose I am a housewife and I want to be a working mom. I have this educational background and now I have to start looking for jobs. You don’t have to wait for your husband or son to come home and configure naukri dot com for you, Google it. You have to do it yourself. If you can’t, go to a friend, walk down to the nearby friend and tell her. Please leave the dependency on others. That is the first step. As women, we become so centred around the world we have at home that we start getting dependent on others for the outside world. Move that dependency. If you want something from market, go do it yourself, don’t wait for others to come back home. If you are not mobile, please take taxi, auto, rickshaw to go to the market. Please walk down to the nearby market, don’t wait for your husband to come back in the evening. Poor guy is already so tired. Also, talk to people.
Q. Is there any challenge that you face as a start-up?
Ans. Challenges are there in a start-up from day one. The biggest is, it’s a roller coaster ride, some days are very good, and some very bad when it seems nothing will go right. You need to become agnostic to it. You need to become so strong from within that nothing could impact you. That’s a life of an entrepreneur. The second most important challenge I think is, that your core team needs to be very well bonded. A start-up is a team work. It does well or doesn’t do well because of the team it has. So, the co-founding team has to be very strong, in terms of not only their expertise or excellence in execution of their domain work but also in terms of bonding between each other. It is like rearing up a child together. Third thing is, it is very difficult to retain talent within your organization because a start up can’t show you a 10 year or 20 year visibility. Start-ups are agile, they change every day because they have to make it work and people who do jobs are not tuned to this kind of environment. They will do a job well but they want predictability in life. Start-up life is not that predictable. It’s full of challenges and learning, the growth is very high but it’s not predictable. So, we need to pay them high, for retention. Having said that, I must also accept that I have been lucky enough to have a great team culture within our organization. We are 2 years old and most of the people have joined us when we started. Very few people have left. The kind of talking we do every day, we make our employees feel that they are Evoxyz. So we invest in that, as I told you, I try to invest in the bonds with the people.
Q. Was there any challenge because of your being a woman?
Ans. Interestingly, I always get this question. Times are changing, trust me, and I think as women, we should stop using our gender as a scapegoat. I strongly feel, gender bias is over rated. You should try to fight all your wars based on your merit and not gender. I know women safety is a key issue and there is a separate coach for women in metro trains. Hadn’t there been a mindset issue in our country, don’t you think it’s not right when a man is sitting on a women’s seat and a woman comes after and the poor guy has to stand up so that the woman can sit there! Why? We all are same age, same power, same strength, why do I have more right to sit on that seat? That shouldn’t be the case. While I appreciate the fact that by segregation, they are trying to create a safer environment for women, which is fine but giving some freebies just like if I am an outcast, is not a great idea.
Coming back to the question of challenge, the world is more acceptable to women being entrepreneur, I get all due respect. In fact, sometimes I get benefit of being a woman entrepreneur. In a sales call, when women go for a meeting, at least, people sit and listen to her. Sometimes, they throw the men out because they don’t want to buy your solution. I have this positive feeling because I go to so many schools with my sales team, they are very polite and offer tea, snacks etc. My sales team say, they never do it when they go on their own, its only when I am with the team. In India, there is a set of people who respect women so not everyone is alike and I think, generalizing and branding is not a good idea. Although it’s still a problem in a large part of our country but things are changing. More and more women are coming out. When I was young, very less women used to drive car and people used to look at her but today that doesn’t happen. When my father was in the engineering school, there was only one girl but when I was there, there were 35 girls. Isn’t that a change. Women just need to be fearless and believe that everything’s going to be fine.
Q. What was that moment when you felt most satisfied?
Ans. I can give many instances but the most important instance I want to talk about here is, we incepted Evoschool, it was deployed in schools and the most satisfying event was that one of the child was stuck in a bathroom and they were trying to locate the child within the school but were not able to find him. Then they suddenly realized that they had this Evoschool solution in their school. Using it, they could see the child in the washroom. So, in fifteen minutes, they were there where child was accidentally locked. The principal called me up and told me about this incident. When I knew that using our solution, they found out the kid, I felt so satisfied. Thank God, there was not a big issue but even if it was a small issue, our technology helped. So, when my technology helps and impacts life in very small ways, I feel very satisfied.
Q. Do you have any regrets?
Ans. No, no regrets.
Q. What is that one sentence, quote or word that describes you the best?
Ans. #worriedmom (Laughter)! But as an individual, I think, I am extremely passionate person who wants to impact the lives of people and it’s a passion for me that my contribution should impact somebody’s life. So, that is what defines me. The passion to impact others’ lives, that’s what Shilpa is.
Q. Anything that I haven’t asked you but you want readers to know that?
Ans. There are lots of intelligent people in our country and women have this amazing power of multitasking. They can take care of house and work with equal conviction and beauty. The only thing that I really want to say is that a comfortable life and a fat pay cheque is the biggest deterrent for you to take the plunge and do something that impact others. So, please come out of your comfort zone. Even if you have thought it for once that ‘if I could have done this’- go and do it. You have only one life, who knows, and so do it!
Shilpa’s exemplary passion to touch lives and her clear thinking about how to impact lives show why women make successful entrepreneurs.
If SHE Can, YOU Can!