By Perez Yeptho, Batch of 2019
Perez: Hello, thank you for your time, can you introduce yourself to our audience and also explain your start-up to us?
Shray: Alright, so my name is Shray Arora and currently I am a final year student of ECE at NSIT and I have been trying my hand at a few different ideas since my second year and finally we are working full fledged on this current one which is named ‘Near Us’ and we have developed this product named ‘NeX’. So we wanted to make television smarter, because everything around us is becoming technically smarter except our television. The advertisement engine on it pretty dumb and I can’t watch on-demand content on it, I can’t watch movies whenever I want to and this is what we wanted to change, and make our TVs more smarter. And that is what our aim is with this.
Perez: So from what I understand, would your main competitors be like the Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire Stick, Roku Device?
Shray: So, basically what Chromecast is a mirror device and not a stand-alone device, that you just plug-n-play to your television, what it does is just mirrors your mobile phone to the television. Now, let’s say I want to play a 1080p video which is a very standard video for a decent quality television that’s out there. You can’t play it on Chromecast because its just mirroring. So, high quality video suffer a lot on Chromecast, similarly Firestick has a very small ecosystem. So, they are working on an ecosystem, a version of Android’s operating system which is very limited. It’s probably, 40-50 applications and thats it on the Play Store and you can’t access any other application except that. So, Amazon Fire Stick really stumbles there, you can (play)use a lot of (videos)applications that are available for free on Android operating system on Firestick and Roku, so its a foreign company and when it comes to India, it suffers a lot, it doesn’t offer a lot of content for Indian consumers. Ya, so that’s where we thought that India needs a player.
Perez: How did you chance upon this idea? And how did you progress with it?
Shray: So, basically one fine day, my father was watching a match on Hotstar on his shop and he was like why can’t we actually watch it on television when I can watch it on my phone screen for free? So, basically belonging to a business family, yes we want to save money, so he was like Rs 700 kyun bharte hai TataSky ke? So, then I started to figure out okay there might be devices that I can watch, Hotstar or JioTV for that matter on my television. And, then bought some, used some, struggled with some and then finally figured out that it is pretty possible to create a device of our own and so lets do it. So, that is where we began.
Perez: So, this seems to be a very technical startup and one person can’t obviously go ahead with such a thing alone. So, how did you create a team and how did you coordinate?
Shray: Looking backwards, it really connects. This teammate of mine, Shray, two years junior to me. He had a very electronics-centric interest, and is studying electronics in an engineering college and he basically has experience of electronic board designing. In the last start-up, we were a part of, he became technically expert in circuit board designing and so he helped us in designing our entire board and stuff. So, we first got it manufactured from the US, because in India, you can’t really manufacture these boards at scale. So, we contacted some of the US companies and the cost coming out was not at all affordable for the people here in India. So, that is why we shifted our manufacturing, our first slot, the first 100 pieces from China, since everything is much cheaper there. So, he is the one who handles the electronics and you’ll be surprised to know that the Head Developer of our startup is currently in 12th standard. He develops in Android, he can do web designing as well. So, it’s just a bunch of people who are really interested to do something and don’t really care about the clichés.
Perez: Interesting, so how did you balance all this with college as well?
Shray: Good question. Basically, I was never really interested in college and studies and I figured it out in my first semester that college is something that I wouldn’t really care about a lot, although I had a motive to keep my percentage above 65 and I knew I couldn’t breach the 70% mark and it would take a lot of effort, so let’s stick to the 65-70 bracket where you are in a decent zone for a backup placement and that is what happened. It wasn’t really that difficult to score 65+.
Perez: What are the challenges that you faced once you decided upon pursuing this particular project or any other project in the past?
Shray: So, challenges varies according to the project. So, in my first project, UniLinks, there were a whole set of problems since I didn’t have a tech background. Nobody in the team had a very good tech background. So, we suffered a lot because there were a lot of inefficiencies in the entire processes that we took over. So, that is why I thought to do something else, because we weren’t really tech-oriented and it was becoming really inefficient to scale up. And, the next startup I thought of was very unrealistic. I wanted to measure how many people are there at a particular position at a point of time. So, I tried different means and again it was really unscalable. So, just do stuff. There are different challenges that you will face. With the current idea, I have a hell lot of competitors. I have competitors like Google, Amazon and probably Microsoft & Jio will be venturing into the space. So, there are a lot of challenges with every idea you get. You just need to figure out what your USPs are and stick to it.
Perez: So, what is your advice for all the students who might want to do a technical startup?
Shray: Just do it, even if you don’t know it, even I didn’t know it. In my 3rd semester, I started a venture named UniLinks. All I thought was that societies in colleges face a lot of problems with their publicity, reaching out to people and logistics and let’s solve that, because that is all I knew. I didn’t know any tech, I didn’t know anything. I just wanted to solve problems out there. So, I began with that and gradually I got that experience of technical stuff, coding. I do Deep Learning myself now. So, it all comes gradually, just stick you your basics, put in the hard work and just do it. Think a lot, think of the problems around you, no matter how big or small they are, go out and solve them, and this is what I’ll suggest.
Perez: Alright. Thanks a lot for your time!
Shray: My pleasure.
[You can visit and have a look at Shray’s startup and his first product, the NeX, on his website: http://nearus.co ]