Q&A with Sagar Apte, Founder & CEO, CarIQ – India’s first Connected Car Platform

CarIQ, started in August 2012, launched the product this past week. Car owners and enthusiasts can now get their hands on their very own CarIQ device by per-ordering it! CarIQ is one of the few Indian startups in the domain of connected cars, with primary focus on Indian auto market. This past week ProductNation interviewed Sagar Apte, Founder and CEO of CarIQ. In this conversation over coffee, Sagar explains about the birth of CarIQ, challenges of building Indian hardware startup, his vision and much more…

How did the idea of CarIQ into being?

Sagar ApteIt was the 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.

How would you describe CarIQ?

Cars today are way more intelligent than their predecessors. They are self-healing, with data processing capabilities. Cars know which component is failing, they can identify how one is driving the car, they are aware of the road conditions, the weather, and even the fuel supplied. What they lack is a window to the world, where this data can be gathered and shared for intelligent decision-making. Imagine the possibilities of cars that transmit their data, collect information, and are able to direct the car owners to act on them.

Connected Car Ecosystem
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.

What are the key execution challenges you have faced?

Building hardware product requires a team that can work across domains. One needs hardware design engineers, embedded programmers, software engineers, right up to folks who can manage production, purchase, and customer support. Sometimes hardware problems simply need time to solve, and a lot of grit. At times, we were at our wits end on what was happening. Let me tell you one such incident. About 14 months back, our hardware was working well with BSNL but would not work with any other provider. It would randomly (at least that’s what we thought) catch signals. We later realised our office was on the 1st floor of a high-rise building with BSNL tower right on the top. We then made some changes to handle this and the problem went along.
CarIQ Product Render

We went through multiple iterations of form and fit to finalize the current device design.

What are your plans to get product adoption?

Hardware plays have to be carefully planned. One needs to plan for shipment, recalls, awesome after-sales support, and ability to serve customers with the best service. With the language barriers, telecom players with state-specific licenses, and certain courier players better suited for certain regions, one agreement won’t fit all. This means working with different players, and managing individual relationships. And that’s exactly what we did. We spent more than 18 months not only in research and development, but also working through various business aspects. We engaged with experts in industrial design, production, and shipping to put a plan in place that will not only scale, but also provide that awesome experience we want for our customers.

Can you give a sneak peek of your product?

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.

CarIQ Technology

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).

CarIQ MobileApp Features

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

How do you see CarIQ evolving?
CarIQ intends to become ‘the’ player that will connect various players in the eco-system at large. The coming period is going to be important and exciting for us. We will be working with car dealers, insurance companies, auto manufacturers, telecom companies, and breakdown assistance providers. We will solve problems for various ecosystem players with focus on car owners, to bring a host of more features, which brings the ‘fun’ back into driving and car ownership. In parallel we are also planning to take the CarIQ offering internationally to geographies such as South East Asia and the Middle East. This will mean working and solving problems related to scale, hiring, and distributions.