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There will never be a ‘can’t connect’ moment when you find yourself in a Sugarbox zone. That’s why the company is expanding far and wide to increase its network reach.

 

The inspiration for Sugarbox came from Mr. Rohit Paranjpe, CEO, SugarBox Network’s, earlier experiences. Back in 2014-15, when Rohit was running an OTT service during the pre-Jio era, he started facing network problems, which were way too magnified as compared to the internet problems users’ face today. So, the major reasons why people were unable to stream were that the 3G penetration and the data speed was really bad.

In order to solve this consumer problem company’s started providing faster internet, which became more expensive. That’s the gap Sugarbox wanted to fill in and almost like TV, Rohit wanted to find a way in which via the switch on/off and integrated cast model, where you pay for the connection and the content comes along with it or you pay for the content the connection comes along with it, the Sugarbox connection would work. Further elaborating on how Rohit was able to find the right kind of technology for establishing Sugarbox, he went on to talk about the brand’s future and prospects.

The starting point
From a company standpoint and what it looks like to us, we typically operate on three pillars one is how can we increase the availability of internet services, second is how can we make the digital experience of any consumer across the world seamless or reliable, and lastly how can you make the cost of ownership for the consumer less.

On the availability front, we look at some key parts, one is of course how do we increase the base, how do you get people who have never used the internet et on the cycle of just getting a prepaid connection and a basic smartphone, the second is identifying where the digital ecosystem is struggling the most, the sweetest answer we found is in the travel segment. My affinity to consume content is the highest when travelling and that’s where the internet suffers the most. The third is from a productivity standpoint, maybe I forgot to order groceries in the morning can I do it on the way, or can I learn, can I upscale, can I do a course. The reliability and affordability come as a core feature of our product.

The base point is, close to 90% of consumption happens between travel, work, and home, and out of this close to 70% is what we call static file. So, from that idea of static files, we wanted to see whether we can make these smarter, whether we can attach it to a particular place that gives us a predictable demographic? From a consumer standpoint, with the amount of apps and services coming in, the internet is also becoming crowded, we are the educated users which probably constitutes only 10% of the base, but the lower end of the spectrum is confused as to what the internet has to offer, so can we curate something contextual for them. This is the long term goal we have, not only to make the internet reliable and faster but also contextual.

Making it seamless
There are two core parts of the technology we utilise, what we do already exists on the internet ecosystem, it’s called a CDN, it has existed for 20-25 years. A CDN is what allows millions of consumers across the world to access Netflix or Amazon. With more and more people using the internet and with our expectations of video quality going from HD to QHD to 4K, the individual size of the data is also increasing. This is adding an exponential burden on the internet, what we are doing is creating another last mile of the internet that had not existed, so now the internet becomes far more reliable, far more cheaper and optimized by literally using something, which is a technology hack. LAN as a concept has existed forever, CDN’s as a concept have existed forever, we have just sort of tied all these things together to make a scalable platform that can truly help the internet grow in a reliable and affordable fashion.

You as a consumer are accessing a service and your entire relationship is with that service, let’s forget for once we’re in the Vodafone or the Jio age where we buy a connection from the ISP and access all of these services. Let’s go back to the TV age we just bought one connection and that gave us access to everything. We’re saying you don’t need to buy a connection at all, you access the service directly, I’m going to set up a network where you spend most of your time and this is a hyperlocal network. And while you’re in this place, I’m offsetting the internet’s CDN and using my CDN. Today what happens is Netfilx works with a CDN to make the data available close to you and you work with and ISP to reach to that server to pull down that data, which is why Netflix pays the CDN and you pay the ISP or telecom. What we’re doing is we are a CDN but we’re so close to the user that the user doesn’t need to use the internet at all, because it’s available on the users LAN.

You don’t pay anybody because LAN is free but I end up hosting the data for Netflix, so Netflix pays me.

We work with the app services, so it becomes a three step model for us. One is we work as a CDN, the second is we have last mile presence, and thirdly, we have direct consumer presence. We work with our partners on both fronts. For example, we’ve worked with Zee 5, there is a functionality within Zee 5 to look for the nearest Sugarbox zone and that is how the mutual discovery works. This means, either I get into Zee 5 and see where can I stream this faster and easier or I get into a Sugarbox zone and see what all services are available there.

Looking into the future
In 2020, we’re looking at 4 key verticals. First obviously is infotainment and we are already doing video OTT, next coming up is games, after games is audio. The second obviously is the e-commerce part, and obviously under e-commerce you have fashion, electronics and your hyperlocal services, like UrbanClap. Since our model is travel based, we’re thinking if we can time the last mile mobility for you, let’s say I’m taking a train from Ghatkopar to Andheri East, then I need to take an auto from the station. The question is while I’m in the train can I seamlessly order an Ola auto, also when I’m getting down at the station can I order a coffee or something to eat, can we tie that down too. So these are the 4 things that we’re working on from a consumer point of view.

For the app partners, the problem they face is that they are unable to monetize these consumers when they are offline. For example the problem that game providers in India face is that most of the time people play games when they travel, most of the time they are offline, so they are unable to monetize a huge chunk of the consumption. So, we’re looking for ways in which just as the consumers are getting seamless access, the app partners should also be able to profit, so the offline ad platform is something charted out for this year.

Currently, I think our largest presence from a user perspective is Hyderabad, so about 40,0,000 people travel using our network. From a number of touchpoints, or points of interest Bombay is the largest. We also have presence in Chennai, Chennai metro as a whole is being wired right now. In Mumbai we’re wiring the suburban train portion except central all trains are being wired. In addition to this we’re wiring the Navi Mumbai municipal busses, then the ac busses that travel from Navi Mumbai to town. Then a bunch of smaller contracts in terms of multiple hospitals and malls, we also do this thing where we’ve powered slums, we’ve done about 10-11 in Mumbai and we will try to replicate it elsewhere. We have done a few hotels, restaurants, cafes, co-living spaces where students stay. In terms of cities we are present in about 9 cities, Hyderabad, Chennai, Mumbai, Pune, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Delhi, and Goa. Major presence coming up in Chennai and soon in Bangalore and Delhi. As I said, we’re going down to the gram panchayat level, so we’re doing a 100 gram panchayats as we -speak in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttarakhand.
The interesting question is how do you calculate market share, the way we look at market share is the amount of digital data being consumed and what per cent of data in India do we throughput. Our goal for 2021 is to contribute to about 15% of the data consumption in India.