It was a moment of bitter realisation for Pavneet Singh Puri and Madhur Mehta when they returned to Delhi in late 2014 after spending around three years in Australia developing Androidly, the world’s first smart watch. Since leaving a country that has the cleanest air in the world, they were appalled that the air quality level in their homeland had taken a steep dive. A few months later Pavneet’s sister along with her seven month old arrived from Melbourne only to see the child struggling to breathe. “It was shocking, but what shocked us even more was that nobody was doing anything about it,” remembers Mehta. Deciding to take on the problem, Mehta and Puri set about creating Kurin, the world’s first smart air purifier.
There was no dearth of purifiers in the market, but all of them had a common problem. They were designed for Europe where the conditions were 10x better than India. So the team spent a year designing a purifier with ‘India-specific’ features which meant not just better efficiency but also aesthetics. Aimed at a tech crazy country like India meant it also had to be one notch higher than the available products. These smart purifiers can be controlled from anywhere using a smart phone app and can tell its owner the air quality level at his home as well as the city.
With their designs ready, the team proposed to Foxconn, which had earlier approached them for Androidly in 2013. It was an affirmative from the manufacturing giant. With a good headstart and a year and half of product rework, Kurin’s first sale happened in August 2016 — even before the company’s incorporation in October 2016. Kurin’s 150 odd devices began cleaning the three storeyed building of Delhi-based law firm Luthra & Luthra. That was the beginning and customers started walking in one after the other, including the likes of ITC group of hotels and Park Hospital.
The team shifted their focus to consumers when B2B sales began gaining momentum, but the challenge was slightly different. The purifier would provide clean air at home, but the consumer would still be breathing polluted air outside. When pollution reached its peak in Delhi post Diwali last year, masks flew off the shelves for prices as high as Rs.5,000. Not many of the desperate city dwellers knew that PM 2.5 which caused major pollution was 1/30th the size of a hair strand and could easily enter one’s lungs even with the mask on.
This prompted Kurin to come up with its 7 inch portable air purifier, Kurin Atom. The device, which can be easily carried around in a pocket or a bag, comes with a mask and ensures clean air supply no matter where you are, according to the founders. The small team comprising 10-12 people has sold around 1,100 devices so far fetching revenue north of Rs.1 crore till date. Around 75% of Kurin's sales have happened through B2B.
The company, which doesn’t want to limit itself to India, is testing waters in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and has plans to get into Australia. “We have just shipped out samples to Dubai and Kuwait. Pollution levels aren't high there, but there is a very big dust problem. Australia has a serious pollen problem too,” says Mehta.
Having started with an initial investment of Rs.50 lakh, the company is now targeting big industries and schools to scale further up. “Air purification is something which we look at like the RO system. When RO water was introduced no one accepted it, everybody was happy with their Aquaguard. But after sometime it became a necessity. I don’t see the air condition becoming better any time soon. So we are looking at a lot of projects and doing things at a bigger scale,” Mehta says and adds to it, “We know money is essential to sustain any business. But more than making money, we want to bring in change.”