Indian start-ups trickle into CES

10 January 2013 by Steve Blum
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India comes to the table.

“Everybody wants to do a start-up in India,” said Zafar Baig, a board member of Emo2, one of the few Indian companies that's exhibiting at CES this week. The problem is, investors and entrepreneurs are focused on software and services, not hardware. There's a belief that “design is not mature enough to be accepted globally. Software is an easy play.”

Only ten India-based companies are exhibiting, out of more than three thousand total on the show floor. “Start-up companies don't have the resources to exhibit here,” Baig said. They ask themselves “is it worth it to show product [at CES] when we should be building the company?”

Baig's venture is an exception. Emo2 provides retailers, hospitality companies, health providers and other businesses a consumer-facing walled garden of apps and content they can offer to customers on site.

Their biggest account is Cafe Coffee Day, with 1,300 locations around India serving 350 thousand customers daily. So far, they're in about a hundred locations. Customers sit down at a table with a built-in, 21-inch touch screen, and then browse the menu and use the store's own apps.

The platform can be customized with the retailer's own branding, content, advertising and apps. It runs on Linux and leverages India's rich ecosystem of software developers to deliver a tightly controlled customer experience.

“We provide the app store, iTunes and iCloud experience for any company,” Baig said. “We want to give to the enterprise what Apple gives to consumers.”