Detect Technologies is an IoT-based start-up which creates intelligent asset monitoring and inspection solutions. Detect Technologies stands at the intersection of patented hardware and intelligent algorithms, and creates value for its industry partners by enabling development of real predictive capability.
Founded by four IITM alums, headquartered at IITM Research Park, and with all its four founders listed in Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2019, Detect has been scaling new peaks of success ever since it was incorporated in 2016. T5E sits down with Daniel Raj David, a graduate of the Batch of 2017 and the CEO of Detect, to walk through Detect’s journey and decode Detect’s success mantra.
T5E: Can you give us a bit of background about Detect and the people behind it?
I was a dual degree mechanical engineering student, and it was during my sophomore year when I was working on a project with Prof. Krishnan Balasubramanian that I met Tarun Mishra, a 2013 graduate who is one of the founding members of Detect. Tarun, along with Prof. Krishnan, during the former’s time in IIT Madras, invented a material that could generate ultrasonic signals at high temperatures. This could be exploited in a lot of industries, oil and gas for example. We didn’t start up at that point, though, and Tarun started working with Reliance. It was then that he saw the potential of what Detect does today. I was working with Prof. Krishnan to make this functional across high temperature pipelines, and it was there that I met our other founders, Hari – my batchmate, and Karthik – an Electrical Engineering major who was one year senior to me. With three different majors between the four of us, ours was truly an inter-disciplinary start-up.
T5E: How did you manage to wade through your initial struggles?
Except for one founder, we were all still students when Detect was conceptualised, and we found ourselves in situations that expected us to deal with the people from the big leagues- oil and gas clients who were very professional. The oil and gas industry was very complex, so we had to understand and develop insights into the industry at a young age. We also had to manage our workforce of around 40-50 people. 2014 was when things went into full throttle. Handling investors, business, and technology- all of that while still being in IITM was the demanding part. But with valuable inputs from Prof. Krishnan, we managed to pull it off and now we’ve gotten used to the grind!
T5E: Detect was one of the pioneers of the “interning in a start-up” culture in Insti, back from 2013. How was your experience, and how did CFI and the IIT tag help you scale?
Most of our Research and Development (which we still put to use in our future projects) has been built by the people who we recruited from Insti since 2013. We have around 13 R&D departments now. You name it and we’ve got it!
When we started, we didn’t have much money. We were managing from our initial investors and the money we pulled in from Reliance’s investment. (Now we’ve raised closed to four billion dollars!) Back in the day, we were on the lookout for a bunch of passionate people willing to go the extra mile and push their limits to do groundbreaking work. We were fortunate to find the right people who were solely driven by passion and the feeling that they were part of something bigger than themselves. The incentive was that they were creating patent-worthy technologies that would directly be put to use in refineries and plants. Although we, as a start-up, weren’t directly a part of CFI, most of our core members were present or ex-heads of CFI Clubs. So, in that way, we are extremely thankful to CFI for fostering the tech culture and meaningfully engaging Insti’s enthusiasts.
Speaking of the IIT tag, yes, it helped during the prologue of our story- while getting rounds of investment. We were able to contact a lot of people to raise funds- people with sound knowledge of the industry who could gauge Detect’s potential in the market.
T5E: What plans do you have in store for the future?
On the technological front, we are looking to diversify our impact across various industries. With time, we’ve come to realise how our solution was addressing a core engineering problem which can be extracted to fit the needs of different industries. The burning desire to innovate has always been on the rise. We also want to give back, as in, a lot of tech talent goes to the likes of MIT and Stanford due to the availability of a vast multitude of resources. We are trying to bridge that gap. Our idea is to become the global leader at whatever we are doing.
T5E: A piece of advice for the student community and aspiring tech entrepreneurs specifically?
The country is going through a great phase. There’s a start-up boom, with more and more start-ups coming up. Speaking purely about IITM, although we are better off on the tech side of things, I feel we lack the business taste due to lack of exposure. IITM is a world on its own, and we have to look outside, not just India but how the world is getting revolutionised. Building great technologies and building great businesses are indeed different games to play. While the former focuses on R&D, the latter looks to scale up and generate value. And the good part about entrepreneurship is that everything can be learned, provided you go about things with an open receptive mind. I believe the earlier people start, the better. Looking back at our own journey, with regard to the industry we were dealing with, we were naive; but we were passionate, and that’s what got us through.
Coming to the student community, I believe people have to take a step back and look at the larger picture and let go of the reservations of working in a start-up. Working in a start-up will place you in testing waters, and it’s always better to experiment out of your comfort zone. And unlike in big corporates, where you get to work on a small piece of the puzzle that you are solving, you get to address the core of the problem in start-ups, which in itself is, I believe, a big incentive among others.
IIT Madras and its entrepreneurs, both successful and budding, are greatly inspired by Detect Technologies, today a widely known start-up that we look up to. We hope that many more students follow your footsteps and take the direction of impacting the world with the power of cutting-edge technology.
T5E wishes Detect Technologies all the best for future endeavours.
Edited by: Akash Reddy