The 19-year-old boy Manas Ranjan Panigrahi studies in an institute which had a very small technical infrastructure at that time in Sambalpur, Odisha. He was shocked to notice his surrounding in an unorganised manner even in this digital age. His technology background led him to realise that the problem could be addressed by an innovative yet simple business solution. In 2016 this led to the birth of Nexta Group, in form of an online E-commerce site called Nexta Digital (Started operations from Dec 25, 2017) that streamlines the SMEs around local region of Sambalpur and became a SME’s E-commerce chain. It’s improved processes and enables standardisation of services. Later in 2017, it got registered as Nexta Group and trashed the ecommerce model and introduced its technical product categories with three manufacturing units at Delhi, And later extended to Bangalore.
The Bengaluru-based startup, started with Manas’ SUIIT (Sambalpur University Institute of Information Technology) colleague Prabhat Kumar Sahu, aims to redefine technology with an operational LED bulb that provides 5 hours battery backup, bio-degradable in nature and Zero harmful to human eyes.
Their first product, Zen series LED, is a revolutionary product that focuses on improving the overall experience of a LED bulb by putting the cutting edge technology into it.
“We began our product development journey with a couple of interactions with veterans in the industry and developed the first prototype of our product. During our initial stage, we kept on improvising, adopting further requirements, and filling in more gaps to strengthen our products,” Manas says.
The founder says it took them a little more than a half year, Rs 20 lakh, and multiple iterations for the product to evolve into what it is today.“We constantly improved our product based on the user feedback, and user diversity,” He says. Nexta Group is the second entrepreneurial venture of two college mates after Nexta Digital got shut down. In 2016-17, they had built an online marketplace dealing with materials needed in their locality. However, they were keen on product development and decided to start up again.
The co-founders sourced the money for their operations from their first start up and from their own money which they generated by developing websites and app of other regional enterprises. “We use IoT, Machine learning/Artificial intelligence and robotics technology for our all products like LED bulb, Inverter LED bulb, blind stick, IoT speakers, Robotics education equipments. We are currently working on using wearable and home automation technology which cater to the additional requirements, ” Prabhat Says.
Fighting with odds
While developing a product, dynamic enough, to be adopted by the customers for different needs and requirements had its challenges, getting the initial meetings for a product demo with the stores was a Herculean task.
“Also, their long sales cycle was something for which we weren’t prepared for. Being a critical industry, multiple stakeholders were involved at every step. Moreover, the product requires a behavioural shift for the staffs and a strong upgradation. It took us a very long time; we held repeated training sessions and had discussions to make them comfortable,” Manas says.
Going from a traditional system to a tech-based one, also meant that the product needed to be used by the people of rural area, often not as tech-savvy as others (due to age, lack of exposure, and opportunities). The team consistently worked to ensure that their product turns out “easy to use”.
Present & Future
The platform was launched a year back and since then the team has on-boarded many Stakeholders like Manas Ranjan Panigrahi (Co- Founder, CEO), Prabhat Kumar Sahu(Co-founder, CTO), Jharana Mishra (Director and head of business administration), Satya Narayan Naik (CFO) and an employee base of 175+ . Nexta Group is also looking to expand to global markets in the Gulf countries.
Plans for the future
The start-up, currently bootstrapped, follows an enterprise B2B and B2C model. Speaking of their plans for the future, Manas says, “We are focused on the development of middle class families. Soon we are going to enter into the healthcare sector, Smart Education standardise processes and improve our staffs efficiency.” Nexta Group is keen to become a one- stop solution by bringing down products costs. “This will eventually help middle class families to cut off the living cost. We’re also planning for a Smart open source app development services for the tech students.” Prabhat says.