Emerging Entrepreneurs

Integrating building maintenance, the smart way

N Ramakrishnan | Updated on December 24, 2018

Prabhu Ramachandran, Founder & CEO, Facilio   -  N Ramakrishnan

Facilio’s platform brings operational efficiencies that obviate day-to-day fire-fighting

It is over 20 months since Prabhu quit Zoho, the company that is a pioneer in cloud-based SaaS applications and which has spawned many an entrepreneur, but he still fondly recalls the 17 years he spent there, learning how to build products, lead teams and sell to large enterprises. Quitting the company, he says, was the toughest decision in his life. He was clear in his mind what he wanted to do on his own, he even had the team in place, many of them his colleagues from Zoho.

“The most painful decision for me was to decide that I have to come out of Zoho. Everything else was easy for me. Funding came on day one. I had a good team from the beginning. That part was not a struggle at all,” he says. No wonder that during the nearly hour-long conversation in his office along Chennai’s IT Expressway, the name Zoho pops up several times. It was thanks to Zoho, says Prabhu, that he got hooked on to tech-driven solutions targeted at big enterprises. He realised that the buildings sector was a huge market, there was hardly any new technology that had been developed for the sector, though there was disparate use of technology and automation in various functions in a building.

Tapping buildings sector

According to him, he decided to focus on the buildings sector because it is a huge market, one that is global and bound to grow. Large office buildings are energy intensive, employ a large number of unskilled workforce in various functions such as providing security, routine maintenance, electrical, plumbing and lift operations. In India, he says, for every 1,000 people working in offices in a building, at least 80 are required for various support and maintenance functions. So, an office building with 20,000 employees will have as many as 1,500 doing support functions. “We felt that we can apply technology and bring in efficiency in all functions,” says Prabhu.

Once Facilio’s founders decided to focus on the buildings sector, they picked large buildings – those that have multiple lifts, centralised air-conditioning, typically 25,000-30,000 sq ft and above – for developing a product. All of these buildings will have panels and sensors for various operations – lifts, fire, security. They are not integrated and so the building owner or the facility management company will have to talk to different people to find out what is happening with each service. Large buildings, says Prabhu, come with a lot of automation that comes along with the construction budget.

 

“We built an Internet of Things-based software that will run inside the building. It can talk to a fire panel, lift panel, air-conditioning panel, security cameras, the access control system and pick live data. This can be used to improve efficiency and do predictive maintenance rather than fire-fighting on a day-to-day basis,” says Prabhu. The live data give the building’s owner or the facility management company data to analyse and improve efficiency of those employed in support functions. There are now different softwares for different functions, but not one that looks at the building as a whole. Today none of the software is talking to the building management system, says Prabhu.

Key clients

According to him, it took Facilio six-seven months to develop a pilot-ready product.

The first commercial sale happened in May, a year after Facilio was founded. The company has a dozen customers now and is working on 40 more prospective ones.

The sales cycle is 6-8 months, says Prabhu, because this is a new technology. The first customers were SPI Cinemas in Chennai and an airline company in Dubai, which Facilio won through an open tender.

Two of the 12 customers are in India and the rest global. Facilio will be expanding the sales and support teams in the US, where it already has an office in Atlanta and Dubai. Prabhu says the US and West Asia are the two biggest markets now. The company is talking to a customer in Brazil, thanks to reference from another customer. He expects to start operations in Europe shortly.

Facilio has adopted a subscription-based pay-per-use model. As it develops the product, it can integrate energy management and many other functions related to a large building such as asset efficiency, people efficiency, meeting room booking, inventory management of office, visitor management and resource management into the product. The scope is enormous, says Prabhu. The company has started earning revenues; it has 12 paying customers and hopes to complete this year with about ₹4-6 crore in income (around $500,000 to $1 million), he adds.

Published on December 24, 2018

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