Startups
Cashew comes with a fingerprint sensor and is Bluetooth-enabled to give you notifications if you forget your wallet somewhere.

A lot of things we use today have become smart. When you got your first watch as a kid, did you imagine it could track your heart rate, or let you answer phone calls? Same goes with our phones, television sets and a lot more.

Wallets too, have become digital. We all have our traditional wallets and now a digital mobile wallet too. But what if we could make our traditional wallets smarter?

This is where Sunny Malhotra and Shruthi Gilla’s idea comes into play.

Sunny comes from a security background. His family had a security consulting business that providing security to people through CCTVs, access cards and more. Being involved in this business and having an engineering background, Sunny always wondered how he could combine both to bridge a huge gap he saw in security equipment already available.

“We have always looked at security and engineering as two separate things. That’s when I thought, what if we could do something about the things people use on a regular basis. And that is how wallets came to my mind. People always tend to lose their wallets or misplace them. And then there are those who go through ID and electronic theft,” Sunny says.

With this idea in mind, he roped in Shruthi, his cofounder and began brainstorming on how security and technology could be combined to make a smart wallet, what it would look like and the features it could have.

“There have been a lot of changes from the time we started talking about it to what it is like today. We thought very futuristically, but there are certain technological, cost barriers,” Shruthi says.

With the idea in mind, they registered their company Revol Inc and filed for patents for their smart wallet ‘Cashew’ in May 2015.

At this point, for a smart wallet, Sunny and Shruthi did not think India would be the right target audience. In fact, they even registered their company in the US. Once registered, they spent nearly a year in the US, talking to people, understanding the market and building their prototype.

Around May 2016, they first tested their first prototype by launching it on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. Taking feedback and incorporating changes, they then launched an improvised version on Indiegogo in November 2016.

So how smart is this wallet?

“After much research, we decided that our minimum viable product (MVP) will have a fingerprint reader and connected via Bluetooth. It you forget your wallet somewhere, it gives you a notification if you walk away. And if you still lose it, you can GPS track it,” Shruthi says.

Cashew looks much like your traditional wallet. It has a fingerprint scanner on the outside. Once opened, cash comes on the right, held by a pin and on the left there are three card slots on the front and three more behind it. Of the six slots, three are radio frequency identification (RFID) protected. This is to protect one’s cards from identity theft, something which is rampant in the US.

One can add 20 different fingerprints to the wallet. If your fingerprint does not work for some reason, the wallet can be opened by entering a pin on your phone.

The wallet’s battery lasts you as long as 6-7 months. Once the battery begins to drain, it will keep sending notifications on your phone to charge it.

All in all, the wallet can hold up to 20 global notes and seven cards.

Pricing the wallet

The Cashew is currently priced at around $150, which comes up to nearly Rs 10,000. This is a discounted price for early buyers on the crowdfunding platforms. But the company has intentions of eventually retailing it at $199, when there is mass manufacturing.

Speaking of manufacturing, the product is made in Shenzhen in China. The various parts of the product too, are sourced from there. In fact Cashew’s core R&D team sits out of China.

Sunny says that currently, in terms of saving costs, no place can match China, and the manufacturing cost in India is still very high.

But will people, especially Indians, spend that much money on a wallet?

Shruthi and Sunny invested $50,000 dollars into starting Revol Inc and through the campaigns on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, Cashew raised $150,000 through pre-orders.

And this campaign, Sunny says, gave them a number of insights into who their customers are and what their top markets are.

“These campaigns were a test to see if we were under an illusion or if we are actually solving a problem. While we expected US and other foreign markets, India turned out to be one of our top five markets. Most customers came from the US, followed by Middle East, South East Asia and India,” he says.

And in terms of the type of customers, while Sunny and Shruthi expected a young tech-savvy guy to be their buyer, they say that a lot of their customers were older people, parents and women.

Speaking of the pricing, Sunny says that a good-quality or pure leather wallet from a high-end brand usually costs you the same, or even more.

Revol Inc currently is based out of Hyderabad and works from T-Hub, its incubator.

"Getting to work side by side with some incredibly bright founders with a wealth of deep and diverse experience is awesome. Every start-up does go through sinusoidal swings and in situations like these, the mentorship from the core T-Hub team has been immensely helpful. T-Hub also thrives on the diversity of startups and this provides great exposure and networking opportunities. T-Hub also hosts amazing mentors and guest speakers who share their experiences, which has immensely helped us in achieving our goals,” Sunny says.

Future plans and improvisations

By creating a community of early buyers through these campaigns, Sunny and Shruthi are co-creating their product. As and when buyers use the wallet, they take feedback from them and are working on improving existing features and incorporating new ones.

Revol Inc is now working on adding a number of features to make the wallet a lot smarter.

Apart from this, the company is also working on improving the aesthetics of the wallet. It is looking to add more colours, make the size smaller, make a women’s version and even make a more minimalistic version.

Shruthi says that adding form factors and colours is no big task since all the technology is already in there. It is just simple additions.

Bringing down the manufacturing cost is another area that needs more work.

They want to position Cashew not as a tech product, but as a daily-use lifestyle product. Revol Inc is also talking to several retailers in India and abroad to place its wallets either in their stores or on their ecommerce websites.

And if that works out, even one bulk order from a single retailer can fetch the duo a fortune.

This article has been produced with inputs from T-Hub as a part of a partner program.