While the data revolution has catalysed the emergence of Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms and e-commerce services in the last two-three years, there are still challenges existing in the ecosystem regarding data speed and patchy internet connectivity. SugarBox Networks is a platform that enables a user to use mobile apps and digital services seamlessly without requiring internet connectivity.
Started in August 2016, the company was very similar to what offline content distribution companies do but it is slightly different. SugarBox is a homegrown, first of its kind hyperlocal CDN, which enables Digital access for the next coming billion users, something even Big Tech has struggled with. SugarBox helps businesses grow by setting up data-delivery infrastructures at various places, allowing their users to access mobile apps without the Internet!
SugarBox- Company Highlights
- Company Name-SugarBox
- Founder-Rohit Paranjpe and Ripunjay Bararia
SugarBox- About and How It Works
SugarBox is a local Wi-Fi network that eliminates the users’ dependency on mobile data. SugarBox is a homegrown, first of its kind hyperlocal CDN, which enables Digital access for the next coming billion users, something even Big Tech has struggled with. The value proposition at SugarBox is to solve one of the most important problems. A technology that is re-imagining the way data delivery on the internet works making internet services more available, dependable, and contextual.
SugarBox is basically a hyperlocal CDN exposed over a local Wi-Fi network that eliminates the users’ dependence on mobile data and provides them seamless access to Apps, without any usage limits or soaring high mobile data charges. Simply put, if Netflix existed 3 decades back and users were streaming a movie at their office in Bombay, the file would be streamed to them from a server in the US.
Then a CDN was invented in the late 90s and today, that file magically gets stored (or cached) and streamed from a server in Bombay (and most often in a server located in the area where viewers are within Bombay). SugarBox makes the file available on a server (AKA SugarBox) installed in their office building so that it can be streamed using the Local Area Network in their own office! And the same can be applied to any user context – Residential building, Hotel, Mall, Aircraft, Train, Bus, etc. complexes, corporate parks, rural areas, educational institutes, retail shops, hotels, food & beverage outlets, and then, of course, expanding internationally, etc.
SugarBox Networks is founded by Rohit Paranjpe and Ripunjay Bararia.
Rohit Paranjpe, First-generation serial entrepreneur, co-founder, and CEO of SugarBox. With first-of-its-kind ventures across the digital content and media ecosystem in India. 34-year old Rohit is now focused on disrupting the internet services space, making them available, affordable, reliable, and contextual for everyone. The leadership team at SugarBox comprises Ripunjay Bararia, Co-founder and CTO of SugarBox. A Tech evangelist with over two decades of experience and part many tech ‘firsts’ in India.
Other Member in the Leadership Team:
Ashish Kulshresth, Business Head - brings with him over 20 years of strategic experience in Strategic Alliances, Sales & Marketing across EdTech, E-commerce, Telecom & Media. Ashish is responsible for the P&L and oversee the Network expansion, as well as the Revenue functions.
Pritesh Malde, Product Head – He has a proven track record of Ideating, conceptualizing and scaling products from scratch in B2B and B2C domains
Ishan Choudhury, Heads Strategy & Growth - With 14 years of experience across diverse strategy roles, including co-founding a hyperlocal services venture, he brings a balance of start-up exposure and key insights from running micro-ventures in large enterprises.
Rupsa Sinha, Brand Head - With 12 years of experience across consumer brands and undertook the unique challenge of creating a category defining brand – all from scratch, prior to SugarBox. She is primarily responsible for building the SugarBox brand and creating awareness for the unique value proposition & disruption that the company creates.
Vishwanath Kulkarni, Head of Network Rollout - brings with him over 15 years of experience in the IT & Telecom domain, having been instrumental in the rollout of 2G, 3G and 4G networks for telcos. At SugarBox, he looks at the network rollout and network maintenance function enabling the company to scale operations rapidly.
Ayush Sinha SugarBox Head HR - HR leader with extensive experience in setting up start-ups and GICs, rapid scaling & de-scaling and building high growth teams.
Rohit is grateful for the rich & diverse experience they all bring to the company. They are at a very interesting juncture in SugarBox’s journey, and their arrival brings fresh energy, expertise and perspective that will be pivotal in their rapid scale-up aspirations. The current team size is 115 and they are growing rapidly.
How Was SugarBox Founded
SugarBox started at the back of Rohit Paranjpe’s experience running an OTT service and the problems that people faced with respect to data connectivity and affordability. They built a prototype very similar to what has used on-board a Jet Airways aircraft in 2016 and carried out a pilot project at Mumbai's Goregaon railway station. The statistics were beyond imagination with people consuming 21 GB of data per week, and some users ran through all 200 movies on the platform within 15 days! This is when they knew that they were ont something exciting.
The team tried to identify & network with people in the industry who understood technology enough to understand the concept that Rohit was trying to propose. He spoke to a friend, who was well versed with technology and he helped him understand the core components required, and the kind of expertise required to set-up the complete model and bridge the gap. He further introduced Rohit to Ripunjay, who went on to become the Co-founder and is the CTO at SugarBox.
In the beginning, for the initial years, most of the members of the core team were focusing on technology & network partnerships. The founders were brought in-depth experience in both these domains that helped set the stage for many early successes for the company. They also got some talented associates to join the company early on.
Sugarbox- Name, Logo and Tagline
SugarBox’s showcases the Wi-Fi bars in an unbreakable curve, and the CDN structure comes in a box. The box comes with something good and happy for everyone. The good news of reliable and affordable internet, adding sweetness to life. Hence, SugarBox!
SugarBox- Vision and Mission
In te start-up world, it’s said – “find a large enough, grave enough problem to solve and you've hit the spot.” But here's the interesting part. Ask people if they're happy with their internet connection and 99 / 100 times, the answer is a No! Everyone has been at this for the last 3 years.
And Rohit would have asked this question too well over 1,000 people, across demographics and geographies. And the answer is the same! And yet, somehow, all of us seem to have given up on it – Everyone, somehow, has made their peace with the state of affairs; less privileged audiences have made peace with the system and people in lesser geographies/countries have made their peace with fate!
The core aim is to decrease the data accessed over the internet, thereby freeing up bandwidth on the existing last-mile networks (Telecom and ISP) so that the internet starts working more reliably and efficiently for all. The key business focus is to partner with apps that consume the most amount of data/internet bandwidth.
In the medium term, SugarBox will empower the Next Billion users worldwide to start using digital services without having to purchase a data pack or an internet connection. The long-term goal is to optimize the way data is transacted on the internet globally, making the internet over 30 times cheaper and 200 times faster.
In the Long term, SugarBox will make internet access 200% faster and 50% cheaper!
SugarBox- Target Market Size
Being a first-of-its-kind platform, there was no precedence for what SugarBox was doing, which obviously led to a plethora of challenges. First, a chunk of use cases for which they were building their CDN had never been addressed before. Then, they struggled with ecosystem-level challenges including Android fragmentation and OS limitations. After that, they ran into hardware failures and peripheral hardware issues in production environments, and many more. It will sound like a cliché, but they overcame them by thinking out of the box, collaborating, and finally, just grit and determination. It also took a special group of individuals coming together to solve these complex problems.
In the next 2 to 3 years, their Network partnerships would enable them to service over 400 million users spending over a staggering 2 billion hours every month streaming content on the go, and another 1 billion hours playing games!
Plus, there’ll be over 6 billion monetizable ad slots for this unlocked consumption. Also, SugarBox will be able to service over 25 million unique shoppers every month, driving over 32 million E-commerce transactions, 10 million rides for Cabs & Bike taxis, and 10 million food orders.
SugarBox- Products/ Services
SugarBox is a one-of-a-kind hyperlocal CDN that can be integrated with an existing Local Area Network or exposed to a user over a local Wi-Fi network. By the virtue of being hyperlocal there are certain things that it does more than what the traditional CDN does, and because of the technology there more cases that can be served. This hyperlocal CDN is disrupting the economics of the internet infrastructure challenges by shifting a chunk of data consumption from expensive internet bandwidth to free local bandwidth.
SugarBox is the only network in the world that lets its users access their favorite Apps seamlessly without them having to depend on their mobile data or ISP. It sets up a better data delivery & discovery network at key places of interest (POIs) that are frequented by consumers.
CDN is a network of servers linked together with the goal of delivering content as quickly, cheaply, reliably, and securely as possible, allowing everyone to take the internet more scalable in addition to which it is known as the internet enabler.
SugarBox offers various benefits to its stakeholders:
- For consumers – Reliable access to apps without requiring internet connectivity or incurring data cost
- For the POI – Enhanced in-premise experience and a better understanding of their consumers
- For the App partner – Increase total available market, better user-adoption, consumption, stickiness, and monetization for the app
- In essence, SugarBox is truly unique in the ecosystem and are complementary, rather than competing to other stakeholders
SugarBox- Business and Revenue Model
The SugarBox revenue model aims to change the way that enables internet infrastructure providers to start earning via user consumption without the user having to pay for it. The model that SugarBox operates in is very similar to that of any CDN. They invest in the Cloud and Edge infrastructure that SugarBox installs. In addition to this, they bear the operating expenses of this infrastructure, along with other associated charges like lease, utility, etc. at certain POIs.
Once installed and live, SugarBox monetizes via the user consumption of all apps supported by the SugarBox CDN. Each SugarBox installation is modeled to be Unit Ex positive, not just for them as a company, but the entire ecosystem. The margins are substantially higher than the traditional CDN business.
SugarBox is in the phase of partnering with various OTT, Gaming, E-commerce, FinTech, and EdTech platforms. This forms the bedrock of a win-win relationship between the user, app partners, and SugarBox. Their efficient infrastructure planning & patented technology that has enabled a hyperlocal data delivery ensures that we work on a positive unit economics model at every installation point.
With the current investment, SugarBox will commence commercial services and scale up the network across public transport, revolutionizing the digital experience for over 300 million monthly unique users over the next 2 to 3 years. The short-term objective is to unlock over 2.5 billion hours of digital consumption monthly for consumers in a near captive environment, where access is otherwise limited due to patchy connectivity.
SugarBox- Startup Launch
Across all their pilot projects to date, have catered to over 1 million users. In Feb 2020, the month prior to lockdown, SugarBox had 120,000 unique users accessing Zee5 content with an average of over 27,000 users consuming content daily. The initial feedback has been very encouraging with an average engagement of 14 out of 30 minutes in the case of Hyderabad Metro. Of course, there is a lot of work to be done and the key focus at the moment is to partner with Digital services across industries, which incrementally adds to the consumer value proposition.
However, with the country in lockdown and public transport being shut to the general public and everyday use, SugarBox is working with partners across industries to help them through the current disruption and to make them ready for the post-COVID era.
SugarBox is working with public transport corporations for infrastructure upgrades that will enable them to automate and streamline operations, optimize expenses and potentially create new sources of revenue – all of which will be critical in a post-COVID world. The solutions encompass Digital access, Smart mobility, IoT, Security and Digital Out of Home, amongst others.
SugarBox is in the process of helping temporary and permanent COVID facilities with seamless digital access to enable patients in quarantine to stay connected and to bring a smile on their faces via delivering OTT services while they’re at the facility.
Over the next 2 quarters, SugarBox will be looking at expanding our outreach to other sectors including hospitality, education & retail – all of which are severely disrupted because of COVID and will have to reimagine their operating models in the year/s to come
SugarBox- Customers/ Clients
SugarBox got an internal customer Zee5 to set up POC and attract more customers. They used that user-traction to sign large networks including Indian railways and other deployment partners. The two main associations they focus on are getting more customers to use SugarBox and app partnership. Both the segments go hand in hand as the more customers will get to use SugarBox, the more partners seeing the benefits will collaborate with SugarBox, and vice versa - the more apps they provide to the customers more the interest.
Delivering content using a hyperlocal CDN server is simple. Making a Digital service work without internet connectivity is a whole other topic altogether. This meant addressing user registration, personalization, security, payments, and ads – all of which require sustained internet connectivity to function. It is going to sound like a cliché, but the only way SugarBox got past these hurdles was owing to perseverance, hard work, a lot of creativity & innovation, the technical prowess of the team, and patient support from both the Zee leadership and the Zee5 team.
Well, for starters – It is a complex problem, not just from a tech point of view, but also from understanding the economics of all the stakeholders that need to work in conjunction to provide us the monster called the Internet. But it's also probably one of the most important problems to solve in this century. This is why every Big Tech company including Google, FB, Amazon, SpaceX, etc. has been looking at finding faster, cheaper, and alternative ways to deliver internet bandwidth.
SugarBox is a subsidiary of Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. (ZEEL), in which it acquired an 80% equity stake for INR 75 crores in April 2017. In April 2020, ZEE committed to investing an additional INR 522 crores in SugarBox over the next 2 to 3 years. After the acquisition, their focus was to make Zee5 work using the platform, rather than creating a separate platform with a limited use case (Our network is limited only to certain places). So the SugarBox funding gets a boost from Zee Entertainment whenever necessary.
SugarBox is fortunate that the senior management here recognized the potential of this opportunity early on.
SugarBox is unique in the ecosystem and is complementary, rather than competing to other stakeholders. Nobody does what they do. In comparison to traditional CDNs, SugarBox is able to drive faster data delivery as their infrastructure is closer to the user. The Company is also able to provide an experience guarantee on the data delivery, which a traditional CDN can’t.
Finally, SugarBox boasts of seamless access to Apps even in areas with no network or even for users without an active internet connection, both of which are outside the purview of a traditional CDN.
SugarBox- Recognitions and Achievements
Rohit Paranjpe successfully handled wide-ranging responsibilities in an illustrious career spanning over a decade. An innovator at heart, with a passion for building ecosystems that can potentially impact billions of users, also co-founded:
- Digitainment (a company that revolutionized the retail distribution of content and ran the first B2B2C OTT service in India) and,
- Mobile Infotainment (an interactive, connected in-transport infotainment and media platform, which was years ahead of its time).
- SugarBox has been awarded as one of the Top 50 Tech Innovators by Intercon Dubai and was featured in the TechTors to watch out for in 2020 by BW Disrupt.
SugarBox- Future Plans
Today, SugarBox is present across pilot deployments in 9 cities and 250 Places of Interest (POIs). They are offering services to various POIs in cities such as Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai. The company is looking to spanning its network to Delhi, Kolkata, and other cities in the next 2 years. SugarBox aims to cover PAN India Urban & Rural by the end of 2025.
There are 4 key growth pillars for SugarBox in the next 2 to 3 years:
1. Scale up the Public transport outreach in India – This includes full-scale implementation in Indian Railways, along with deployment across other key Metro networks and bus networks in the country. This growth bucket also includes a foray into Avionics to disrupt the In-flight connectivity industry as a whole. The plan is to reach 30 mn users daily and 300 mn monthly unique users through this network segment.
2. Scale up the Rural & Urban Public Wi-Fi outreach in India – This includes exponentially scaling up their rural and village level pilots in partnership with other Internet infrastructure and Internet service providers, along with paving the way for sustainable Public Wi-Fi deployments in Urban and semi-Urban. The plan is to deploy 100,000 POIs over the next 3 years and provide digital access to 100 mn Indians through this segment.
3. SugarBox at Home, Office & other B2B POIs – This includes a B2B and a B2C foray to improve the state of the internet in India, making home and enterprise networks twice as fast and significantly improve the affordability and reliability of internet connections in the country. The plan is to power 20 mn households and enterprises through this segment over the next 3 to 4 years.
4. International expansion – SugarBox is actively working on replicating the model globally, with a two-prong strategy. The company will be looking at entering a few critical markets directly by setting up international operations and forging partnerships with local players for faster penetration across other international geographies.
Frequently Asked Questions - FAQs
What is SugarBox Networks?
SugarBox Networks is a local Wi-Fi network that eliminates the users’ dependency on mobile data. SugarBox is basically a hyperlocal CDN exposed over a local Wi-Fi network that eliminates the users’ dependence on mobile data and provides them seamless access to Apps, without any usage limits or soaring high mobile data charges.
Who is the Founder of SugarBox Networks?
Rohit Paranjpe and Ripunjay Bararia are the Co-Founders of SugarBox Networks.