Trou­bled teen to tech ‘dis­rup­tor’

Sunday Tribune - - SECURITY - Am­ber Con­nect chief ex­ec­u­tive Dushyant Sava­dia.

of­fice, the com­pany has of­fices in Johannesbu­rg and Cape Town and is close to sign­ing a mas­ter dis­trib­u­tor agree­ment with a still uniden­ti­fied com­pany.

Am­ber Con­nect has 600 em­ploy­ees lo­cally. It has em­ployed 800 mo­bile fit­ters across South Africa and put 1 300 ve­hi­cles on the roads to help re­cover stolen ve­hi­cles.

From June, there’ll be mas­sive prod­uct roll-out.

Sava­dia says he started with Am­ber Con­nect as he’d spot­ted ob­vi­ous gaps in the ve­hi­cle-track­ing mar­ket which he be­lieves had be­come com­pla­cent and had not in­vested in devel­op­ment.

“That is what gives rise to dis­rup­tors like us, who have in­no­vated new stuff that is cheaper, and it does what the con­sumer wants it to do,” he says.

The first short­com­ing his team iden­ti­fied was that ex­ist­ing ve­hi­cle­track­ing sys­tems could not lo­cate ve­hi­cles in real time but “in hops” at five- to 10-minute in­ter­vals.

The sec­ond was that the large size of the de­vice meant it could be eas­ily de­tected and re­moved.

Am­ber Con­nect de­vel­oped tech­nol­ogy that would op­ti­mise the speed of data com­ing from a ve­hi­cle with just a two-sec­ond de­lay, leav­ing an elec­tronic “bread­crumb trail” that could be ac­cessed by cell­phone.

They also cre­ated a de­vice the size of a car key fob but that does not com­pro­mise the amount and qual­ity of data it can trans­mit. He says he started think­ing like a con­sumer and re­alised what was needed ex­tended be­yond sim­ple ve­hi­cle re­cov­ery, to ve­hi­cle man­age­ment and more.

Par­ents wanted to track a ve­hi­cle driven by a teenager to make sure he or she was safe and driv­ing prop­erly.

Fam­i­lies were wor­ried about wives or daugh­ters driv­ing home late at night. Em­ploy­ees needed to record busi­ness trips to claim ex­penses.

“We built one of the first na­tive apps on mo­bile phones. With most apps, peo­ple use a web browser ap­pli­ca­tion. If you look at the Am­ber Con­nect dash­board, you’ll see we’ve built around 42 en­gag­ing fea­tures on the app for the con­sumer that helps you to man­age your ve­hi­cle bet­ter.”

Sava­dia had an­other pri­or­ity – mak­ing the tech­nol­ogy af­ford­able.

“If you build great tech­nol­ogy and it be­comes ex­pen­sive, there is some­thing wrong. Se­cu­rity is a hu­man right. You don’t have to think twice be­fore buy­ing a tooth­brush.

“Se­cu­rity has be­come some­thing just for the elite in this so­ci­ety. Many can’t af­ford a track­ing de­vice which costs thou­sands to in­stall then comes with a monthly pre­mium.”

The prod­uct he has brought to South Africa costs a third of the price of com­pa­ra­ble prod­ucts, yet it is a decade ahead of the tech­nol­ogy cur­rently avail­able, he says.

“You can re­motely shut down the ve­hi­cle from the app if you think it’s be­ing stolen or mis­used. We be­came the first in the world to de­ploy ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence in track­ing. Now a ve­hi­cle can au­to­mat­i­cally re­act to threats and lock it­self down.

“When you go to sleep at night, you raise the shield of the car. If any­body tam­pers with it, it im­me­di­ately shuts down the en­gine, then no­ti­fies you on your cell­phone, and a se­cu­rity ser­vice provider who sends an armed re­sponse. Every­thing is done in three sec­onds with­out hu­man in­ter­ven­tion.”

The story of the man be­hind Am­ber Con­nect is as fas­ci­nat­ing as his busi­ness.

Sava­dia grew up in In­dia and moved to the UK, where he lived for 12 years.

“In my youth, I was an al­co­holic. I drank a litre of rum ev­ery night for seven years, chain smoked 60 to 70 ci­garettes a day, took a lot of drugs and was the leader of a gang made up of vi­o­lent, an­gry peo­ple.

“The com­pany I was work­ing for made it manda­tory for all staff to par­tic­i­pate in an Art of Liv­ing stress man­age­ment work­shop. That four-day work­shop turned my life around.

“I ul­ti­mately re­signed from that com­pany to serve the Art of Liv­ing Foun­da­tion. I’ve taught me­di­a­tion and gone to war zones and done peace­keep­ing mis­sions,” he said.

In 2004, while liv­ing in Scot­land, he de­cided to take a sab­bat­i­cal to

“get a lit­tle Western ex­po­sure to sales, mar­ket­ing and fi­nance”.

He re­turned to the foun­da­tion in 2008. In 2011, it sent him to the Car­ib­bean where crime, vi­o­lence and mur­der were es­ca­lat­ing.

He worked ex­ten­sively in prisons, teach­ing nearly 200 in­mates in Ja­maica alone. He ran ed­u­ca­tional pro­grammes in schools and uni­ver­si­ties and held stress man­age­ment work­shops for cor­po­rates.

In early 2015, Sava­dia no­ticed a de­cline in the foun­da­tion’s in­come. He wasn’t con­vinced do­na­tions and course fees pro­vided a sus­tain­able in­come, so he switched gears and de­cided to draw on his back­ground in in­no­va­tion and tech­nol­ogy to build a busi­ness that would sup­port the foun­da­tion’s work.

In just three years, Sava­dia built six com­pa­nies, be­com­ing a tech­nol­ogy-driven multi­na­tional with a staff of over 130 full-time, in-house soft­ware de­vel­op­ers in

In­dia with teams across the world.

Initial test­ing took place at the head of­fice in Ja­maica. From there, he launched in Canada, the US and other parts of the Car­ib­bean.

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