India is currently the world’s fastest-growing smartphone market growing by 23% every year, according to a Morgan Stanley research report of 2017. A report by technology conglomerate Cisco, showed that smartphone users in India are projected to double to 829 Mn by 2022 from 404.1 Mn in 2017, which means more Indians are using their phones for daily activities such as banking, bill payments, capturing pictures etc.
As the smartphone becomes the most used personal device, the risk of losing private data in case loss of the phone gets much larger. The reason could be many. But here we are focusing on smartphone lost or theft cases. According to a Pew Research report, nearly one-third of mobile phone owners have experienced a lost or stolen phone, and 12% have had another person access the contents of their phone in a way that made them feel their privacy was invaded
To address the logistics of losing a phone, Abhijit Barua, the founder of smartphone security app MIFON, with his domain experience of more than 25 years in the telecom and tech industry took up the onus to explore the security and safety solutions for smartphones.
As Barua shared with Inc42, “I started experimenting in 2014 along with my friends and family for an app which tracks the user’s phone and after several hits and misses, regular OS updates and starting from scratch, again and again, we launched MIFON app in February 2017.”
The company has been focusing on 500 Mn first time internet users of India, along with other internet users in South-East Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Headquartered in Singapore, it raised its first institutional funding in July 2018 from US-based venture capital investor SOSV. It is also backed by mobile-only accelerator MOX based in the Centre of Innovation, Taipei.
MIFON: The Siren, Thief Catcher And Tracker
In simple terms, MIFON helps users track their phone in case of theft or loss even without power or an internet connection. The app seeks access to phone data, control, location etc and in case of loss, can be engaged to erase the phone data, as well as change phone password from a remote location.
Also, it can enable photo clicking of the person who is trying to unlock the phone and send an email to the user with that image, which can then be taken forward to police or authorities, as needed.
For personal security, MIFON offers Smart SOS Distress mode, which enables users to discreetly and smartly alert selected contacts in case there is any personal emergencies, as well as a group safety tracking dashboard.
An interesting addition for all of us who leave the phone on silent and forget about it, and soon after, turn the place upside down searching for it is the siren. In case the phone is lost, a user can SMS to MIFON with the phone security code and a siren goes on.
Some of the other additional services include integrated tracking of family, alerts when the sim in the phone is changed, send low battery notification in the last location, automated cleaner, auto backup of phone’s data in the cloud and anti-malware along with a battery efficient footprint among others.
As a service, the company enables phone locator in case of theft or loss. An interesting part of accessing the MIFON app is the conscious effort to explain the use of every single access to data it seeks.
When asked if they faced any regulatory issues for storing user’s data, Barua explained to Inc42 that the company had faced no issues in complying to Europe’s GDPR regulations and personal data privacy rules being discussed in India, as they had been consciously making the use of data clear. “We don’t record the name or details of a user, all we do is store the identity of the device to ensure the safety of user data,” he added.
Business Model: A B2B And B2C Integration
At present, the company offers a premium paid model and a free version, along with a seven-day trial period. MIFON has its alliances with telecom operators and is also in process of signing more partnerships to further strengthen its B2B model in both local and international markets. “MIFON will be co-branded and bundled with their data packs,” he added.
Its B2C model also continues to grow organically. The company claims to record 3,500 daily users on its app. It has also achieved a monthly growth of 12% and is catering to more than 3 Mn smartphone users.
After starting B2C user subscriptions in the last quarter, the company has also completed a two-quarter paid-pilot run with a mobile network operator for a test of the quality of services.
Barua said, “With the kind of access we get and the data we record, we have also found a use case of the data points we receive in testing the quality of service for these mobile networks. As we track a user’s device, we are able to track the kind of quality their mobile network has and thus, help mobile operators to do their QoS easily rather than months-long process.”
70% Indian Users And Counting
The company claims to have more than 70% of users from India, with 10% coming from the USA and other 20% users from South East Asia including Bangladesh, Indonesia, Phillippines etc and Africa.
Barua along with his core team— Sagar Desai, chief of technology; Mayank Savla, chief architect; and Amol Pomane, chief of Digital— and other advisors like Gautam Ghosh, Hemant Tripathi and others is now looking at further scaling up the use of the app with partnerships with insurance companies.
“We are working with insurance firms to create an end-to-end platform that will enable the $20 Bn smartphone insurance products to be scaled into emerging markets, efficiently to make business painless for both the insurance firms and customers,” Barua told Inc42.
The company is also in active discussions with strategic investors for a Series A round of funding to support its pipeline of partners across 25 countries and potential access to over 350 Mn users.
Barua said that the MIFON stack is already using a fair amount of Machine Learning to process the billions of data points at the backend and therefore, the company is making efforts to move beyond phones to appliances and gadget protection. It is also looking at proactive alerts like predicting risks in the real world.
At present, in the market, every major global company has introduced its own phone tracker. For example, Google offers Find My Device, Apple offers Find My iPhone, Find My Phone, Lookout etc. These companies have separate conditions and are mostly working on the internet with the phone switched on.
The statistics available show that 150 Mn smartphones are lost or stolen in India every year. A Cisco report showed that smartphone users in India are projected to double to 829 Mn by 2022 from 404.1 Mn in 2017.
This further highlights how mobile device management (MDM) is set to reach $7.86 Bn by 2023. And as a player looking for wholesome security of a user’s device, MIFON’s technology is a feature we can use to save our day.