March - 2008 - issue > STARTUP CITY
SLOKA TELECOM
Jayakishore Bayadi
Friday, February 29, 2008
SLOKA TELECOM
There was a point of time when founder of the Sloka, Sujai Karampuri ran out of cash for about one year. He went back to his brother, mother, father and his uncle who helped him with their savings and possessions, just to keep the show on. Karampuri did this for more than six months. He wanted about six million dollars for his venture. Karampuri went to more than six VCs requesting to fund his venture. But no one agreed.

However, an investor who finally agreed to fund, wanted Karampuri to slash the budget. After many negotiations it came down to three millions; then to two. But grippingly, Sloka team was able to develop its niche product within one million.

Sloka faced the obvious challenges boldly since its inception. Finally, now, company runs its operation through revenues. Sloka Telecom made its first deployment to power France’s first 5.8MHz WiMax network in the town of Saint Medard en Jalles. Incidentally, it was the first WiMAX base station in France, and for the Sloka team it was surprising.

DIFFERENTIATOR
The real differentiation of Sloka is the sum of all the technological factors below. However, cost effectiveness is the key factor. The Sloka team brainstormed heavily to achieve cost effectiveness through many innovations in the areas of product development like architecture of the product, software design, hardware design, mechanical design, thermal analysis etc., some of which are patented.

Easy to install and easily manageable base stations are Sloka’s another differentiator. Unlike its competitors, company’s base stations come as all-outdoor units. This allows an operator to install them on the tower itself - with antenna or close to the antenna thus reducing operator capital expenditure (capex) on paraphernalia - such as a/c units, long RF cables, housing etc., by up to 50 percent. Sloka’s base stations are powered over Ethernet cable itself, allowing an operator to manage the connectivity with one cable thus saving cost and adding convenience.

BUSINESS MODEL
Sloka Telecom is a provider of broadband wireless solutions to address the new needs and requirements of cellular operators and network equipment vendors in emerging markets. The company earns revenue by direct sale of its products to operators, service providers, Wireless ISPs, and System Integrators as a network equipment vendor, and also as OEM supplier to other network equipment vendors.

Plus, the company is also engaged in research, design, development, testing and sales (direct and in-direct), support and maintenance of its products and solutions. Also, Sloka is partnering with top chipset makers and equipment manufacturers.

OFFICES
Bangalore, India; Newjersy, U.S

PRODUCTS
WiMAX network solutions- base stations and subscriber stations (CPEs).

PRINCIPALS
Founder and CEO—Sujai Karampuri
CTO and Co-Founder—Venkata Subbaih

Sujai Karampuri has a vast experience in the telecommunications sector and primarily in wireless. Karampuri was in US for about nine years and was with Alcatel, working in US and Europe, where he was system designing and architecting some of the products. Also, Karampuri had a stint with Sasken in India. That’s when most of the thoughts came about and along with his collegue Venkata Subbaiah who was working as a Product Architect on Nortel Base Stations in Sasken, Karampuri founded Sloka Telecom in 2004.


EARLY INVESTORS— The company was started with undisclosed self-funding and investments from U.S based Angel investors.

CUSTOMERS— City municipality in France (Saint Medard en Jalles). A major wireless company in Canada. Sloka Telecom is in talks with Indian operators now.

COMPETITORS
Alvarion, Aperto, Axxcelera, Redline, Telsima.

WHAT’S NEXT?
Sloka telecom plans to remain as OEMs in future as well. The company is keen on more aggressive direct sale of their equipments to operators, Service providers and Wireless ISPs. Besides, Sloka is looking into the new opportunities emerging from green field deployments of broadband wireless networks, migration from older 2G/2.5G networks to newer 3G networks, which require newer and better network deployment strategies.

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