In Conversation with Sunil Gupta: The Exhilarating Journey of Building QNu Labs
Here are the excerpts from the Interview:
Tell us about your journey of founding QNu Labs.
In 2016, India moved from a cash-based economy to a digital economy. India saw a surge in internet use and online products and services, including online banking and e-commerce. As technology specialists, we, the founders of QNu, envisioned technologies like 5G, blockchain, IoT, and robotics converging in the span of five years. We realised that in such a hyperconnected digital world, trust becomes paramount.
In a hyperconnected digital world, trust is important
The rise in digital transactions also saw an increase in the number of data breaches and data hacks. It was evident that systems lacked the required security mechanisms which consumers can trust. One cannot have a digital economy without digital trust.
We saw this as a significant problem in the thriving digital economy and resolved to provide a solution. We understood that the best solution is to replace classical security with quantum physics based quantum-security.
What has been the growth trajectory of QNu Labs since its inception? Tell us about the evolution of your flagship products.
We were very clear about founding a deep tech venture. India did not have an established deep tech startup, completely backed by research, before QNu. The right talent was hard to find, not many understood the science we were working on, and the knowledge was limited to academic circles. It was a challenging start!
Our well-wishers tried to dissuade us from starting the venture in India. They suggested that western countries would provide fertile ground. But, we were convinced about India. We knew that if India powers its digital growth engine, it needs digital security. So, we made India our base.
If India powers its digital growth engine, it needs digital security.
Any deep-tech company has to navigate through four stages of growth:
We spent a considerable amount of time–almost two years–in establishing the Proof of Science. We then collaborated with Cisco Launchpad for our technological development. Their guidance and conducive pressure to perform within set timelines helped us achieve our goals. In October 2018, we launched our first (and India's first) quantum-security product.
We were fortunate enough to receive whole-hearted support from the believers in our work and objectives. Our angel funders not only provided us with the necessary financial support but also motivated and encouraged us to keep going forward. We raised about $5M in a pre-seed funding round from these angel investors.
The challenge, which I see as an opportunity, with deep tech is that a company needs money not just to succeed but also to experiment and fail. Success is an iterative process. Our funders were patient and wise to understand this completely.
Deep tech needs money not just to succeed but also to experiment and fail.
We are the second company in the world to have developed three unique products in this technology - quantum random number generator, quantum key distribution, and post-quantum cryptography. These three products cast a wide security net for defence and critical infrastructure (such as banks, healthcare, and data centre) problems.
QNu has already established a quantum lab with the Indian Army. Who are your other noteworthy customers?
Indian Defence is our biggest customer. Along with the Indian Army, we are also trying to set up systems for the Indian Navy.
We have a few customers in the Middle East, a customer in Belarus who is using our products for securing the blockchain, and many more.
We have interesting use cases for our products. I would like to mention one in particular. One of our customers did not want its fleet of ships to be bonded by the LAN cables that run across the dockyard from the ship to the control base. They wanted a WiFi connection. But, WiFi is not an inherently secure form of communication. So, we created a quantum-secure VPN tunnel for them. It allowed the ships to move about freely in the dockyard.
We achieved mobility by creating a quantum-based trust in the WiFi system
We are in the process of developing enterprise solutions. Our focus is developing unique and widely usable applications for enterprises.
What is the next phase of growth for QNu Labs?
We are now in the stage of “Proof of Scale”. Our focus is to build applications and products that can be used by the masses. We are moving from a focused, targeted, niche market to a mainstream. So, these are exciting times for us!
QNu Labs is thankful to Harichandan Arakali and Forbes India team for hosting Sunil Gupta.