Do you know counterfeit drugs kill around a million people every year?
Nitin Gupta and his friends were watching a documentary on the global counterfeit market. They realised the intensity of the problem when the documentary suggested that around a million patients die every year due to fake drugs alone. Soon they realised that counterfeiting is a massive problem limited to not just pharma, but across all sectors.
“The steady rise in the growth of counterfeit products has created a negative impact on the world market. Apart from having tremendous business potential, India stands as a major market for counterfeit products. From toothpaste to aspirin to high-end handbag, this problem is spread across all sectors/industries like pharma, retail, and FMCG,” Gupta tells e27.
“The problem arises when companies don’t have a mechanism to track down this market, collect consumer data, and are unable to keep an eye on distribution network. This leads to billions of dollars of loss every year. If we can save even one per cent of these lives, it would be a great achievement. We hope to achieve this objective with NeuroTags,” he adds.
NeuroTags, owned and operated by Pune- and US-based TezMinds, was developed in 2017 by Gupta (CEO and CTO), Yogesh Miharia (CSO), and Abhishek Agarwal (COO) — all have worked in the hard-core tech and startup sector.
As the name suggests, NeuroTags is a tag that aims to help businesses eliminate the counterfeits of their products from the market, thereby preventing the revenue loss. It helps businesses collect consumers’ real-time behaviour data from the offline world, which in turn help them in constituting informed business strategies.
“When we did a thorough research of the market, we found that most of the solutions in the market, such as holograms, RFID, QR codes etc. are ineffective and are easy to copy. These solutions do not help end consumers in verifying the genuineness of the item in any effective way. We thought if we could utilise the smartphone as a device to verify the authenticity, it would be of a huge for the consumer,” he says.
NeuroTags provides algorithmically-coupled tags — open and protected. The open tag is visible on the product. It can be scanned by anyone (read consumer) with a smartphone to get all the information of the product and an indication of authenticity with a certain probability.
Once a product is purchased, the buyer gets the access to the protected tag, which is protected by a scratch layer kept inside the product seal. After scanning the protected tag, the user gets the authenticity information with certainty. Also, the user can avail warranty, loyalty and referral points after scanning this tag.
The tags are connected, monitored and protected by algorithms and Artificial Intelligence on the server in such a way that, if anyone tries to replicate the tags, it gets caught and the copied product gets invalidated.
“NeuroTags is a unique solution to fight the counterfeit problem in a very effective and economical way. Our technology is capable of getting moulded and be used by any sector/industry in the market. We have identified sectors such as pharma, manufacturing, retail, and FMCG, which are in need of this technology,” he shares.
Being a large and cost-sensitive market, India is witnessing a huge inflow of cheaper counterfeit products into the country. According to the Authentication Solution Providers’ Association, the Indian counterfeit market is worth INR 40,000 crore (US$5.69 billion). Globally, it is US$1.6 trillion problem which is expected to reach US$4.2 trillion by 2022.
Initially, Gupta shares, it was difficult to convince companies about the benefits, as nothing of the product of this kind was available before. But now when they see their competitors and other companies benefiting from NeuroTags, they come on-board quickly (as companies don’t have to change anything in their current manufacturing or supply chain process).
To date, the startup has bagged several SME customers as well as a large enterprise. “We are already working with some of the key companies in India. We are also in talks with some of the top brands and are setting our bases in strategic geographies across the globe. We are in the right market and at the right time, providing the right services.
A bootstrapped company so far, Gupta and team are exploring the strategic partnership for early-stage funding with some of the investors.