TRIAL ROOM, REDEFINED

TRIAL ROOM, REDEFINED

Hemanth Satyanarayana, Founder, Imaginate With His Product Trialar

If the rush outside trial rooms at your favourite garment store bogs you down, Imaginate Software Labs (Imaginate) is providing a solution for that. Its innovative product, Trialar (Trial Augmented Reality), helps shoppers check out apparels without actually trying them on. Based on the concept of augmented reality, Trialar superimposes garments on the image of the customer by taking in approximate body measurements. Though nothing quite compares to trying out the actual garment, Trialar is an effort to minimise a shopper’s trips to the trial room. “Trialar complements a trial room. When a shopper has no clue about what garment to try on, he/she can quickly go through the apparel on the product catalogue and decide which suits the best. Thus, limiting the number of garments they need to try,” says Hemanth Satyanarayana (29), founder and chief executive of the Hyderabad-based company that was founded in January last year.

Trialar is open to public use only from May end. Imaginate has tied up with three retail stores in Hyderabad on a partnership basis to try out the product for a month. “If there is good customer acceptance, then we will launch it on a bigger scale by July,” shares Satyanarayana. Besides the desk version, there is also a web version of the product that will be useful for e-commerce garment retailers. A version 1.0 was tested with a US-based e-commerce retailer and Imaginate is currently working on transitioning from a downloadable plugin to the Microsoft platform, and hopes to complete it in June. According to Satyanarayana, six Indian e-commerce retailers have already shown interest. “When it is ready, the web version of Trialar will grow much faster than the desk version from next year onwards,” he adds.

Trialar complements a trial room. When a shopper has no clue about what garment to try on, he/she can quickly go through the apparel on the product’s catalogue and decide which suits the best. Thus, limiting the number of garments they need to try.

Trialar helped Satyanarayana bag Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Technology Review’s prestigious TR35 India Award for 2012. The award recognises outstanding innovators under the age of 35 each year. Prior to that, Imaginate was featured in the list of top 10 Indian software product companies by NASSCOM in 2011. Speaking about the MIT award, Satyanarayana says, “I am overwhelmed by the response we’ve been receiving. But we’ve also realised that there is definitely a great amount of interest for a product like this. We’ve received requests from corporate retail chains to small boutiques,” he shares.

Taking the plunge
A mechanical engineer from Indian Institute of Technology-Madras, it was while studying at the University of Buffalo, U.S., that Satyanarayana got interested in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) during his research on it. His work was to create an AR-based imaging device for liver surgery that allows for more accuracy and minimal blood loss. He then worked with a couple of startups that included doing product demonstrations for the U.S. Department of Defence. When he returned to India in 2010, he was ready to start something in his area of expertise. “For a year, I was scouting for ideas that can scale commercially. I developed a gesture-based interactive gaming app but realised it was a service model so scaling it would be a problem.” The concept of Trialar came to Satyanarayana during his post graduation days and admits such a concept has been tried before. “But in India, there were bottlenecks like the high cost of LCD screens, which is not very expensive now, thus, making it more affordable for retailers,” he adds. It took a year for Satyanarayana and his team of interns to develop the product, investing Rs. 25 lakhs towards Imaginate. His friend Pavan Kosaraju joined him in December last year and is now the chief operating officer.

Snap Shot

Imaginate Software Labs
Founder: Hemanth Satyanarayana
Year: 2011
City: Hyderabad
Strength: Working on developing products that make use of augmented reality

While developing both the desk and web versions, Satyanarayana’s challenge was to concentrate on two different business verticals simultaneously due to the varied target segment of each. Though the underlying concept of both is the same, he chose to move ahead with desk version first due to the feedback he received from retailers. He did a private-beta run last year and the current model has been through three iterations. Looking akin to a dressing table, Trialar captures the image of the person through its inbuilt camera and relies on analytics to choose the best-fit garment for the person after taking in approximate body measurements. The shopper can also interact with it through gestures and give accurate measurements if required. He/she can try out four different garments at the same time and share it online in its advanced mode. “The feedback helped me to not concentrate too much on the practical issues since customers see it as complementary to trail rooms. We’re also positioning it more as a marketing platform for retailers to showcase their expensive garments,” shares Satyanarayana.

Imaginate’s revenue will come from its annual licence, service and maintenance model. Retailers will pay for the software and the continuous process of digitisation of apparel, which is time-consuming. The team of five is concentrating on product development than marketing. “Retaining customers is our biggest risk. What if they don’t feel like checking out a garment during their second visit? Hence, we always look at adding more features,” he says.

Moving forward
Besides apparel retail, Satyanarayana will also be targeting jewellery retail and optical stores soon. “We’re also looking at getting the product out as an interactive OH (out-of-home) media, installed in public spaces for people to check out new designs in stores. This investment will come only from our side,” he says. The company is in talks with the Indian Army to help transfer their VR-based training facilities to AR as well.

In the near future, healthcare is another vertical that interests Satyanarayana. “My first attempt when I came to India was to develop a virtual laparoscopic surgical trainer. It would have been more capital intensive than Trialar. But DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) was attempting to develop a rudimentary one with CAIR (Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics). I wanted to buy their product and build on it. Though I was persistent for over a year, it was taking too much time. But I’m still keen on developing a product for the healthcare segment in the future,” he says.

Satyanarayana’s next plan of action is to raise investment by June end. For FY’13, he is targeting revenues of Rs. 50 lakhs. “By FY’15, we are confident of achieving Rs. 33 crore in turnover,” Satyanarayana states on a parting note.


Concept in brief

Imaginate Software Labs’ innovative product Trialar (Trial Augmented Reality) helps shoppers check out apparels without actually trying them on. Based on the concept of augmented reality, Trialar superimposes garments on the image of the customer by taking in approximate body measurements. Trialar has been open to public use only since May end onwards. Imaginate has tied up with three retail stores in Hyderabad on a partnership basis to try out the product for a month. “If there is good customer acceptance, then we will launch it on a bigger scale by July,” shares Hemanth Satyanarayana founder and chief executive of the Hyderabad-based company that was founded in January last year. There is also a web version of the product that will be useful for e-commerce garment retailers that he hopes to complete in June. Besides apparel retail, Satyanarayana is also looking at jewellery retail and optical stores soon.