Abhishek Agarwal, Co-Founder & Head of India – NeuroTags shares that the Indian counterfeit market is about INR 40,000 crore, and internationally, the industry faces an annual loss of US$ 1.6 trillion
Can you share the journey of your startup?
NeuroTags provides fool proof anti-counterfeiting solutions and creates powerful digital communication channels between brands and their consumers. It was founded in January 2017 by a team of techies – Nitin Gupta, co-founder, CEO and CTO, Abhishek Agarwal, Co-founder and Head – India, and Yogesh Miharia, Co-founder and CSO. While watching a documentary on the counterfeit industry and how life is adversely affected, we were very certain that we wanted to solve this problem by using technology, particularly AI.
Later on, we found that the Indian counterfeit market is about INR 40,000 crore, and internationally, the industry faces an annual loss of US$ 1.6 trillion. Following a thorough review of the imitation and consumer options for this challenge, NeuroTags Solution was released in 2017. It took us about a year to develop the technology and run the pilots, and NeuroTags was introduced in the market in January 2018. Later, responding to consumer needs, we extended our capabilities by incorporating a host of other technological solutions, such as the collection of offline customer data using incentivisation, paperless warranty processes.
Can you share the current scenario of anti-counterfeiting technology in India?
Counterfeiting is more than US$ 1.6 trillion globally (as per the Multinational Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition) and is accelerating at a very rapid rate, partially due to a rise in e-commerce.
According to the report undertaken by AC Nielsen, 30 percent of the FMCG market is lost to counterfeit goods. Customers are unknowingly consuming these items, which will later have harmful health effects on them. Counterfeiting also places brands in dark light and affects their image. Sectors such as FMCG, car parts, pharma, computer hardware, beer and electronics are most influenced by counterfeiting.
Anti-counterfeiting solutions would be effective if they are correctly applied, grasped and counter the assault on the brand. An perfect mix of physical + digital technologies still works well as existing anti-counterfeit solutions –barcode, QR, 2D code, RFID, etc., have certain limitations.
AI would be used to spot online fraudulent product lists, as well as anti-counterfeiting solutions that authenticate the goods, in order to avoid counterfeit products to the fullest degree possible. For example, NeuroTags offers algorithmic coupled tags and uses AI to identify anomalies in tag scan patterns. These tags are special for each object of the package and cannot be guessed. Tags, when added to product labels, can allow consumers to authenticate whether or not the product is genuine.
However, until now, such AI-free technologies remained vulnerable as a counterfeiter would copy the tag from one of the commodity products and stick the same on thousands of items and pass the review.
How is your solution different from the competition?
NeuroTags is the world’s first embedded QR code oriented, Artificial Intelligence driven serialisation technology to solve various market problems. We offer out of the box solutions, such as:
- Anti-Counterfeiting Solution (Powered by Artificial Intelligence)
Our Artificial Intelligence Solution prevents goods from being Counterfeited or duplicated. Before buying, customers can verify the authenticity of goods by using their smartphones. Most notably, users do not need to use a Smartphone App to authenticate.
- Run Loyalty/ Incentive Programs (Consumers/ Influencers/ Retailers)
Using these smart QR codes, marketers can centrally run and maintain their incentive based rewards services for their customers, influencers (mechanics/electricians/painters…)/dealers. Brands can set customisable schemes and opt to receive a gift from our 300+ e-gift catalogues such as PayTM Cashback, Amazon, Flipkart, Big Bazaar Voucher, among others.
- Paperless Warranty Solution (for Electronics/ Electrical brands)
Our Advanced Warranty Solution transforms physical warranty cards to a digital portal where customers can check the QR code and get their warranty card on their devices. This way, consumers don’t have to hold the actual warranty card/invoice, and brands get customer information.
As far as competition is concerned, there is no direct competition, as there is no such technology available which provides exactly the same solution for counterfeiting across the sectors. There are few players such as Pharma Secure, Original4Sure, SigmaLedger, SmartRac and Sproxil, who provide only one of the solutions or work in specific industries such as pharmaceuticals and retail.
How does this solution work and how big is this challenge of counterfeiting for brand owners?
Honestly speaking, brands are actually not well prepared with successful anti-counterfeit initiatives. Brands in India would need to introduce modern technologies to combat counterfeit goods. Luckily, there are emerging developments such as NeuroTags that are specially developed to tackle the counterfeit problem with the help of smart algorithms and AI. NeuroTags offers out of the box, a customer data portal that helps on-board and handle customers from diverse distribution platforms on a scale. Many brands are now using us on board and handling thousands of their dealers and distributors. Our technologies can be implemented by any industry that sells physical products on a very economical budget.
How have you seen the acceptance of this solution since its launch?
Since inception, NeuroTags has seen great acceptance in the market. Various enterprises like Syska LED, JCB, Escorts, Kapila Agro, Raymond’s group, Portronics and many enterprises are using NeuroTags advanced technology to not only fight counterfeiting but also in on boarding and engaging with consumers and retailers by running QR code based incentive/ reward schemes.
How is NeuroTags providing companies anti counterfeit solutions?
NeuroTags offers mathematically coupled tags that are open and secure. The open tag is clear on the package and can be checked with a smartphone before purchase to receive product details and an indicator of authenticity with a certain probability. If the product has been bought, the purchaser will have access to a protected sticker that is protected by a scratch sheet or held within the product cover. After scanning the secure sticker, the buyer would be informed of the validity details along with the registration of the product in the name of the client. The customer will also use the warranty, loyalty and referral points after scanning this sticker. The tags are linked, tracked and secured by the algorithms and AI on the server in such a way that, if anyone attempts to copy the tags, they are caught and the copied product is invalidated.
NeuroTags uses the same technologies to help companies gather data on real-time customer activity from the offline environment, which in turn lets them develop educated market strategies.
Can you share your views on the need for anti-counterfeiting in the e-commerce business?
E-commerce in India has seen phenomenal growth over the years—from $39 billion in 2017 to an expected $200 billion in 2026. However, this growth faces challenges. Counterfeiting and pirated goods threaten to distort the virtual economy. E-commerce sites are commonly used as typical sources for the marketing of counterfeit goods. Every year, companies spend billions on the war against counterfeit products, but the results are not as expected.
Pharmaceuticals, electrical and electronics, food, auto parts, clothing, toys and nursery products, agriculture, luxury goods (designer handbags, jewellery) and the alcohol industry are some of the most targeted counterfeiters industries.
Although technology provides many solutions to authenticate the original product, the same technical methods, in particular artificial intelligence, help to build clones. This makes it harder to differentiate between the original and the fake. Furthermore, when e-commerce players and brand owners get mixed up in battles, it is the counterfeiters who enjoy the benefits. Constant alerts and ingenuity are needed to stay ahead of counterfeiters. It is also critical that we have regulations on e-commerce.
The government has taken a major step in putting forward the e-commerce draught regulations, which lays down clear guidelines for the demands of brand owners and e-commerce players. This is the first time that a government report has set out concrete measures to tackle counterfeiting.