By Mehab Qureshi
In a classic tale of perseverance, a failed startup that attempted to provide a free Wi-Fi service in India is now making waves as a significant player in the country’s cybersecurity landscape.
WiJungle’s debut into the world of technology was nothing short of a disaster. The company set out with the ambitious goal of offering completely free Wi-Fi services without any data or time restrictions, a daunting feat considering that during the startup’s inception in 2014, 1GB of data would cost around Rs 300 per month, making internet access a luxury for many.
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“We invested Rs 32 lakh to launch a ‘free Wi-Fi’ service, which garnered early success, selling the product to 13 or 14 restaurants in the first month alone,” said Karmesh Gupta, CEO and co-founder of WiJungle.
However, Reliance Jio’s entry into the market in 2016 would change the game, as its 303-plan offered 1.5 GB of data per day on Jio phones, rendering WiJungle’s social Wi-Fi concept nearly obsolete. It changed the basis of competition by offering lifetime free calling to its customers in an industry driven by voice revenues. Data now became the primary battleground for competition. Within six months of its launch, India had emerged as the highest mobile data consumer worldwide, utilising over 1 billion GB of data per month, up from 200 million GB earlier, according to a report from IFC.
Soon WiJungle had lost its entire client base. “In fact, Jio was installing towers extensively and compensating clients, leaving no room for competition,” he added. Realising the limitations of WiJungle’s free Wi-Fi model, Gupta decided to pivot towards cybersecurity, a move that would ultimately enable it to revolutionise the industry.
The ‘Make in India’ firm now operates as a unified network security gateway for several Indian ministries, helping government agencies and businesses secure their networks from cyber attackers. “The market for cybersecurity has long been considered crucial for large enterprises, and this sentiment has only grown stronger over the past decade. With the advent of the cloud and the emergence of software as a service (SaaS), the roles of chief information officers (CIO) and chief information security officers (CISO) became increasingly prominent,” he said. “These executives found themselves tasked with managing a growing portfolio of security responsibilities.”
When faced with a problem that involves security, a CIO might use a specific product to identify and mitigate the issue. “For example, they may turn to Cisco for a router, Palo Alto for a firewall, or McAfee for endpoint security, which has now evolved into Managed Detection and Response (MDR) and Extended Detection and Response (XDR),” he points out.
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But that too leads to other problems. The market is filled with a multitude of solutions for every conceivable security issue. This has resulted in a siloed approach, where a different vendor is used for each problem. According to Gupta, the procurement process for these diverse solutions can take up to a year, with a substantial investment of around $7 million -$10 million. Once these systems are procured and installed on-site, the process of configuring, integrating them with each other, and applying the appropriate policies can take an additional six months. “And this doesn’t even consider the need for a skilled team to manage these systems.”
That’s where WiJungle’s unified approach comes in. It solves this issue by providing a comprehensive all-in-one solution that handles all cybersecurity concerns, catering to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that lack the resources, knowledge, and budget to manage complex security systems. The company now boasts several high-profile clients, including the ministry of defence, NIC, and the PMO in central government, among others.