I started my career as a race car design engineer. During our early days at IIT Bombay I used to design and build electric cars and take them to the Formula 1 circuit at Silverstone to race them. The most important lesson to have come out of that experience was – everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Many years later, I was to learn it all over again.
Our car EVo2 at the Silverstone Formula 1 circuit in the UK.
After IIT, our team broke up and we all went on to pursue our respective corporate careers. However, our passion for technology and hands on engineering led us back together. We decided to plunge into the auto space with a product that would revolutionise the way our cars communicate with us. We set out to build India’s first connected car platform, build cool technology that would seamlessly connect our cars with the rest of our digital lives. Being Elon Musk fanboys, we wanted our company to have a cool name like Tesla. We went with Carnot – a name that is introduced to all engineers right in the first thermodynamics class – the ideal engine cycle, named after the French scientist, Nicolas Carnot. Being space buffs, we stylized our logo taking inspiration from NASA.
Starting up was not easy! We knew the odds we were up against in building a first of its kind product in India and the excitement was palpable. We started off in the summer of 2015 as a team of 5 working in a mezzanine office in Powai and spent close to 18 months building out the product, by which time we were a team of 15. We were a rare breed of startups that were actually Making in India and we were proud of it! In the few months to follow we saw a roaring success, retailing over 5000 products with customers across the country – from Kashmir to Kerala and Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh and also forging multiple B2B partnerships with auto giants such as ICICI Lombard and Mahindra along the way. It was around then at 2am that I got a call from Rohan, saying “We got slapped with our first legal notice today”, sounding both worried and excited.
We had just received an email from some Gurgaon based law firm with a legal notice alleging intentional trademark violation, pinning damages to the tune of a few crores and threatening us with a criminal offense. Right then I called up my brother, a budding lawyer to understand what this meant! I cannot recall a lot of that conversation, but that night at 3am I do clearly remember him saying “You’re an entrepreneur now. There will be bigger challenges ahead and you cannot let this worry you.”
Around a year back we had already applied for a composite trademark for Carnot. As a young team, we hadn’t yet anticipated the importance of patents and trademarks, and thought of it as stuff larger companies spend their money on, but thankfully better sense had prevailed and we had anyway applied for a trademark with the IP office. As we dug deeper, we realised that we had a strong case in our favour. We had applied for a trademark. Our names were spelled similarly, but were phonetically entirely different. We even had email exchange to show that we had started using “Carnot” in internal communication much earlier than there was a competing product in the market. However in the end, we decided that as a young company, it would not be wise to invest our money in legal fees. So we agreed to change our name in a few months, to give ourselves enough time to plan it out.
As much as we loved SarCar, given our humble beginnings in Mumbai, eventually better sense prevailed.
As is said, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Determined not to get our heads down, we started to think of this as an opportunity. We saw this as a chance to get even closer to our customers – to come up with a name that resonates better with our community. We may be a small team of 15, but we have big hearts! What followed was a out of whack brainstorming session between the whole team, with names flying in from every corner of our humble office. Thankfully, most of the names never made the final shortlist – KalaCar, SarCar, CarNaughty – you get the drift. Eventually, out of a list of over a 100 names, we had our final shortlist of 15. And well it’s fair to say that in the end, better sense prevailed. The end product?
We were going to be ‘CarSense’
We spent the next few days finalising our logo, the colours and even discussed the right curve radius for every alphabet till we were convinced we had the right look and feel – keeping our brand identity intact and yet doing justice to our new name. We then fastened our seatbelts and set the communication engine into motion to announce this to the world. We revamped our website, our social media handles, our app store listings and updated all of our customers and supporters.
We’re more than a car tracking or security device. When it comes to you and your car, we’re your sixth sense – CarSense.
Finally on D-Day as we added the finishing touches, we heaved a sigh of relief and ordered in a few pizzas to office as the congratulatory emails of support poured in from our customers. It was heartening to read each and every one of them. As always, I personally replied to all of the emails that came in. It was satisfying to see that our new identity resonated well with our community.
This was the easier part. Officially, we were now CarSense, but in our hearts (and in our private company groups :P) we were still Carnot. You know that feeling of moving houses? You’ve moved into a plush new residence, but for some time after you still don’t call it your home. It wasn’t until Pushkar took the final step and updated our whatsapp group name from “Carnot Technologies” to “CarSense” did the reality (and the beauty!) of the new name start to sink in. We were “CarSense” from that moment on.
We think of this as an opportunity to turn a new page! We’re still the same awesome team with the same great service. We started Carnot to revolutionize the way our cars communicate with us. That mission still remains alive and we will continue along our path to connect India to the internet, one car at a time. After all, what’s in a name?