This startup helps you watch shows, shop online and access the internet even without a data connection

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This startup helps you watch shows, shop online and access the internet even without a data connection
Rohit ParanjpeSugarBox
  • SugarBox was founded by Rohit Paranjpe in 2016, and it enables services to deliver high-speed content anywhere.
  • The startup is currently building WiFi infrastructure within trains, and spending “millions of dollars” for it.
  • By the end of February, Sugar Box plans to be live across 6000 railway stations in India. They are also targeting to reach 500 gram panchayats this year.
In 2014, at a time when India was struggling to get access to cheap data, Rohit Paranjpe was running an OTT (over-the-top) service . While doling out subscriptions through a model where they would partner with a company selling a different product and give out the subscription for free, they would often get the question - if my subscription is free, why am I still paying for the data?

While Paranjpe and his teammates were perplexed with the question, a new idea struck – SugarBox, which lets you stream content, shop online from a moving train, bus or places even where your data connection can be questionable. Acquired by ZEE media and entertainment in 2017, SugarBox got another ₹522 crore from ZEE in 2020.

So what does SugarBox really do?



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“At SugarBox, the problem that we are trying to solve is somewhat becoming a basic need for everyone – affordable and reliable access to digital services. We are reimagining the way data delivery on the internet works making internet services more available, reliable, affordable, and contextual,” Paranjpe told Business Insider.

While it’s free for users, SugarBox takes a partnership fee for its app and also has a share in the ad revenue that its partners make.

To start with, Sugarbox plans to offer its services to passengers of long-distance trains. “There is WiFi availability at railway stations but no infrastructure within the train, we are deploying that. We have a tender from the railways to do this,” he said.

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This startup helps you watch shows, shop online and access the internet even without a data connection
SugarBox/Google Play Store

SugarBox uses a technology called Hyperlocal Content Distribution Network (CDN) that enables services to deliver high-speed content anywhere without users requiring any internet or data connectivity. A hyperlocal CDN installs servers at places where consumers are present and where services are used – transportation centres, residential and commercial complexes, retail and hospitality, and many more.

Rohit Paranjpe, founder, SugarBox

Sugarbox will go beyond content, soon



According to Paranjpe, “It's not just about providing access in places where it is not possible, or in places where the internet does not reach. It is also about making the existing internet ecosystem faster and cheaper.” And, they aren’t just going to support ZEE5 (the OTT service run by ZEE, which has a majority stake in SugarBox). They are in talks with various ecosystem stakeholders across content, e-commerce and more.

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As a part of the Digital India programme, the government is building WiFi hotspots in villages. SugarBox is collaborating with the government to utilise the existing infrastructure to make it faster for the people and provide extra benefits to users like streaming content, shopping etc. “I can’t provide the entire internet for free, but we can optimize it for services that we are partnering with,” he said.

This startup helps you watch shows, shop online and access the internet even without a data connection
SugarBox/YouTube

Paranjpe said they are in talks with e-commerce, payments, and even edtech companies to expand their reach across the country. Already live in Hyderabad and Chennai metro, the startup has also enabled WiFi at “bastis” or slums of Mumbai, 100 gram panchayats (village councils), government hospitals across India. Paranjpe claimed that before the pandemic wreaked havoc, the app had close to 30,000 users, daily.

And, it plans to go beyond India too!


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By the end of February 2021, SugarBox plans to be live across 6,000 railway stations in India. They are also targeting to reach 500 gram panchayats this year. “Also, this is not just an India problem. We have technology patents, so we are already looking at partnering with large distributors in neighbouring countries to deploy this technology in those countries and increase network reach faster,” he said.

And, Paranjpe also claims that their internet distribution is safe and secure. ”There are two inherent advantages that we have. Because we are a CDN, we are basically your private network and, by default, what that means is our network inherently is far more secure than any other internet network that if you are limited, it's like how enterprises run a virtual private network or VPN. Secondly, the data that we store for the services is encrypted, on top of that we have our additional encryption,” he said.

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