This startup allows you to watch shows, shop online, and access the Internet even without a data connection

  • SugarBox was founded in 2016 by Rohit Paranjpe and enables services to deliver high-speed content anywhere.
  • The startup is currently building Wi-Fi infrastructure in trains and is spending “millions of dollars” on it.
  • Sugar Box plans to go live at 6,000 train stations in India by the end of February. They also aim to reach 500 grams of panchayats this year.

In 2014, at a time when India was struggling to access cheap data, Rohit Paranjpe was running an OTT (over-the-top) service. When handing out subscriptions through a model where they would partner with a company selling another product and hand out the subscription for free, they often get the question: if my subscription is free, why am I still paying for the data?

While Paranjpe and his teammates were stunned by the question, a new idea struck: SugarBox, which allows you to stream content, shop online from a moving train, bus or even places where you can data connection can be questionable. SugarBox was acquired by ZEE media and entertainment in 2017 and received an additional £ 522 crore from ZEE in 2020.

So what does SugarBox really do?

“At SugarBox, the problem we’re trying to solve becomes somewhat of a basic need for everyone: affordable and reliable access to digital services. We have reinvented the way data delivery works on the Internet, making Internet services more available, reliable, affordable and contextual, ”Paranjpe told Business Insider.

While it’s free to users, SugarBox charges a partnership rate for its app and also has a share of the ad revenue its partners make.

To begin with, Sugarbox plans to offer its services to long-distance train passengers. “There is WiFi at stations, but no infrastructure in the train, that’s what we use. We have a tender from the railways to do this, ”he said.


With this startup, you can 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 allows services to deliver high-speed content anywhere without the need for users to have internet or data connectivity. A hyper-local CDN will install servers in places where consumers are present and where services are used – transportation centers, residential and commercial complexes, retail and hospitality, and much more.

Rohit Paranjpe, Founder, SugarBox

Sugarbox will soon go beyond content

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

As part of the Digital India program, the government is building Wi-Fi hotspots in villages. SugarBox is working with the government to use the existing infrastructure to make it faster for the people and to provide users with additional benefits such as streaming content, shopping etc. “I can’t provide the entire internet for free, but we can do optimize it for services we partner with, ”he said.

This startup allows you to 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. The startup already lives in Hyderabad and the Chennai subway, but has also turned on Wi-Fi in “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 nearly 30,000 users daily.

And it plans to go outside of India too!

SugarBox plans to go live at 6,000 train stations in India by the end of February 2021. They also aim to reach 500
gram panchayats this year. “This is not just a problem in India either. We have technology patents, so we are already looking to partner with major distributors in neighboring countries to deploy this technology in those countries and increase network coverage faster, ”he said.

And Paranjpe also claims that their internet distribution is safe and secure. There are two inherent benefits we have. As we are a CDN we are basically your private network and that means by default our network is inherently much more secure than any other internet network which, if you are limited, is like companies running a virtual private network or VPN. . Second, the data we store for the services is encrypted, plus we have our additional encryption, ”he said.

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