We talked to Ashot Mashuryan of HELTUN Inc. about making homes truly intelligent, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ashot Mashuryan: We are fine, thanks! Somehow, we managed to stay healthy, and that’s already great. Fortunately, we were not in a very strict lockdown for too long and were even able to return to the offices at a certain point. Of course, the pandemic imposed changes in our lifestyle, and we had to adapt to the new reality, but this is life; you need to be flexible. There are also positive aspects to all of this. Since we still sometimes work from home, I began to see my wife and children more often. It has already become a normal practice to have a video meeting with the baby on my knees.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded HELTUN.
Ashot Mashuryan: As it often happens, everything started from a childhood dream. When I was six, I watched a film where the house was ‘smart,’ spoke to the owner, received voice commands, and responded. It seemed fantastic, but back then, I already knew that this was the kind of house I’m going to have. When I grew up, I realized that such technologies were too expensive and way ‘dumber’ than those I had seen in the 20-year-old film. I decided to finally fulfill my dream and founded HELTUN to make homes truly intelligent.
In 2011 we designed the first product, but it took many sleepless nights until the success followed. In 2016 we started working on Heltun Z-Wave heating and fan coil thermostats and the touch panel switch. Several potential distributors from different markets were so thrilled; they offered to prepay the first mini production. That’s how our first test batch came out, which we distributed across 16 countries to probe the real market in 2018. That same year we incorporated in Delaware and took our first round of investment early in 2019. This funding propelled our efforts. Based on the collected feedback, we focused on developing next generation products based on the new Z-wave 700 platform. Today we export our products to more than 25 countries and continue to expand rapidly across the globe.
How does HELTUN innovate?
Ashot Mashuryan: It’s simple, we are making the weaknesses of our competitors the strengths of our team. We are very much driven by curiosity. We listen to our customers, learn, and deliver the promise of future thinking. Everyday hard work and inventive approach lead us to new perspectives of a Smart Home.
Our team continuously sets higher standards to adapt to the ever-changing world and make homes of like-minded people the utmost comfortable space to live in. We are trying to redefine the concept of comfort control by creating products with stylish design and rich functionality, yet easy to install and use.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Ashot Mashuryan: We have gone through very tough times, in fact. During the first couple of months, the country was in a total lockdown. We had to switch to the “work from home” mode, but you can’t do the same for the hardware production.
In addition to that, the global supply and logistics disruptions seriously affected our initially planned timings for the market entry. Because of the late arrival of components, we had to delay the shipping of existing orders and increase our lead time for the new ones. Of course, it caused frustrations, but we are grateful to our customers for their patience and understanding.
Unlike many other industries, we didn’t experience any decline in demand, just the opposite; our sales revenues allowed us to stay afloat and become self-sufficient at times of total uncertainty when the investor sentiment was the lowest.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ashot Mashuryan: The reality is that I have to make difficult choices almost every day. One of the hardest things to manage during the pandemic was keeping the balance between client satisfaction and the pressure on the team. With a large backlog of orders, we had to put more load on our staff. At some point, we even had to involve the management team in the production process. We also had to abandon the release of some planned products. It is not easy to give up ambitious ideas, but it is a step to take in order to stay afloat during these difficult times.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Ashot Mashuryan: Generally, we used the same tools as before the crisis, except that the importance of these tools became more obvious while working remotely. We went for a stricter sprint planning in Jira, had more Zoom meetings, Slack chatting, and overall became more organized. To my surprise, I realized that working from home can be quite effective; you just need to have a separate office room. The downside of this is losing the live contact, which is very important for keeping the culture and motivation in the company.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ashot Mashuryan: We have many of them. Fortunately, the smart home market is very dynamic and is growing rapidly. Smart homes are expected to become mainstream in much of the developed world by 2025. Overall, smart home device adoption rates are comparable to those of wearables, such as fitness trackers and smartwatches.
We are new on the market, which means there is a lot of room to grow, and with hero products and excellent support that we offer to our customers, we are sure to get our voice heard.
One thing we all should mind is that the more consumers embrace smart products and solutions, the higher their expectations will be, the tougher the challenges for the market players.
Your final thoughts?
Ashot Mashuryan: Now more than ever, our homes have become the safest place to live in. We aim at creating absolute comfort and convenience for our customers through bringing easy lifestyle, energy savings, and live interaction with their homes.