STB maker My Box bets big on partnerships with Google, Amazon

MUMBAI: Set top box (STB) manufacturer My Box Technologies is positioning itself as a tech-driven company through futuristic products and solutions. The company will soon be going live with two of its products with Google and Amazon Alexa, informed My Box Technologies MD Amit Kharbanda.

My Box will be rolling out Google certified over the top (OTT) set top box (STB) apart from enabling software update in existing STBs to support Alexa. The company is an Alexa Voice Service (AVS) solution provider. It is one of the first system integrators to build an AVS solution for the video platform.

The STB manufacturer is also launching a hybrid STB in partnership with a direct to home (DTH) operator. “Over the last few years, we started working with Amazon and Google. We became their licencees. We started making Google certified STBs. We are also launching an OTT box with Google as well as a hybrid box with one of the DTH operators,” Kharbanda stated.

He also stated that the company devised a different approach for AVS solution. Rather than going for a new product launch with Alexa, the company decided to go in for a software update on the existing STBs.

“On the Amazon side, we approached it differently which turned out be quite a boon. We observed that the cable operators are not able to make money on linear TV. They have the advantage of reaching the last mile customers. Everyone is running after the last mile,” he stated.

The company decided to capitalise on the last-mile strength of cable operators and started installing software updates in existing My Box high definition (HD) STBs. Customers need to buy My Alexa Kit comprising of a USB hub and a voice-enabled Bluetooth remote to make the existing STB Alexa enabled.

Once the STB becomes Alexa enabled, the consumers will have the ability to control smart home devices, play music, shop for household goods, and more – hands-free. The company is hoping to sell 1 million+ Alexa kits in 2019 in India as well as international markets, said Kharbanda.

“We have around 350,000 to 400,000 STBs on the ground. So we are planning to upgrade the software of those boxes in the next two months. Thereafter, whatever volumes of boxes we supply will be Alexa enabled. We are also talking to some operators who have same the footprint to integrate the solution,” Kharbanda averred.

He also stated that the enabling Alexa in STBs will allow cable operators to sell smart solutions to TV homes through last mile connectivity and make money on each transaction.

Kharbanda said that the Amazon solution is not just designed and developed in India but is also the first one in the world where it is being integrated on an old box. “We worked closely with Amazon. So now we can use deploy this solution on other operator boxes not only in India but also worldwide,” he noted.

My Box is encouraging cable operators to push HD STBs so that these can be converted into smart boxes using Alexa. “We are telling the operators to seed HD boxes instead of SD so that these boxes can be converted to smart boxes using Alexa. We will try to keep the price as low as possible to drive mass adoption. This will also help cable operators to develop a business model out of it,” he stated.

Kharbanda also noted that the next big opportunity for STB makers will arrive when the old STBs come up for replacement. That will allow platforms to push for HD STBs. “There is a whole market to be converted from SD to HD,” he asserted.

On the local manufacturing of STBs, Kharbanda said that the ‘Make in India’ initiative has not helped the local STB industry due to the free trade agreement (FTA) with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“In the last two years, STB manufacturing in India has gone down. We signed an FTA with ASEAN in 2003. We are not able to compete with ASEAN countries due to higher cost and interest rate. We have been badly injured as an industry because of ASEAN,” he said.

Most of the STBs are now being imported from ASEAN. “STB imports have moved from China to ASEAN. Even few Chinese operators who were planning to manufacture in India have moved to ASEAN,” he stated.