Authenticating products one click at a time

HOW often does it happen that you buy a product, paying its full price, and it turns out to be a counterfeit? What if before every purchase there was a way to instantly know what exactly you`re getting into? Good news, there is.

Authentik is a Karachi-based company that lets you verify a product through a simple smartphone app just by scanning a 2D data matrix code.

Imagine you`re at the pharmacy and want to find out if the formula is actually genuine or whether the medicine has expired, you can do it all through Authentik.

And what is a 2D matrix code? Very simply put, it`s a barcode that can carry information in both horizontal and vertical directions, as opposed to the one-dimensional code. Their serialisation generation process begins at the company-level where firms implement their system that can be integrated with any serialisation printer.

But that`s not about it. Authentik is an end-to-end system that covers each link of the supply chain: producers, distributors and the customers. I have already talked about the first and the third but how does the middlemancome in? Well, the company claims to offer them a detection machine to verify products.

Currently, this solution is only available for pharmaceutical products and the company has already taken Novartis and Otsuka Pakistan onboard with other big pharma in talks.

But what is it which Authentik offers that other detection tools or the even more sophisticated GS1 software can`t? `The other applications tell you if the product is genuine or fake: that`s about it. Ours verifies it, tells you the real time location of the product, its expiry and stock availability as well.

It`s a verification-plus software,` CTO Haseeb Uddin says.

Sure, it allows consumers to make informed decisions about their purchases plus it`s free so that side is covered. But why would the companies bear the additional cost of a new software and all? Authentik`s parent company is a tech firm working in the queue management system and decided to enter this new arena when its CEO, Syed Hashim Hasan, identified the need for such an app in pharmaceutical products.

`First of all, our software lets them track their products in real-time, so companies can ensure het ter checks and bal-ances. They will also be able to crack down on their knock-offs circulating in the market. Basically it gives them brand protection,` Hashim explains.

`The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan introduced new guidelines in 2017 to curb counterfeit products sothere was a need for local tech in this area, and here we are,` says he.

The entire project is self-funded and Hashim has set up a software house for developing this tech. But how long can they afford to go on like this? `We believe we will stop bleeding in the nextcouple of months as we are in talks with a number of companies for the software`s implementation,` says the CEO.

Let`s say they manage to, what then? How would their revenue stream look like? Obviously there`s the system installation at the production end but that`s simply a one-time inflow. The application is free for consumers so nothing from that end either.

`It`s a subscription-based model so there is a regular source of revenue.

Plus we will have access to large amounts of data that we plan to internally analyse to offer more streamlined marketing and business intelligence,` Hashim clarifies, emphasising that `the data will not change hands.

Hashim, however, is particularly conscious of how the regional competition could threaten his existence.

China has been in the scene for quite some time and now India has also established itself as a tech powerhouse, with both countries aggressively burning money and exporting their softwares throughout the globe.

`If it comes to that, I can only hope that people here would support the local product, at least when it is equally competitive. Also, with our on-ground customer service team, we will continue to have an edge,` says he.Though Hashim`s plans are not only local. He wants Authentik to be the go-to application for all products verification needs beyond Pakistan as well. `In the developed world, they have strict laws regarding brand protection and consumer safety so I see good space to move there,` he shares.

The success of his business, however, rests on the extent to which local producers and distributors are willing to regulate. Producers clearly have the incentiveiftheyare todistinguishtheir brands but distributors lack that. Why care about protecting someone else`s brands when you can sell fake products at higher costs and no tax hassles, right? According to Haseeb, that missing link can only be brought into the system through regulation and for that, he believes, we`re in the right direction.

After pharma, they plan to enter FMCGs and then eventually other sectors as well. They are also set to add another feature that will let users verify a doctor`s PMDC number. So the question is not whether the idea is scalable, but more if they can manage to stay focused.

This article was published in Dawn dated 22 July 2018

Haseeb Uddin

Tech/ food junkie, travel enthusiast, Endless Love for music & poetry.. Online editor for @dentalnewspk @medicalnewspk & @dentaltribunepk & a proud Pakistani!

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