ganesh balakrishnan aurm: Flatheads’ founder sets up bank locker security venture Aurm with former MyGate core team

Ganesh Balakrishnan, founder of bamboo-based sneaker brand Flatheads, has started a new venture Aurm to address rising bank locker challenges with former core team members of MyGate and retired Indian armed forces officials

The startup aims to enhance security and optimise customer experience when storing valuables such as gold in bank lockers.

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Balakrishnan’s latest venture comes after the acquisition of Flatheads by the fashion label Styched. Based out of Bengaluru, the other cofounders are Suraj HS and Pratap Chandana.

“Aurm aims to solve a major problem related to safe and secure storage of valuable items for Indians. At a time when the number of affluent Indians is growing, the banks are overwhelmed with a lack of infrastructure. We intend to partner with banks to mitigate this problem by opening modernised and tech-enabled strong rooms closer to the consumers,” said Balakrishnan.

India is the world’s second-largest consumer of gold after China, with households holding an estimated 22,000-25,000 tonnes of gold and allocating 10-15% of their assets to it.

Despite the expected rise in physical gold purchases, there is a gap in demand and supply for bank lockers thus prompting banking regulator the RBI to introduce reforms in 2023 to improve locker security and management.

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These concerns have led to a noticeable shift towards the need for private safes that are perceived as more secure and free from the complexities associated with bank lockers. Aurm aims to solve these burgeoning challenges in the banking locker sector by providing secure, accessible, and automated safe deposit lockers in partnership with banks, said the company.

As per industry reports and RBI data, there are about 60 million affluent individuals in the country with valuable possessions like gold and other precious items. However, only 10% of these households have access to about 6.3 million lockers available with public and private sector banks, thus putting the rest at risk of theft, disasters, and accidents.

Besides, rising real estate costs and rapid digitisation are also forcing banks to reduce the expansion of physical branches, which means no additional bank lockers.

Aurm said it will partner banks and real estate developers to build and manage these strong rooms in premium gated societies, corporate clusters and bank branches. The company will also have an advanced robbery response system to prevent theft attempts with technologies like alarms, motion detectors, and direct alerts to authorities. The security and operations aspects of Aurm are led by Ananda Rao Moram, an Indian Air Force veteran and ex-director of operations at Delhivery.

The firm is currently bootstrapped and is planning to launch its services by the end of February 2024. It provides insurance up to Rs 25 lakh per locker with plans to set up locker services in Bangalore, to begin with, and then expand to Hyderabad this year.

Aurm’s service is centered around a fully automated, secure, and user-friendly locker system available 24/7 to bank customers, designed to enhance the security and experience of storing valuables.