August 23, 2023
A Smarter Way to Shop
CMU alumna Adhithi Aji’s insightful consumption platform connects consumers with brands in a novel way
By Kelly Rembold
Carnegie Mellon University alumna Adhithi Aji is changing the way that people shop for their favorite products.
Adhithi is the founder and chief executive officer of Adrich, a consumer insights and smart replenishment platform powered by artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.
It’s an innovative “zero-touch” shopping experience that Adhithi hopes will change lives for the better.
“Disruptive innovation definitely inspires me,” says Adhithi, a 2014 College of Engineering graduate with a master’s degree in engineering and technology management. “Not marginal improvements of the way we're doing things, but drastically changing lives.”
“Disruptive innovation definitely inspires me. Not marginal improvements of the way we're doing things, but drastically changing lives.”
Adhithi Aji (ENG 2014)
The Adrich platform uses smart labels to turn everyday products into “smart” products. Users apply a label to a product and connect it to a smartphone app. Intelligent sensors in the label track consumption, and users receive a notification when a product is running low. If desired, a smart replenishment feature automatically re-orders, too, crossing an item off a user’s to-do list before it even appears. This “need-based” subscription model addresses the problems of other subscribe-and-save programs. With those, users often receive too much product or run out of product. With Adhithi’s platform, she strives for users to have the amount they need when they need it.
The platform and labels also make it easier for brands to understand and connect with consumers. When it comes to privacy and information, users maintain complete control, and they can opt-in to share high-level consumption data with brands. This gives brands real-time insights about how, when and where their products are being used but also ensures that an individual’s privacy is protected, too.
The platform is already live in Europe with plans to launch in Asia later this year.
“This year is a new chapter,” Adhithi says. “We are going international. We are making a lot of product, and we have some new manufacturing partners that are helping us scale.”
The company already has a strategic partnership with Amazon, and their customer base is growing to include household names like Clorox.
Adhithi is working with Clorox to develop reusable smart bottles. Each bottle includes the Adrich logo and an intelligent sensor label.
“We are helping the planet by reducing single-use plastics,” Adhithi says. “That’s one other area that I'm really excited about.”
Adhithi is also enthusiastic about the growth of her team.
“I brought on some senior leadership who believe in the business and can take it to the next level,” she says. “I’m really excited about that, and our set of investors. They've been very supportive during the ups and downs of the company.”
“The whole infrastructure, the resources, the way the curriculum was structured at CMU — all of that catered to my goal of learning how to manage innovation and make it happen.”
Adhithi Aji (ENG 2014)
Adhithi developed a passion for technology and engineering at a young age.
“In 10th grade I was introduced to computer science, and that helped me understand the power of technology,” she says. “I started studying the interaction between hardware and electronic gadgets and became very inquisitive.”
She received a bachelor’s degree in electronics and communication engineering from Ramaiah Institute of Technology in Bangalore, India, in 2008, and a MBA in IT and operations from Great Lakes Institute of Management in 2012.
Adhithi went on to build a strong career with product management experience at Siemens and Expedient where she led product strategy and a team of engineers. She was responsible for building the roadmap of products and services, product marketing, positioning, and supporting sales functions of the organization with release management.
Prior to that, she worked as a senior software engineer in automotive and telecommunications industries where she was part of research and development teams working on and improving the organization's flagship product lines.
With two degrees and corporate experience on her resume, she began thinking about her next steps.
“I wanted to focus specifically on innovation, where I was bringing something technological to the world and commercializing it,” Adhithi says.
In 2014, she enrolled in CMU’s one-year Engineering and Technology Innovation Management program.
“The whole infrastructure, the resources, the way the curriculum was structured at CMU — all of that catered to my goal of learning how to manage innovation and make it happen,” Adhithi says.
“It was a very practical, project-based approach. It was not just a framework behind four walls in a classroom but a ‘go there, apply it and learn in the real world’ approach. My friends, colleagues and teams figured out and learned a lot of things together that I have taken to my company.”
Adhithi Aji (ENG 2014)
From Project to Platform
Adhithi founded Adrich in 2016, but she devised the idea two years prior at CMU.
“It was part of a capstone project,” she says. “I had to come up with an idea and build a business model for it.”
“With the cloud, software companies have the means to understand the utilization of their products. Adhithi clearly saw an emerging and large opportunity to make this possible with physical products, too,” says Berardone, a professor of the practice of product management in the School of Computer Science. “It’s been great to see her evolve from an engineer, to a product manager, and now a tech entrepreneur. She’s a model for others.”
Looking back, Adhithi appreciates the hands-on learning at CMU.
“It was a very practical, project-based approach,” she says. “It was not just a framework behind four walls in a classroom but a ‘go there, apply it and learn in the real world’ approach. My friends, colleagues and teams figured out and learned a lot of things together that I have taken to my company.”
She also finds it helpful to reflect on Andrew Carnegie’s words and CMU’s motto, “My heart is in the work.”
“I remember that value system the most,” she says. “I still take it with me today.”