- Genesis of your startup – how did you start?
On returning to India after my education (MS, Tech. University of Bonn) in Germany, I wanted to work in the upcoming robotics industry to get some experience before starting my own venture.
However, there were no real offerings which I found worthwhile so after a short discussion with my father, I decided to work with him in his software business for a while to get some experience and eventually branch out a robotics division from within the business.
After a couple of years (around 2007 – 2008), I started looking for my core team. I posted openings in forums and other such places where I was sure that people interested in the field of robotics would come across this opportunity
By 2008 mid, our core team Manoj, Jyoti, Harsh, Ankur and I got started with what we called ADA Robotics. This was a division under our family software business which would later spin off as an independent company.
- What challenges were faced in the start-up phase?
The biggest challenge was to build capability in the field. We did not want to take the typical workshop and training route but rather work on technology and build products and solutions around it.
It was ambitious but we could manage to get some initial funding from the software business.
The other difficulty was to get connected to the right kind of support systems vendors and suppliers for components and manufacturers capable of fabricating complex components. Being a 100% engineering and geeky group, we had absolutely no idea of marketing and sales.
Robotics is still an upcoming market in India and hence to establish yourself in this kind of market is a very tough job for a start-up. Hence we had to be smart not only in terms of technologies but also excellent in our ways to approach this new market
We had two major breakthroughs in order to build up our sales and marketing capabilities.
Firstly, we were accepted for the incubation programme in National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. Here we were physically located in NID Ahmedabad and learned a lot in terms of design. NDBI, the NID incubation centre also helped us to get good media coverage. Finally we also won a 10 lacs venture ready fund from NDBI to market our products and propel the business forward
Secondly, we were accepted in the Morpheus Business Acceleration Programme which gave us a totally new perspective of executing the business aspects in the company. The Morpheus helped us in immense ways strategy, planning, execution, networking and many others. We realized that technology is just one pillar to support a successful business.
- What is the business model of your idea?
This one is interesting!
When we started off, we had a decent product in our hands. We had a complete robotic system which could be used to train people the practical aspects of Industrial Robotics. The system was ½ the cost of traditional robots available in the market.
We wanted to sell this product to educational institutes who were interested in setting up robotic labs and needed an end to end solution for it. This was our business idea.
Our hypothesis was that if we were able to sell around 5-6 systems, the competitive nature of the market would create a demand for these systems.
In India, robotics education was mainly about workshops and competitions. This was the first time a company offered an end to end solution with a full-fledged product and a curriculum around it.
However, this idea did not work well. Although, we did manage to squeeze in some revenue via Chitkara University (thanks to the Morpheus) and VJTI, Mumbai, the business was taking too long to stabilize.
We travelled across Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai knocking on doors of numerous institutes even remotely interested in robotics to showcase our product and the value addition we could bring in. We partnered with companies having a good reach to many colleges across the country.
Somehow things did not work out the way we thought it would!
We later realised that the primary reason was that the cycle time to close sales was too long. The people whom we were approaching were neither decision makers nor decision influencers. Hence the entire effort just went waste.
Amidst our efforts to sell to colleges, we luckily encountered some interested companies from the SME sectors. They genuinely needed solutions to increase production speed and quality. They were quick to decide within a couple of meetings.
Even if the answer was no, it was still an answer based on which we could take corrective actions in our sales pitch, strategy or even in our product.
This worked well for us.
- What are the revenue principles?
Robotics is capital intensive. As a start-up, our most lucrative option was to go ahead with teaching students and conducting workshop on robotics which most of the start-up companies did. However, this did not enable us to stay in touch with latest technologies and also we did not see ourselves getting into industrial applications while walking this road.
Hence our objective has always been to build our capabilities, build products and services around these products.
- How to keep abreast with the competitors?
Three core areas to keep ourselves up to the mark are:
a. Keeping an open mind to understand new technologies as well as adapting them early
b. Develop strong collaborations with dependable partners (vendors and suppliers)
c. Perfect the execution of production and delivery processes
d. Always, always have a very clear prioritization of tasks
- What is the role of innovation?
Innovation is important not only in technology but also in the way we execute the production processes and final delivery to our end customers. Currently we are more focused on innovations in executing the production process of the robots.
- What was your first big success?
Our first major industrial break was in the packaging industry where we are developing special purpose robots to assist in plastic container productions. We have had our initial product testing in this line and further success will enable us to launch similar products in food and pharma industries.
- What is for future?
At present, we plan to develop robots for small and medium industries where conventional robotics cannot be applied either due to costs or complicated processes involved. Later on when we feel that the market is ready we plan to move into consumer robotics.
About Abheek Bose
Abheek is a Mechanical Engineer from RVCE, Bangalore. Later he did his Master of Science in Autonomous Systems from University of Applied Sciences, Bonn. He is also a Member of the Fraunhofer AIS, Bonn, Germany. Abheek specializes in Robot System Integration, Robot Design and Programming, Component Design and Implementation and Educational Robotics. Though his forte is Robotics, Abheek as a Director of ADA Software Group, is involved in steering the company into achieving growth, new business opportunities and forming new strategic alliances. Under Software, Abheeks’s specialty lies in Legacy Migration and Re-engineering Model Driven Software Development “Smart” Software Systems.
|About Mridula: Mridula is a freelance writer. She writes on Entrepreneurship and has worked for a start-up in the past. To know more check out her profile at LinkedIn/Mridula Velagapudi|