Robots: Are They The Future?

 In Interviews, Startups
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Balaji Vishwanathan
CEO, Invento Robotics

With Artificial Intelligence creating a buzz around itself and at a time where we have live examples where robots are identifying humans by name; there might be a day when they might prepare our meals, do our grocery shopping and what not.

In a developing country like India, there are challenges to overcome and probably there is a long way to go, but the future is promising, says the founder of Invento Robotics, Balaji Viswanthan. In a quick chat with Exhibit Magazine, he tells us why!

Edited excerpts:

1. How do you think has robotics been adopted in a developing country like India?
We were quite surprised by the positive response we got overall. Initially people questioning why a labour surplus country like India would need robots. But, now many start to realise that robotics is like the PC/internet revolution that happened 25 years ago. You cannot view that from the prism of jobs alone. A number of large enterprises have been quite enthusiastic exploring various use cases for robotics with us and we have over 20 large paying enterprise customers. But, it is still an early market for robotics not just in India, by anywhere in the world.

2. What is the estimate size of this industry like?
Robotics in factory automation, warehouses and healthcare are already matured and their market size would push in the range of $10b. The market size for service robots in retail and BFSI industries would be in the range of $1billion. But, in the next decade robotics would become a multi trillion dollar industry and similar to the PC industry we will have dozens of companies in the industry valued at $10b and above.

3.Robotics being a mere tech enabled discovery, do you think there are major challenges? Please elucidate.
There are plenty of challenges for an industry in a nascent stage. There are no common standards and just like the computers of the 1970s, there are big machines on one side with closed standards and loops, and a whole big hobby market on the other side. We need to be able to bring a common platform like the PC-DOS or the Android, to unlock the power of the industry. That is the business challenge. In case of political challenge, there is an irrational fear of robots that people often have based on uninformed opinions in media and movies.

4. What kind of problems does robotics plan to solve? Any specific domain?
There are dozens of them at this moment. For instance, in industries & warehouses, it is about moving items from one part of the factory to another in an intelligent and automated way. In medicine, the use cases range from patient interaction in the front office to doing surgery. In retail, the robots would guide customers through product purchase in shopping carts. Imagine your shopping cart recognising who you are, taking your shopping lists and then guiding you through the store with your desired products while giving coupons along the way.

5.Give us an insight into your company. What is your uniqueness like?
We build hardware and software as one integrated unit, and then open up the platform for domain specific applications. For instance, companies working in banking software often write their applications on top of robot to help a very nice interaction for customers at the bank branches. Our uniqueness comes from building both the software and hardware layers, while almost all of our competitors are either software only or hardware only.

6. Do you wish to update in technology in the recent times? How?
We are constantly adding new technology advancements in AI and pushing the boundaries of technology. Our face recognition, NLP, voice engines and indoor navigation are state of the art.

7. What are your immediate and long term milestones like?
Our immediate milestone is to build immersive experiences of shoppers walking into large retail stores. We want 100s of such robots this year. In the next 5 years, we are looking to build & deploy 1 million robots in a range of industries. We foresee a 2030 where every home, factory, office and store would have robots.

8. Lastly, any advice for upcoming entrepreneurs?
Survive for the first 3 years. This is the hardest part and 90% of people quit due to the lack of a good team or losing cash flow. Do everything possible to keep surviving through this first 3 years without expecting external funding and things would surely get better.

 

Quickies:

  • Industry: Robotics
  • Industry size: Around $10 billion
  • Uniqueness: Building both hardware and software
  • Future Plans: To deploy around 1 million robots in various genres
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