Business Today

I, Robot

His babies can clean sludge from the bottom of a water tank, help out at a pickle factory, keep your home clean, and, sshhh! some are keeping watch at top-secret facilities. They are actually industrial robots- designed for Indian conditions and selling at Indian prices- by Pulkit Gaur, an industrial engineer.

Rajiv Bhuva        Print Edition: June 27, 2010

His babies can clean sludge from the bottom of a water tank, help out at a pickle factory, keep your home clean, and, sshhh! some are keeping watch at top-secret facilities. They are actually industrial robots- designed for Indian conditions and selling at Indian prices- by Pulkit Gaur, an industrial engineer.

"We are bringing technology of the future to the Indian market," says Gaur, who founded Gridbots Technologies in 2007, and is its Chief Technology Officer.

You can pick up Gaur's entrylevel, educational robot, the Turtle for Rs 5,000-or the price of a mobile handset. When introduced in May last year, Gridbots sold 100 Turtles in just four days. Gridbots also offers Sleuthound, an automatic tracking camera for surveillance. These cameras are programmable, can store sequences apart from having a 30X zoom that capture every single detail.

At Rs 25,000, the Sleuthound does the work of five traditional surveillance cameras. For manufacturing, Gridbots offers a robotic arm assembly with object manipulation capabilities. In Gujarat, a pickle manufacturer uses these arms, which cost Rs 3 lakh a piece or a fifth of what German and Japanese products cost.

Then there is SaUsR, useful for underwater inspections, operations and cleaning, up to a depth of 50 meters. In Gujarat, Gridbots is in talks with Vadodara Municipal Corporation to deploy the robots for cleaning water tanks not easily accessible. Gridbots has already opened six Robostores across major Indian cities. "This makes it easy for people to come, see and feel technology," he says. "It's rewarding to challenge the stereotype that technologies come to India five years late."

With Rs 10 lakh as initial capital, Gaur promoted Gridbots in August 2007 and broke even that December. So why has Gaur maintained distance from commercial investors? "Investors are good for any business to scale and to grow but we are not turning to investors now," says Gaur. With seed funding of Rs 25 lakh provided by Government of India's Department of Science & Technology, Gaur thinks he can manage for now on his own.

Gaur is confident of launching an intelligent robot for tasks like cleaning home and mopping the floor. "The prototype is ready for over a year," he says. "We are looking for funding for mass production." But he wants partners who share a common vision. "We are doing a fascinating job and not going by volumes and hyper growth ambitions," he says.

FOCUS: Industrial Robotics

FUNDING: Seed Funding from the Department of Science & Technology

ADDRESSABLE MARKET: Close to Rs 1,000 crore

BREAK EVEN IN: Dec. 2007

REVENUE: Around Rs 1.5 crore; 5,000-plus customers

THE BEST ADVICE I GOT AND FROM WHOM: Learn to say no!

-IIM-A's Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship

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