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Coronavirus scare: Demand for cleaning robots to grow 4,000% in 5 years

Fear of job losses and resultant opposition were the main issues for less demand for robots in India and with the COVID-19 pandemic, people are more aware of the need for reducing human interface in cleaning requirements

twitter-logoPB Jayakumar | June 12, 2020 | Updated 17:53 IST
Coronavirus scare: Demand for cleaning robots to grow 4,000% in 5 years
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Key Highlights:

  • Market leader Milagrow deployed five humanoids to help doctors in hospitals
  • 12 hospitals now use Milagrow's floor cleaning robots; demand increasing
  • India has one lakh cleaning robots, whereas China owns 4 million of them
  • India likely to have 3.5 to 4 lakh cleaning robots over the next 4-5 years
  • Only two domestic manufacturers import and assemble hardware and software for now

Robots are already helping doctors treat COVID-19 patients in India, but don't be surprised if you come across robots cleaning a shopping mall or a friend's home during your next visit in the coming months. "Demand for hospital robots and floor cleaning robots are likely to grow exponentially (3000-4000 per cent) in India over the next four-five years," says Rajeev Karwal, founder Chairman of Milagrow Robots, India's leading robotics brand for consumer and commercial robots.

Milagrow made news a couple of months ago when its first hospital humanoid ELF was deployed in the advanced COVID-19 ward at AIIMS, Delhi to shield doctors and healthcare care workers from infecting the virus. Now five hospitals in India have deployed the ELF such as AIIMS and NH Reliance Foundation hospital. Max, Fortis and Medanta are likely to soon use it in their COVID-19 wards. The AI-powered humanoid, which costs about Rs 6.5 lakh, acts as the eyes and ears for doctors, remotely helping them interact with the patient, read out monitor readings and all round observation of the wards with a connected app to the medical team's mobiles or computers. It has eight hours of battery life and can travel about 2.9 km per hour. It is fitted with more than sixty sensors and HD cameras.

"We were developing this humanoid for commercial applications, but with COVID-19 spreading all over the globe and in countries like Italy where numerous deaths of healthcare workers happened due to infections, we fine-tuned it for COVID-19 treatment," said Karwal, who was the Founding President & CEO at Reliance Digital, before founding Milagrow in 2007. He was also the managing director of Consumer Electronics at Philips India and Managing Director, India for Electrolux.

Karwal said Milagrow's iMap 9 floor disinfecting robot is currently used in about a dozen hospitals. It costs about Rs 80,000, but has zero maintenance charges and a life of about five-six years, which makes it viable for hospitals to deploy it for mopping and sanitising hospital floors. Milagrow has about 25 different types of consumer and commercial robots, with almost 80 per cent into cleaning solutions for residences, facility management, hospitality, education, healthcare, retail and banking etc.

In the last financial year, about 10,000 floor cleaning robots were sold in India. Milagrow and iRobot, a domestic robotic vacuum cleaner company, comprised almost 90 per cent of the sales. These robots cost Rs 35,000-40,000 each. India has an installed capacity of about 100,000 such robots altogether. This is likely to increase to 3,50,000 to 4,00,000 in the coming four-five years. Comparatively, China currently has about 4 million floor cleaning robots.

Currently, raw material is imported and assembled in India. With the increase in demand, about 40 per cent of the components can be manufactured or procured locally in next couple of years, said Karwal. Fear of job losses and resultant opposition were the main issues for less demand for robots in India and with the COVID-19 pandemic, people are more aware of the need for reducing human interface in cleaning requirements.

Industrial robots are also gaining demand in India and Milagrow is planning to enter this segment with automated guided vehicles within next six months, said Karwal.

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