Tech-driven startup VizExperts has been simplifying complex operations for the Indian armed forces and replacing age-old warfare tactics with tech solutions. The startup is readying for future growth by eyeing the corporate world, opening new offices and doubling its team size
The government may have only recently cleared a year-long logjam in “Make in India” for defence manufacturing and welcomed private firms into the sector, but home-grown defence startup VizExperts has been contributing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative for over six years now.
VizExperts is the brainchild of Praveen Bhaniramka, an IIT-BHU alumnus, and was launched in 2006. It started as a technology company to provide integrated solutions and services in the visual computing field. After a successful two years, the bootstrapped startup shifted to product development and invested around $100,000 in its R&D wing.
In 2010, VizExperts forayed into the defence sector after developing a concept for the National Police Academy. Today, the defence tech startup has a growing client base and a team of over 125 employees.
VizExperts clocked an annual turnover of Rs 25 crore last year, growing its revenue by 60 per cent. It aims to achieve a whopping Rs 100 crore in the next few years by rapidly expanding in different sectors.
Its current portfolio includes Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), police and paramilitary organisations, law enforcement institutions, museums and educational institutes in India along with international conglomerates like Halliburton, AMD and SGI.
However, the brand’s rising popularity is based on Digital Sand Model technology (DSM), being used extensively by military forces to secure Indian borders.
Launched in 2011, DSM is an amalgamation of four different technologies – 3D graphics, high-resolution satellite data, simulation and GIS (geographic information system).
When asked to simplify DSM for laymen, Praveen refers to the 2004 war drama Lakshya. “Colonel Sunil Damle (Amitabh Bachchan) briefs his army about Tiger Hill while planning the Kargil operation. He uses a sand model. The concept of DSM is the same. Instead of making a physical hill, you use satellite data and because the software is 3D, it reconstructs the terrain. The model, equipped with an analysis tool and other software, helps plan the operation on a real-time basis,” he says.
Using Virtual Reality (VR) technology, VizExperts offers improved situational awareness in a 3D format to defence forces. The integrated solution is built on a 3D GIS platform and includes audio visual hardware and interaction devices along with the backend GIS database and terrain data for the entire country.
Defence: a sunrise industry for startups?
According to a report released by the lobby group Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and financial services company Centrum Capital in early February 2015, India is expecting a total defence budget allocation of $620 billion between 2014 and 2022, of which 50 per cent would be on capital expenditure.
The annual opportunity for Indian companies — both public sector undertakings and private — is expected to reach $41 billion by 2022. There is $168 billion of cumulative opportunity between fiscal 2014 and 2022, driven by domestic and external demand.
There seems to be a fair amount of competition for VizExperts, with a number of startups crowding the defence manufacturing space. Tonbo Imaging (night vision systems), Saankhya Labs (hi-tech startup offering solutions to ISRO), Axio Biosolutions (provider of hemostats to defence forces) and Omnipresent Robotics (UAVs, drones and robotics) are among the top players.
However, VizExperts aims to stay ahead in the game with its patent product – DSM technology.
Eye on corporate market
Having served the public sector for nearly seven years now, the defence startup now aims to create a benchmark in the corporate market as well.
Praveen is confident that corporate players would be keen to use VizExperts products, which are easy to use and cost effective.
“The fact that we have a systems integration team makes deploying technology very easy for the customer. That will be our USP when we start working with corporates,” he says.
Praveen highlights that the brand also plans to create new growth avenues by offering GeorbIS as a product development platform so software companies can build other GIS applications on it.
The company currently has a presence in Delhi-NCR and Bengaluru, and is planning to open offices in Hyderabad, Kolkata and Pune by the end of this year. It also has plans to enter the Middle Eastern and African markets soon.
Praveen feels the possibilities of innovation in this market are “limitless”. The sky’s the limit now!