Bengaluru-based robotics startup Vyuti Systems has built a credible reputation with marquee clients and now plans to build newer and innovative products in robotics automation.
Robotics seems to be the buzzword today as many human-led tasks can be easily automated leading to higher productivity and efficiency. However, this is just the beginning as the robotics space is waiting for further innovation.
While having various discussions way back in 2013, NA Gokul and Nikhil Ramaswamy, both engineers in their mid-20s, realised there were some fundamental gaps in the automation and robotics space. They felt these technologies could perform limited tasks in a controlled environment.
Hence the duo founded Vyuti Systems in 2015 in Bengaluru. The robotics startup provides complete automation solution, where its system comprises of a robotic arm fitted with vision technology (machine vision), proprietary hardware and software algorithms to perform complex tasks.
Gokul and Nikhil first met while working at National Instruments. While Gokul was more on the technology side, Nikhil was into sales.
The bootstrapped company, which was started at home, has generated business of around Rs 1.3 crore so far.
In a short span of time, Vyuti has marquee names under its client list such as GE Healthcare, Honeywell, Timken and Sansera.
Explaining their area of interest Gokul says, “A robotic arm from a mechanical perspective is a space which is quite saturated, but what was lacking in the space was object manipulation.”
According to the founders, a mechanical robot can perform a certain set of tasks for which it is programmed to do, but it would fail if there is any variation in the settings. They explain that mechanical robots need very specific guidelines in terms of the size of the object, area of operation, etc.
“Even if there is one degree of change or say the size of an object to be picked is bigger than what it is programmed for, the robotic arm will not be able to perform the task,” says Nikhil.
Robotics startup to solve a problem
The founders say a majority of them in the area of robotics and automation is focused on object identification and not on object manipulation.
In object manipulation, an automated robot will function even if there are variations in the items to be picked.
They say when object manipulation comes into effect, the robotic task programmed with a software algorithm along with cameras fitted to it will be able to perform tasks even if there are variations.
The two decided that they would focus on the visual aspect of mechanical robotic automation as many of them were not able to solve it successfully. It meant the images captured on the robotic or automation product will be able to intelligently read the situation and perform the tasks.
The duo hence decided to focus on the manufacturing industry as it was the largest adopter of automation and robotics and it would be commercially viable for their robotics startup.
“We went to the clients and asked them what the difficult problems were to solve,” says Gokul.
Given that both the founders were very young, it takes a while to instil confidence among buyers. Their answer to this was - please bill us only when the problem is solved.
In fact, Sansera Engineering, one of their key customers, had challenged them to solve their problem in the area of mechanical automation. The company had earlier engaged a technical vendor, who was not successful even after two years. But Vyuti claims it solved their problem in three weeks. A similar scenario was also with Timken.
“This success actually sort of built a reputation for us and this helped us connect with other clients,” says Nikhil. Vyuti has successfully completed 31 projects and claims there has been no negative feedback from customers.
“The first sale is always difficult, but once you solve a problem, then it accelerates through word of mouth,” says Nikhil.
The founders say their success mantra has been their ability to rationalise, classify, analyse and then taken a decision.
The robotics startup started out with literally no investments and still remains a two-member company. The founders say the company has been running its business through customer and service billings.
The road ahead
Currently, this deep science technology startup solves the robotic automation problem on a case-to-case basis, where there is a lot of customisation done for each customer. Now they want to go to the next level.
The penetration of robots in the industrial sector of India is still very low when compared to other developed economies. According to the 2017 World Robot Statistics report, there are only three robots per 10,000 employees in India. The space in which Vyuti operates has very few players globally and even in India, the startups which operate in this space are more into the mechanical space of robotic automation and not into object manipulation.
Having built a credible client base, this startup is now looking at moving into the next level of growth where a customer can just pick up the product and start using it.
“What is limiting us is that all the hardware is built for inspection work and not vision manipulation,” says Nikhil. The requirement is to build a prototype fitted with a multi-dimensional camera, which will have self-learning vision learning intelligence software. This can be used to perform various tasks.
This would mean that instead of customising the software solution for every customer, the proposed product can be applicable to anybody and just buy it off the shelf.
“What we are proposing now is for any kind of custom design, our intelligence framework will automatically perform the task,” says Gokul.
According to the founders, they will create a software library for various processes, which will allow the robotic arm to perform almost any kind of automation task regardless of the variations in the parameters.
“We are able to handle a certain percentage of unpredictability with some amount of customisation, but the next step will be handling all kinds of unpredictability,” Gokul says.
Towards building such a system, robotics startup Vyuti is looking to raise pre-series round of funding of around $2 million and one of its existing customer Sansera has already agreed to pilot this project. TVS Motor has also agreed to do a pilot project.
“It is one thing to have an idea, but the realisation is that it has to be productised and brought to a level of sustainable pricing,” says Gokul.