Bosch India’s accelerator programme DNA has been leveraging its technical and business capabilities to support and encourage the startup ecosystem since 2017. DNA (Discover. Nurture. Align) is an initiative that aims to promote India as the destination for innovation on a global platform. Through the programme, the organisation discovers startups with great ideas, who then get a chance to work with Bosch experts. DNA nurtures potential companies through partnership and co-creating products.
The first edition of the programme saw 10 startups graduating from a cohort under technical and business mentorship of Bosch experts. Now in its second cohort, the programme showcased solutions from 11 innovative startups at the Demo Day held on January 28, 2019 at Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions (RBEI), Bengaluru. The eleven startups from the second cohort that graduated from the programme are Sastra Robotics, Sofocle Technologies, Drone Aerospace, InGo Electric, Playment, Anakage, Fulcharge, Krishitantra, Dimension NXG, iFuture Robotics, and DACS Mobility Solutions.
The journey of a startup with Bosch accelerator
Debasis Goswami, Head, DNA Startup Alliance Program welcomed the gathering, which comprised Bosch leaders such as Vijay Ratnaparkhe, President - RBEI, Soumitra Bhattacharya, President & MD - Bosch India, Dattatreya Gaur, VP and Head - Mobility Solutions, Aravind Raman, Head- Country Strategy & Business Development - Bosch India, and Ashish Nainawatee, Senior General Manager - Strategy and Business Development. Venture capitalists, consulate members, industry experts, startups and mentors were also in attendance.
Aravind Raman took to the stage to speak about the DNA programme for startups. The accelerator programme introduces the startups to the business teams at Bosch and tries to co-create solutions for the problem statements. They also decide whether to go to market jointly or work with them in co-creating IP. "We also see if there are any strategic interests going forward." During this process, the agility in which startups operate proved to be helpful for a big corporate like Bosch. "We get to know the topics they are working on, and how we can co-create with them. We started with 20 startups, of which 11 are graduating today. I'm really glad they stayed the course and have seen value in partnering with Bosch," said Aravind.
The 11 startups from the second cohort had the opportunity to pitch to an eminent panel of experts from the Bosch leadership team, consulate members and industry experts. The session was hosted by Kishan K Kumar, Open Innovation Manager, Bosch DNA startup alliance and partnership, where mentors also had the opportunity to share their experience on the engagement with their respective startup and how they plan to take it forward.
The second cohort showcased a set of entrepreneurs who are working on mobility, creating the next generation robots, hybrid kits for three-wheelers and so on.
inGO works on building smart, ultra-portable, connected and stylish micro-electric vehicles complementing public transport. Founder Nikhil Gonsalves said, "When we're looking at mobility, we're still relying on gas hustlers. inGO solves the problem of last mile connectivity. We ensure that campus managers or facilitators have data on the users and how the vehicle is performing." The startup has developed three IPs - airless tires for roads which will never run flat, modularity of the vehicle where the battery can be swapped in 15-20 secs, and intra-campus navigation, wherein users can navigate within a controlled environment and get to classes or labs in the campus. The vehicle has been tested on various user and terrains in Bengaluru and fleet operators account for 50 percent of their customer base, including Bounce, Vogo, among others.
Bosch engagement: Their synergies with Bosch includes B2B opportunities. They hope to enter the South-east Asian market to offer their innovation as a product offering and a service.
Founded by Sandeep Kondaji, Krishi Tantra is an Agri-IoT startup building farm automation for controlled agricultural environment. The startup aims to resolve some of the core issues in agriculture in India including manpower, water access, and price rises. "Our motto is to connect technology with agriculture," said Sandeep. The product can monitor various parameters in farming including NPK, temperature, soil health, production, weather updates and so on. This information is uploaded to the cloud and can be monitored offline by farmers. "We have technology as a product, a SaaS model in cloud and API as a service." With Krishi Tantra, farmers always have control over their farms, which has resulted in 83 percent of water savings.
Bosch engagement: They were able to refine their product to make it market-ready. The engagement helped them validate their product for the international market as well.
Playment works on training data for computer vision models with fully managed enterprise solutions. "You need specific interfaces to be able to convert raw data to annotated data which the machine can understand, and we have built sophisticated interfaces to do that," says founder Ajinkya Malasane. They also provide a dashboard to view analytics and have a comprehensive suite of annotation tools which include 3D point cloud annotation, landmarking and keypoints, semantic instance, polygonal segmentation, and more. With over 50 customers in 10 countries, their clientele includes large OEMs, suppliers and research universities.
Bosch engagement: After working on different pilots across various segments, they were able to achieve 99 percent quality. The next step is to scale up this engagement.
Started by Ravi Chamria, Sofocle is a blockchain company focused on logistics and empowering value creation technology. "The major challenges across various industries is counterfeiting, complexity of supply chain, reconciliation, data security, privacy compliance and so on. We are solving this using blockchain technology, ML and IoT," said Ravi. They have built a traceability solution using blockchain, used smart codes instead of barcodes which are dynamic and programmable codes. These codes enable complete traceability from manufacturer to retailer to end customer through a smart contract. Some of the benefits of Sofocle are recall management, reduced counterfeiting, and verification of products.
Bosch engagement: They were able to mature the product to make it market ready and take it to various industries in the next few months.
iFuture Robotics is building the next generation of robots for smart logistics. Their product Ark Robot is an autonomous robot that can self-navigate to different locations within the factory floor. It can pick and move inventory, has two-access arms and grippers, can onboard 120 kilos and move 1.2 meters per second of peak speed. "We've done PoCs for about 7 robots. These robots can communicate with other ark robots in a certain environment," said founder Rajesh Manpat. The product also allows for product relocation and map building capabilities for new factory floors. Their clientele includes Flipkart, BigBasket and Coop.
Bosch engagement: They are collaborating to develop an autonomous robot for factory automation use case, and looking at joint GTM opportunities for the products already built.
Earlier known as Fulcharge, Numocity provides a cloud-based comprehensive software suite for EV charging ecosystems. "The market providing energy was getting fragmented and we saw the need to eliminate complexities that come with managing network elements from chargers to batteries to vehicles," said founder Ravikiran Annaswamy. They currently have 3 products in the market - Fulcharge, an EV charger management system that helps charging vendors get their systems on the ground; ZipSwap, a battery swap management chargeable system; and Context Ally, an intelligent suite that helps monetise all this data with ad platforms. They have filed a few patents in the battery swapping area.
Bosch engagement: Bosch has collaborated with them in all 3 spaces - digital technologies, electrical or grid side, and automotive side. They are working with them on the EV charging space and battery swap to get systems on the ground.
Sastra Robotics founded by Aronin P creates robotic solutions for automated functional testing of real physical devices. "The problem we are trying to solve is the inability of a human resource by building a complete intelligent robotic platform which can be trained to mimic human actions," said Aronin. The robot reduces 70 percent of testing cycle time and 30-70 percent go-to-market time. It increases the quality of work, is 3 times faster and safer, and is an ergonomic solution. The startup's target audience includes automotive, aviation, industrial, medical, fintech and home appliances.
Bosch engagement: Bosch helped them enrich their product stability as well as process stability.
Anakage is an enterprise IT solutions company building an automation platform for end-user support. "Problems like being locked out of your laptop, waiting for IT helpdesk to reset it, facing prompt commands while trying to communicate through collaborative tools, missing out on a client presentation accounts to $5 billion as a lot of processes get repeated," said founder Prosenjit Ghosh. Anakage's cobot (co-robot) solution can travel offline with the individual and is an agentless model that is completely secure that can be used to draw, take notes, easily sign in to profiles and so on. The startup has interacted with 300,000+ enterprises and resolved 350,000 problems till date.
Bosch engagement: Through the collaboration, they got validation of use cases, got ISO certified and covered by Silicon Review.
Drone Aerospace Systems
Founded by Kishore J, Drone Aerospace Systems provides drone sub-systems like autopilots, control systems, and drone as a system. They work on the subsystems that are part of a drone, rather than the drone itself. "We have developed our own autopilot systems which are embedded into the drones," said Kishore. The startup also syncs Ground Control Software (GCS) as an interface and has a communication network platform called Meerkat Antenna to communicate from air to ground. Their products include drones that can be used on ground, underwater and in air.
Bosch engagement: They are working on a solution to get a specific need for an application area in the field of agriculture.
DACS Mobility solution
DACS provides hybrid kits to convert regular 3-wheeler autorickshaws into electric autorickshaws. Founder Ananth Bommadevara said, "We're trying to convert the existing fleet of conventional vehicles into completely electric ones. We want to bridge the gap so that it will be easier for infrastructure developers or fleet operators to adapt to electric mobility which is the future." Unlike the usual electric vehicles which are expensive, takes a lot of time to charge, and has a life of 8-12 years, their kits are economical. It only costs a fraction of other electric vehicles, is easy to drive as there is no hassle of gear changes, and causes less pollution. Existing vehicles can be transformed into electric ones, batteries and motors can be swapped, and the kit provides intelligent onboarding analytics for GPS and switching.
Bosch engagement: The mentors guided them on how to take advantage of different startup ecosystems in India, refined their pitch deck, approach investors, and scale products to be easily integrated into existing markets.
Dimension NXG was founded by Pankaj Raut as a passionate quest to discover how computers can evolve and enter a new dimension where the digital and real world seamlessly integrate. They believe holographic teleportation, x-ray vision, clairvoyance and other such concepts have the power to transform industries like healthcare, education, aerospace, and construction, among others. They have developed an AI-powered holographic computer called AjnaLens, a holographic computer that has an edge-to-edge field of view of over 90 degrees. Using AjnaLens, the team helps build custom work instructions, training modules and data visualisation for any environment.
Bosch engagement: They are exploring the areas of training workers in the manufacturing units. They are also facilitating Industry4.0 in helping operators with custom instructions and visualisation of machines and data.
Panel discussion - Open innovation and business impact
Bosch leaders took to the stage to talk about their experiences from the DNA programme and this was followed by a panel discussion on whether open innovation is creating business impact for both organisations and startups. Participants included Dipanjan Gope, CEO, Simyog Technology, Dattatreya Gaur, VP & Head of Mobility BU, Robert Bosch Engineering & Business Solutions, Amrita Gandikota, Manager - Indo-German Chamber of Commerce, Startup Connect, Aravind Raman, Head - Strategy and Business Development Bosch India, Varadarajan Krishna, Managing Director, Induct AS, 100 Open Startups, and the discussion was moderated by Manjunatha Hebbar, Founder, Buoyanci.
All the panellists agreed that both startups and organisations have certain expectations in mind when deciding whether to collaborate. In the earlier days, startups used to get a feeling-oriented approach from corporates who solely agreed to collaborate based on assumptions. Amrita says, "A lot has changed since then, surveys and research have proved that a lot of progress is happening." "It depends on the burning desire of the business unit and the startup. Once trust is established, we get a meaningful relationship going. It's still a journey and so I’m cautiously optimistic about certain wins with startups," said Aravind Raman.
On what could make the startup-corporate collaboration work, Varadarajan Krishna believes that even though 1 percent are bad apples, there are 99 others who are good ones, and that's all that matters. "Democratise these startups and scale continuously. We had 3,309 contracts, 485 startups and 339 corporations in the last 3 years and a lot of learning still happens. Although many are still sceptical and see startups as a waste of time, there are a few who can envision the disruption happening," he said.
Manjunatha Hebbar took the panel into the topic of speed and why it is one of the most important values why we associate with startups. "There is an issue of speed versus the trust element, and what about scale?" he asked. Dipanjan stated that a startup can't go on without the ecosystem, so it's important to establish trust. As far as scale is concerned, he said, "If the market is like a football field, we need to cut it and find out a niche. Famous startups are famous because they did one thing different from everybody else." Dattatreya believes scale is important and large companies can provide that scale. "Engagement with such platforms is a great way to have a check on your hypothesis, and speed and scale are taken care of here."
The way current generation startups engage with organisations is very different. Speaking on certain things that startups should keep in mind in order to work well with corporates, Aravind said that startups look for speed, and that creates a positive pressure on corporates who work on established processes and documentation. " Some startups approach us with a notion that they can get access to our customers. We need to moderate their expectations, I think 9 months should be a benchmark for startups to hit the market," he said. Dipanjan said, "Leave startups on their own to perform. They are looking for help in market connect and scaling up. Allow them to focus on what they’re good at rather than making them another department in the company."
All the panelists mutually agreed that corporate accelerators gave a leg up to startups who are looking for funding. "VCs will invest in a startup that is validated by corporate. Money from corporates come with much more value than just the money," said Varadarajan.
Celebrating the ‘mentorpreneurs’
After an insightful panel discussion, Bosch celebrated the graduating cohort of 11 startups as well as their mentors with the certification ceremony. Special awards were given to various startups in specific categories. The Investor’s Choice award which included inputs from internal stakeholders and key mentors was awarded to Sastra Robotics. The award for Best Scalable Strategy, in terms of engagement within the organisation was presented to Playment and Anakage. The Best Accelerator Startup award which was based on how they made the best use of the engagement opportunity with Bosch was given to inGO & Sofocle.
The graduating startups also had the opportunity to demo their products and services at the startup marketplace. The award ceremony concluded with a few words from Sri Krishnan, Senior Vice President at Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions Private Limited. “A few years ago, we were discussing whether to work with startups. We’re not discussing the ‘why’ anymore. We have clearly understood the importance of an innovation which is inclusive and open to all. We are now in a hurry to scale up, and that shows we’re in the right direction. A lot more speed is required, we’re not done yet,” he said. Following a successful second edition of the DNA accelerator programme, Bosch is looking forward to the third cohort.