This Noida-based company makes robots for day-to-day use in offices and retail stores
Today, robots are one of the most critical elements for the advancement of humanity and the economy. However, not everyone is happy with this technology.
While one section of society says robots increase productivity and efficiency, and reduce the cost of operations, critics argue that they play a big role in taking away jobs.
But, no one can deny that robots are fascinating, and are becoming more capable with newer innovations.
One such company is Noida-based Aspagteq Technology, which designs and produces robots. SMBStory caught with founders Aawesh Dahiya and Anurag Ranjan to decode the journey of this company.
How did it all start?
The company was formed by the twist of fate when the paths of the founders crossed.
Aawesh, an engineer by profession, used to trade accessories of fibre optic products while Anurag was working with Zingmobile. While the former has worked in the field of hardware and electronics, the latter has experience in designing and developing software applications.
The two met when they got a project to work on robots for China-based WASAI Robotic Technology and decided to merge their expertise to start Aspagteq Technology in 2014 with their own funds. Headquartered in India, Aspateq’s sales and marketing operations are based in Singapore while its R&D facility is in a lab in Noida.
India is still at a nascent stage when it comes to robotics and founders had to face some challenges because of the same in the initial years.
Aawesh says, “We realised that hardware is a difficult commodity. We have to focus on cost reduction if we want robotic adoption.”
That is when they took the challenge to build most components in-house with least dependency on imports.
He explains, “The painful journey of getting support for hardware, component design, and PCB design started, and it took us two years to find the right support system in India.”
The founders claim that the company clocks a turnover of Rs 4.5 crore annually.
Aspagteq Technology has developed three prototypes with technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), BLE 5, face recognition, chatbots, among many others. The aim is to “provide complete solutions” to its clients, says Aawesh.
The accidental robot
The first prototype Antra stands for Autonomously Navigated Teaching Robot and Assistant. It was developed accidentally as the founders were merely beginning to understand the world of robots at the time.
Eventually, the founders developed the robotic mannequin to become an assistant for teachers to automate and streamline several processes in the school ecosystem.
Antra has an autonomous navigation stack in its base, and a voice assistant has also been installed. It also has batteries for computing the system and a router for networking. The chest of the robot has speakers and a computing system for image recognition.
Antra’s neck and arms move according to the instructions by the voice assistant. So far, 30 movements have been programmed.
Aawesh says that several academic institutions and universities have recognised and lauded Antra. In fact, the Jaipur government has bought seven models of Antra to conduct various activities in schools.
A robot for retail market
The company’s second prototype is called Inu, which was developed for a project with the Singapore government. This robotic mannequin is programmed to cater to the retail market and is shaped like a human male.
It has a face that can express emotions and the team has programmed 20 emotions in it to date. Anurag says that 200 more emotions can be achieved.
Inu will greet customers at a store entrance. With face recognition technology, it will recognise people visiting the store again and greet them by their names. It will also scan the QR code of clothes and be able to explain the various aspects of its manufacturing.
The Singapore government wants retail stores to include robots and even gives 70 percent of subsidies to companies for the same. One of the companies which have bought Inu is Singapore-based Giordano.
A human-friendly robot
The third prototype is still in progress and will take a few months to get ready. Claiming that it will be more human friendly, Aawesh says this model will compete with international robots like Sophia and Pepper.
The company says this will be used by large corporations as receptionists.
All Aspagteq robots undergo vigorous trial sessions for almost nine months before reaching the client. The company’s teams also visit these robots from time to time to upgrade them for better functioning.
As the complete structures are prepared in the Noida lab, the plastic and metal needed to make them are sourced locally. In addition, some motors with high speed are sourced from countries like Korea and Japan.
While Antra costs between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 7 lakh, Inu is priced between Rs 2.5 lakh and Rs 3 lakh, and the unnamed latest product is expected to cost Rs 10 to Rs 11 lakh.
Are robots replacing humans?
Inevitably, the question of whether robots are replacing humans is often raised. Aawesh calls the three prototypes ‘social robots for the industrial sector’, adding, “We are developers. Technology wise, the solutions we are giving are for the good of society.”
Anurag explains that Antra, for example, will not replace teachers. He says, “The aim of our product is not to make someone jobless. We are not calling it a teacher but a teacher-assistant robot.”
He adds that robots are needed to make everything error free, increase efficiency, and productivity in operations.
It is an exciting time to venture into the field of robotics in India.
Both Aawesh and Anurag believe that they are too engrossed in the product to raise any investment at the moment. Aawesh also said that the company's future plans include developing and enhancing its product single-mindedly.
Anurag adds, “We want to prove that India can develop hardware, which is cheaper than China's. Every day, we are working on challenges our customers face and that helps in coming up with new innovations.”
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)
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