All about Unmanned Surveillance and Survey Solutions
Melange caught up with Biswajit Dey, founder of Drones TechLab, a trailblazing start-up to bring you the nitty gritties
To push Make-in-India initiative, the government is going all out to support domestic drone industry by tweaking its regulations and policies to open up more opportunities for the Indian Drone Startups. The Svamitva Scheme launched by our Prime Minister is a direct example of this effort. From its applications in defence, agriculture, surveillance, law enforcement, delivery services, mapping and so on, the possibilities for the use of drones are endless and with the government showing its clear intent to make India a global drone hub by 2030, the prospects for the growth of the drone industry are immensely strong.
Guwahati-based, Drones TechLab builds smart, customised, unmanned surveillance and survey solutions – integrating drones, rovers, software and data analysis systems – for defence organisations, power corporations and municipal corporations/ smart cities. To date, it has offered services to DRDO, the Indian Army, the Indian Air Force, the NDA, the National Disaster Management Authority, the National Informatics Centre, the Archaeological Survey of India, and the Government of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and West Bengal, to name a few. The startup's corporate clienteles include Larsen & Turbo, JSW and GENSTRU among others.
Here are the excerpts from an interview with Biswajit Dey, founder of Drones TechLab.
Please share your entrepreneurial journey. What was your inspiration? What opportunities did you see that you wanted to address through your entrepreneurial venture?
It is truly said that the best thing in the world is to be involved in a job that you are passionate about. Graduating from college with an aeronautical degree, I decided to start a venture in drone technology, a subject which I had fallen in love with while attending one of the college symposiums. After meeting childhood friends at Kolkata, the plan to start a venture came to existence in 2016. Since then, the team has grown manifold with clients ranging from different government organisations to corporate industries.
Micro surveillance has been an arduous task for every industry. We started off by designing solutions involving micro-surveillance activities for the Defence Industry.
Gradually, with increase in demand for drones and its related services, we increased our product line to cater to other government and corporate bodies. Our aerial platforms equipped with thermal, oblique and multi spectral payloads helps to penetrate inaccessible areas fast and easy and also reduces risks. Gathering higher density data for accurate results with real time tracking and overview of the situation from a remote site is possible.
What were your challenges and how did you overcome them? What have been your milestones?
In the initial phases, the drone industry was not regulated. Thus, drones were looked into as a restricted product. We mitigated these issues by deploying our solutions in the defence forces where it got a huge response. After successful product launch, we started getting orders. There were severe working capital issues that we had to face while fulfilling these orders. We solved those by applying to different government schemes and availing MUDRA loans from banks. Recently we have represented the state in the India Pavilion during Dubai Expo 2020 where top start-ups of North East were invited.
Please share your views about the unmanned surveillance and solutions market/space of our country and state?
To push Make-in-India initiative, the government is going all out to support domestic drone industry by tweaking its regulations and policies to open up more opportunities for the Indian Drone Startups. The Svamitva Scheme launched by our Prime Minister is a direct example of this effort.
From its applications in defence, agriculture, surveillance, law enforcement, delivery services, mapping and so on, the possibilities for the use of drones are endless and with the government showing its clear intent to make India a global drone hub by 2030, the prospects for the growth of the drone industry are immensely strong. Assam Government is also pro-actively implementing drones for disaster management like during the recent floods where we have pressed out medicine delivery drones into action. Moreover the forest, agriculture and survey departments are also deploying drones throughout the state.
According to a ministry of civil aviation estimate, India's drone sector will achieve a turnover of Rs 12,000-15,000 crore by 2026, from about Rs 80 crore now.
What are the social objectives of Drones Tech Lab? In other words how is your startup contributing towards a better society?
We feel that drones have the potential to be used in all areas that are dull, dirty or dangerous to humans. But these aerial machines need a licensed pilot to operate. The scopes of a certified drone pilot in India are huge. We have collaborated with the Government of Assam and have launched North East India's first government approved Drone Pilot Training School that would pave the way for the youths of this region to become certified drone pilots.
And how important do you think is the role of professional mentors for entrepreneurs? Which institutions and people have been your mentors and what way have they helped you?
It is true that an entrepreneur's journey is lonely and tiresome, yet when you get the right set of people as your mentors, chances of survival increases tremendously.
Right from bagging the first DRDO order to undertaking a humongous order of Indian Army, the whole team at IIM Calcutta Innovation Park and especially Dr. S Sanyal have been with us through thick and thin. We have been connected to the who's who of reputed banks to finance the projects undertaken by us. Industry connects to assigning a mentor by way of Mr. Devasis Gupta; we have received tremendous support from team IIMCIP. Our growth and expansion has been fuelled by a recent raise of 15 million rupees from Balmer Lawrie & Co as a part of Start Up India Scheme with due guidance from IIMCIP. Further, we have been incubated at IIT Guwahati Research Park to strengthen our research and development efforts through industry-academia ventures.