One of humanity’s looming fears is robots. They are faster than us and are getting smarter every day, and could replace us any day. But what if their speed and efficiency can be harnessed to assist us and free us from manual, tedious labour? For example, what if they can be deployed to do heavy lifting in warehouses or move things about on a factory floor? A Bengaluru-based start-up is working on these solutions.
Founded by two Vellore Institute of Technology batchmates, Pranav Srinivasan and Tuhin Sharma, Accio Robotics manufactures autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) for material handling.
The duo’s first company was Illumnify Technologies, started in 2019, to build assistive-technology solutions. The very next year, using a government grant from the Department of Science and Technology, they brought out a text-to-braille device and were to test the prototype in March 2020, when the pandemic struck and upset their plans. They had to quickly pivot their nascent business and they did it admirably well.
Thankfully, even while they were working on the assistive device, they were providing technical consultation to companies on robotics to generate cash. So, when the crisis hit, they decided to respond smartly and focus on this money-making arm. In April 2020, they trademarked Accio Robotics under the parent company.
They don’t focus on making products for one industry but on finding solutions that can be used across many. Take material handling, for instance, which is a process in both manufacturing and services industries that adds nothing to the product cost. In a hotel, carting a guest’s luggage from the front desk to the room or, in a hospital, moving medicines from the pharmacy to various nurses’ stations is crucial but this service cannot plump the bill up.
Accio Robotics tries to automate such functions, towards saving cost and time. In services industry, they are seeing a growing demand for automation.
While AMR and its use are not new, they think there is a lot of untapped potential. “If there are so many robotics companies in this space, why are more than 95% shop floors in India manual,” asks Sharma.
To stand out in the industry, Accio Robotics defines itself as an on-demand automation company. That is, they work towards customising their solutions for each client and offering them individual end-to-end solutions. For instance, the bot can carry material from one point to another in a warehouse, and can be fitted with an indoor-delivery and disinfection modules for use in a hospital floor.
A single bot from their stables costs anything between Rs 0.5 million and Rs.0.8 million, depending on various factors such as load-carrying ability and having an on-site team. Every project involves deployment of 10 to 15 robots, earning them between Rs 3 million and Rs.5 million. It is a one-time cost and Sharma says their solutions are 60% cheaper than others in the market.
Currently, the entire assembly of the products is done in-house with a ten-member team based out of Bengaluru. Almost 99.5% of the components are sourced locally, and the rest is from UK and Germany.
Sharma believes Accio Robotics has a huge market in developing countries and Southeast Asian countries because the pace of automation has been slow in these regions. “Cost, reluctance to change existing infrastructure, fear of not finding a reliable integrator and so on are holding companies back,” he says.
Having received their first investment of Rs 2.5 million from 100X.VC in December 2020, the start-up is prepping to wheel out their bots for their first clients this year. In future, Sharma and Srinivasan hope to produce 20 robots a month but, more importantly, to make automation more accessible for SMEs and large enterprises.