Men With Machines – A Story of Sastra Robotics
It all started in 2009, when the three first year engineering students – Aronin P, Achu Wilson and Akhil A – at Government Engineering College, Sreekrishnapuram, Palakkad happened to attend a conference on Robotics in Bangalore. The talks at the conference, offered them a glimpse of the potential of Robotics in India. And thus started their tryst with robots.
Back in college, they started developing the prototype of their own robot, the first of which was ready by 2010. They got lucrative job offers from IT companies but were not ready to trade their dreams for the high salaries. Instead, they formed a company – Sastra Robotics – and started developing robots on the terrace of their homes. Later they moved into Startup Village in Kochi and were selected as one of the Top 5 Most Promising Start-Ups of 2012 by Startup Village.
“The then CEO of Startup Village, Mr Sijo Kuruvilla, helped us learn the business aspects of running a company. Till then we were very technical oriented,” says Mr Aronin P, the CEO of the company. As a result, the trio postponed their plans to launch a tele-presence robot, finding that the market in the country was not ready for such a product. They began to focus on a new product– elective Compliance Articulator Robotic Arm(SCARA) – that would bring revenue to the firm. Tie-ups were also made with three other companies in the field – Switzerland based Cyberbotics, Korea based Dongbu Robot and US based Corobot.
SCARA is a robot that could be used to perform many repetitive tasks suchas pick and place, 3D printing, milling, and hand writing replication. They listed the product on IndiaMart, an online B2B marketplace. And then they got their big break – a call from the multinational Robert Bosch.
Bosch was looking for ways to test the touch screens of their car infotainment system. The manual method of testing was laborious while the Robot could test the touch screen continuously for 2-3 days at speeds that are beyond the realm of humans.
After rigorous testing of the robot, Bosch found it suitable and has started integrating it with their production line. They have also asked for an improved version of the robot that has facilities for multi-touch and zooming.
Sastra Robotics is bringing out four versions of SCARA – priced from Rs 3.9 lakh to Rs 5 lakh, with the aim of making it affordable for the Small and Medium industries in the country. “Similar robots available in the market, are much more bulky and expensive than our product, making them unaffordable for the SMEs,” says Mr Aronin.
The company will soon come out with SR-SCARA-Hx manipulator, a robot with six degrees of freedom, that has much more advanced capabilities. Another robot that the firm is developing is the prosthetic arm, which will have the dexterity of a human hand.
The trio are all praise for the efforts that the government is putting to develop the startup ecosystem in the state. “The KSSEDM project of KFC helped us a lot. We had a two week training as part of the project, that helped us learn how to run a business. KFC also provided us with funds which we used to develop the robots,” they say.
Sastra was selected as one of the Top 10 Most Promising Early stage Start-Ups of 2014 by TiE Bangalore. The achievement helped them get mentoring support from Mr Amitava Roy, the COO of Tech Mahindra.
The company aims to extend human capabilities by making quality robotic products that could solve many of the problems we encounter in daily life. The journey has just begun.