Zoho Corporation has invested Rs 20 crore in the Anand Mahindra-backed robotics startup Genrobotics, it said on May 25. Zoho is one of the country’s oldest software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies. It will be funding the investment using its reserves.
Genrobotics, which also counts Unicorn India Venture, SEA Group and others among its backers, manufactures robotic scavengers. This investment will help Genrobotics scale its manufacturing capabilities, and thus reduce manual scavenging in India. “Robotic scavenging provides safety and dignity to workers in the sanitation and oil and gas industries,” Zoho said.
Founded in 2017 by Vimal Govind, Arun George, Rashid K and Nikhil NP, Genrobotics' primary offering is the Bandicoot robot, which it claims to be the world's first robotic scavenger. Bandicoot robot helps clean confined spaces such as sewer manholes, sewer wells, storm water manholes, oily water sewers (OWS) and storm water sewers (SWS) in refineries.
Bandicoot robots are designed to mimic human movements with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) as they use their legs, various sensors and cameras to enter manholes, move around and gain stability in different terrains. Its multipurpose robotic arm can perform actions such as shovelling, grabbing, picking and water-jet positioning necessary for various types of cleaning.
The robots are equipped with a sensor to detect poisonous gasses and specially-designed four-IP68 night vision cameras that provide visuals of the confined space through the user interface located safely above the manhole, enabling sanitation workers to do their jobs safely and efficiently.
Smart cities, Urban Local Bodies (ULBs), refineries, multinational companies (MNCs), townships and housing colonies across 14 states are leveraging Bandicoot robots currently, and have eliminated the need for human entry into manholes.
“In order to end manual scavenging in India, more than one lakh robots will be required," said Govind, co-founder and CEO, Genrobotics.“As we scale to fill the need gap, we estimate creation of nearly five-lakh jobs across the
country. The Zoho investment will help us expand our advanced research and development (R&D) infrastructure, build large-scale production facilities, hire more talent, increase our exports to ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) markets and expand our global footprints," Govind added.
Genrobotics recently also ventured into healthcare and launched a robot-assisted gait training solution called G Gaiter to aid the recovery of people with paraplegia through improved rehabilitation experiences. Genrobotics said its products are a part of the Make in India initiative and are entirely designed and manufactured in the country.
"Nurturing a thriving deep-tech ecosystem in India is one of Zoho's priorities, and the investment in Genrobotics is a continuation of that commitment," said Sridhar Vembu, CEO and co-founder of Zoho Corp."Building such technological competencies and critical know-how locally can help
foster sustainable growth across key sectors, like industrial manufacturing, healthcare, and energy, in turn making the country economically stronger and self-reliant,” Vembu added.
To be sure, this is not the first investment that Zoho has made in deep-tech. Zoho had previously invested in deep-tech startups such as vTitan, SignalChip, VoxelGrid, Ultraviolette Automotive, among others. Last year, Zoho also announced investment in R&D for capital goods manufacturing across the Kongu belt in Tamil Nadu.Vembu said the investment in Genrobotics has no immediate synergies with Zoho’s core operations, but added that it strengthens Zoho’s aim of creating a deep-tech ecosystem.