Hands-on experience with autonomous vehicles and terrain mapping in college gave Anuj Kapuria a taste for robotics. Later, the entrepreneurial bug got the better of him and drove him to start his own industrial automation company. The Dollar Business caught up with Kapuria, Founder & CEO of Hi-TechRobotic Systemz Ltd., to understand how his venture of driverless vehicles is already making waves globally.
Ahmad shariq khan | August 2016 Issue | The Dollar Business
TDB: You quit your PhD midway to start Hi-Tech Robotic Systemz. What prompted you to start your business? And how has been the journey so far?
Anuj Kapuria (AK): I was pursuing PhD at Carnegie Mellon, in United States. However, entrepreneurial spirit in me drove me to start this company. So, I left the PhD halfway. I always thought that technology can enable us to lead a better life. Whatever be the target industry, material and people transportation needs innovation. And with this motivation I started this company. During the initial years, we focused on technology and competence development – to come up with bleeding-edge technology for intelligent robotics. Our first customers were defence forces and research organisations. It’s our pride to deliver life-saving intelligent robots to our armed forces and enable our defence research organisations with such bleeding-edge technology.
Soon we realised our potential in other business verticals and developed globally competent and technologically superior systems for driverless vehicles to aid man and material transport.
Today, we have several critical patents to our name and have filed for 20 new patents, apart from deploying around 200 driverless vehicles in globally well recognised industries, and delivering 200 robots to armed forces. We have also enabled DRDO with our technology. And I can say that this is just the beginning of setting up a multi-billion dollar company in the next 3-5 years.
TDB: Hi-Tech Robotic Systemz recently unveiled driverless vehicle that works on artificial intelligence (AI). How do see the export potential of such vehicles and other AI-based devices?
AK: The potential is huge. We are the only company in the country, and among very few in the world, with the leading edge technology in driverless vehicles – behind this are years of hard work and state-of-the-art research in the self driving and driverless vehicles.
In fact, we are already in talks with several customers across the globe for deployment of our driverless shuttles in their campuses, apart from conducting trials for Fortune 500 companies for the long-term deployment of these vehicles in their premises. It is our advanced technologies and spirit of producing quality robotic products which is helping us gain global attention.
TDB: How do you view the tax regime in the country? Principally, being an engineering company, do aspects such as minimum import price and inverted duty structure affect you?
AK: The current government is making significant efforts to bring out the best policies and help the complete ecosystem flourish in order to make a successful transition from ‘Make in India’ to ‘Made in India’. A lot of things are in the pipeline and we are hopeful that the duty structure will be more favourable in the coming times.
TDB: Is the government really creating an enabling environment for new-age technology based businesses like yours? How did you find Union Budget 2016? What is the biggest threat that the sector faces at the moment?
AK: The Budget 2016 is a fairly good start to support the complete entrepreneurial, financial and institutional ecosystem. It was a tough road that we travelled because, in India, government policies were not always in sync with industry requirements. However, still, the toughest challenge is to get the correct global market access. The government also needs to support export of quality tech products from the country. Although ease of doing business has improved, I think it will be an incremental effort which should reflect in each passing year.
TDB: Please tell us about your raw material procurement strategies. Do you make everything in India or do you also source some components from overseas markets? Also, how do you see the ‘Make in India’ campaign?
AK: Most software and embedded systems are developed in-house. Few components are procured from various parts of the globe because we want to focus more on final products and their quality. All our value engineering processes are focused towards making things in-house or enabling small start-ups within the country to make it for us. This way, we are not just pushing indigenous development and self-reliance, but also enabling the complete ecosystem to grow.
We Need To Focus More On Quality And Innovation-Led Development, If We Want To Rise Up The Global Value Chain
TDB: How do you see the growing culture of start-ups in India? In your view, what has made them tick?
AK: India always had enough talents and brains to disrupt technology. Today, the top global companies like Google, Microsoft and financial giants such as MasterCard have Indians in the driving seat. In fact, we always had the magic. It’s the current favourable scenario and the support of domestic and international investors that is giving the right shape – to help make the start-up dream a big reality.
TDB: India has always been a net importer across capital goods sub-sectors. At the same time, domestic capacity utilisation of facilities is only about 60-70% across sub-sectors. How do you think we can reverse this trend?
AK: India has the potential to become a global manufacturing hub and, at the same time, it is also one of the largest consumer markets for almost all products across the globe. In my opinion, Indian design and manufacturing sector should now start focusssing on quality apart from developing a customer-centric approach to reverse the trend.
TDB: India currently ranks 30th worldwide on research intensity, with 0.9% of GDP spent in the form of R&D. This is low compared to advanced countries like South Korea (3.6%) and Japan (3.4%). Don’t you think both the government and the industry need to invest more in R&D to be able to rise up the global value chain and boost exports of hi-tech products from the country?
AK: Absolutely! An increased investment in R&D is going to help us travel miles in technology development. Companies which are exporting finished products should be provided more support in importing raw materials. I think this can improve our presence in the global value chain to a great extent. The other thing that we need to work on is matching skills with industry requirements apart from launching joint industry-academia research initiatives. A little support from government on these fronts can help Indian technology company move up the value chain.
TDB: Is Brand India really shining in global markets? Do you think the country is being promoted enough as a reliable source of goods and services?
AK: That’s a big change we have seen. Currently, India is the global hub for investment, partly because of our huge market size and Modi government’s global connect. It is a huge opportunity which gives vigour and power to acquire global customers. And, with power comes responsibility; we need to focus more on quality and innovation-led development, for both disruptive technology and