A take a look at Garuda, the drone startup behind Swiggy’s air-delivery plans

Chennai-based Garuda Aerospace’s founder and& CEO Agnishwar Jayaprakash tells us in regards to the firm’s roadmap to redefining supply service in India

Chennai-based Garuda Aerospace’s founder and CEO Agnishwar Jayaprakash tells us in regards to the firm’s roadmap to redefining supply service in India

In the more and more cut-throat struggle between supply apps, Swiggy just lately unveiled what may very well be their best weapon but: a partnership with Chennai-based drone startup Garuda Aerospace to ship groceries in Bengaluru by deploying drones. Garuda, which just lately welcomed cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni on-board as investor and model ambassador, is among the many main aersopace companies in India to spearhead drone meals supply — one other is Skyeair Mobility, whose drones will probably be delivering meals for Swiggy in Delhi-NCR.

Agnishwar Jayaprakash, founder and CEO of Garuda Aerospace, says he desires to introduce the thought of ​​“groceries at your doorstep in seven to 10 minutes” in India. “If you are to measure the quickest time and the fastest route between two points, the result is always a straight line,” he says, including “But when one travels on road, it’s a roundabout route. Exactly there comes the viability of goods delivery through drone technology.”

The drones, custom-made to hold grocery objects, have now discovered one other use. They at the moment are carrying reduction objects and serving to ship support to flood-hit Assam.

This will not be the one marker of his agency’s success, nevertheless. Garuda has been making its mark for some time.

Garuda founder-CEO Agnishwar Jayaprakash flies an agricultural drone

Garuda founder-CEO Agnishwar Jayaprakash flies an agricultural drone | Photo Credit: Special association

Miles forward

Valued at $250 million, the seven-year-old Garuda Aerospace boasts a fleet of 300 drones, and has bagged 8,000 drone orders from Malayasia, East Africa and South American nations, in response to Agnishwar. Explaining why India is a most popular provider, he says, “the firmware and the software work is done securely here, so there are no concerns about information security”. Garuda Aerospace has provided drones to the likes of L&T and Adani, apart from collaborating over varied initiatives with Wipro, Intel, Tata Voltas, IIT Madras, IIT Roorkee, Delhi metro’s CISF unit, Varanasi sensible metropolis and ISRO, and so on.. The drones are concerned in a variety of jobs, together with photo voltaic panel cleansing, warehouse administration, spraying of fertilizers, seeding fields and stringing transmission traces.

“Currently we have a team of 120 permanent pilots, and about 400 more are on contract basis,” says Agnishwar including they’re at present within the strategy of elevating a $30 million fund for sequence A spherical at a valuation of $250 million.

“We have over 100 active projects going on right now,” he states, including, “We had 24% profit margin last year, which is rare for a startup. Our forecast is to have manufactured and sold 40,000-50,000 drones by the end of the financial year 2022-23.”

Customized for kirana

Agnishwar states, “the actual operations will start in the middle of July. Right now, we are in the planning stage. From pickup point (seller-run dark stores) to customers’ location — we are chalking out the easiest and fastest routes.”

A Garuda drone modified to store and ferry groceries

A Garuda drone modified to retailer and ferry groceries | Photo Credit: Special association

But how would an agricultural drone be helpful for Swiggy’s Instamart service? A UAV engineer at Garuda Aerospace explains, “To make grocery delivery through drones possible, the tank where the fertilizer is usually stored, the tube, the nozzles and the motor cables will be taken off and a box made of composite fiber would be placed there instead.”

“It can carry loads up to anywhere between five kilograms to 20 kilograms and cover a distance of 30-40 kilometers with a speed of 60 kilometers per hour,” reveals Agnishwar.

Flight of ambition

Explaining how he obtained excited by drones, Agnishwar says, “It was during my time at the United Nations in 2017-2018, when I was working under former Assistant Secretary-General of the UN, Lakshmi Puri, that I observed how in developing countries like India, the adoption of drone technology is very slow. They were very capital intensive, and there were too many regulatory norms. Besides, people lacked the expertise to maintain them. Application of drones was largely limited to shooting films, wedding videography and photography.”

The 31-year-old CEO-founder shares how his affiliation with the United Nations performed a significant function in organising his drone start-up. “ I had the opportunity to study a lot of case studies and impact reports during my time at the United Nations. I came to understand that developing nations required disruptive and emerging technologies like drones which could disrupt several multi-billion dollar sectors like precision agriculture tech.”

He started to ideate on “how drones could serve multiple purposes, if well-equipped. That’s what gave me the idea to fit drones with magnetometers, sensors, nozzles, tanks and all that is required to make it efficiently provide a varied range of services. This makes things move much faster and it is cost-effective, much more efficient and it helps cut down on costs for market players,” says the younger entrepreneur.

Garuda Aerospace was incubated in 2015 at Agni College of Technology in Chennai, the place Agnishwar is at present vice-chairman. “We started developing drones, putting a lot of focus on wildlife, agriculture and sustainability, which got us recognized by the UN as one of the top 10 socio-economic innovations in 2016. Since then, we have been working with the UN on a project-by-project basis,” says the alumnus of the Queens University of Charlotte, USA, ,

The drone start-up at present has a producing unit in Manesar. The firm goes to increase its R&D facility, which is positioned inside Agni College of Technology, to deal with a drone manufacturing unit. “This unit will manufacture 30 different kinds of drones for diverse applications, including grocery delivery,” says Agnishwar.

Stating that there’s a rising demand for drones now, he says, “However, the unit economics still need to work out for service providers like us. Right now, my company has the required manpower and technology to meet market demands.”

The largest problem, he says is a dearth of expert labor to man the drones. “But the job of a drone pilot is a lucrative one and we are on our way to make youngsters realise this,” says Agnishwar, including, “A drone pilot can make anywhere between ₹20,000 and ₹80,000. It can reach even ₹1 lakh, depending on the skills of pilot. Our aspiration is to create an entrepreneurship route — one drone should create at least three jobs: drone pilot, data processor and drone maintenance professional.”

As for why Garuda’s drones will probably be used for grocery supply in Bengaluru and never in Chennai, regardless of Garuda’s sturdy base in Chennai, Agnishwar says, “It is entirely Swiggy’s decision. We will start with Bangalore, but opportunities will always be open for us to provide our service in other cities too. Right now, trial runs are on. Real operations will commence around the middle of next month.”

Although Garuda relies in Chennai, Agnishwar stresses, “We have presence in 26 cities. So, we see ourselves as a pan-India firm.”

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