Understanding Tech Behind India’s Defence Startups

Understanding Tech Behind India's Defence Startups

Indian startup ecosystem is leveraging technologies like drones, imaging systems and IoT based laser walls for strengthening the nation’s military while achieving the vision of Aatmanirbhar Bharat or self-reliant India. Let’s understand the tech behind some of the interesting defence systems developed by these startups.

Crux of the Matter

Avenger UC of Tonbo Imaging
EO (Electro-Optical) systems are imaging systems used for military applications. Involving both visible and infrared sensors, they help formulate images of possible threats during the day, light or low light conditions.

Avenger UC is one such EO system designed specifically for maritime applications like sea navigation and early threat detection in sea or air, via 360° rotation and continuous zoom ability for 24/7 defence operations.

Every UAV Is A Drone But Not Every Drone Is A UAV
UAV or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle is a military aircraft with no pilot on board. It can be either a remote-controlled aircraft (e.g. flown by a pilot at a ground control station) or a pre-programmed flight that is flown autonomously.

Drone is a broader term that refers to both commercial and civilian operations like hobby quadcopter or helicopters with four motors and commercial transportation services like Amazon Prime Air and local emergency service startups.

UAS or Unmanned aircraft systems include the entire system required for advanced drone operations i.e the aircraft, ground control station, and communications system.

Ninja UAV Of ideaForge
It is a lightweight UAV built for Mapping and Surveillance with NPNT compliance. ‘No Permission No Take-off” or NPNT is a software program that enables drones to obtain valid permissions through a digital sky platform before operating in India’s defence arena.

It is also helpful in crowd management i.e monitoring the progress of events where large groups of people gather together.

Big Bang Boom’s Flying Warden
This is a drone that can identify and tag miscreants involved in crimes like drug usage, arson, petty theft, spray paint, public urination, etc in regions that can’t be monitored regularly by the police.

Kavach of CRON Systems
Kavach (KVx) laser walls are smarter than the existing laser walls, which are visible because of laser beams. KVx is based on an infrared array that uses thermal images to be invisible.

The walls can alert the nearest outpost immediately about any intrusion attempts and triggers action from a quick response tool (QRT), connected via the internet of things (IoT) technology. In case power goes off, it can be run on UPS for 8-12 hours. The soldier on duty can then assess the threat visually or send out drones to inspect the post.

If you want to know about investments and the business side of these defence startups, check out this story: A Look At India’s Defence Startups

  • The Fairey Aviation Company was a family of British reconnaissance biplanes. First flying in 1917, its flights were still in use during the Second World War.
  • The drone in a box is an emerging form of autonomous UAV technology that uses drones that deploy from and return to self-contained landing “boxes”. Drone-in-a-box systems have been a focus of interest for militaries as a less expensive and less dangerous alternative to human-led communications, resupply, and offensive missions.
  • A target drone is a UAV, generally remote-controlled, used in the training of anti-aircraft crews. More advanced drones are usually made from large, older missiles that have had their warheads removed.

A Look at India’s Defence Startups

A Look at India's Defence Startups

India is taking an aggressive strategy to achieve self reliance in the defence sector. India’s image as one of world’s leading nations of defence weapons importer, can take a significant shift after the government launching several programs to boost startups in the defence sector. Let’s get an overview of India’s defence market and have a look at some of these startups.

Crux of the Matter

Opportunities In The Defence Sector
The government announced that $130 bn will be allocated for the modernization of armed forces in the coming 5-7 years and $15.4 mn to set up the ‘Technology Development Fund’ to boost Research & Development in the sector. For defence infrastructure development, manufacturing cluster & park have been planned in Pune and Dholera. Moreover, the government launched ‘Indigenously Designed, Developed, and Manufactured’ (IDDM), a new category of capital procurement, to achieve self-reliance in the defence sector.

Boosting Startups
The Indian government also announced Defence India Startup Challenge (DISC) under its Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) to boost innovation in the defence sector. The government is looking to fund 250 startups to achieve 50 tangible innovations in the next 5 years. Defence export strategy is introduced to help Defence Public Sector Enterprises (DPSUs) and private defence players to explore business opportunities abroad.

A Look At Some Of Them

Tonbo Imaging
It is a Bengaluru based startup founded by Arvind Lakshmikumar, Ankit Kumar, Sudeep George, and Cecilia D’Souza. So far it has received a total investment of $36.9 mn. In 2017 it raised $27 mn from Walden Riverwood Ventures. Tonbo Imaging offers advanced imaging and sensor systems for military reconnaissance and the security of critical industrial establishments.

It is a Mumbai-based startup founded in 2007 by Ankit Mehta, Rahul Singh, Ashish Bhat, Vipul Joshi. So far, it has raised total funding of $15.3 mn, and in 2016, Infosys invested $10 mn in it. It is a tech startup providing services to DRDO, security forces, and paramilitary. Currently, it also provides services to Delhi Police, National Disaster Response Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, and National Security Guard. The startup’s core product is the NETRA defense system developed in collaboration with DRDO under the Ministry of Defense in India.

CRON Systems
It is a New Delhi-based startup founded in 2015 by Saurav Agarwala, Tommy Katzenellenbogen, and Tushar Chhabra. It provides services to solve complex security problems at Indian borders. Currently, it is developing IoT-based products to help the armed forces. Its flagship product is the Kavach security system equipped with multiple sensors such as flight cameras, mmWave radars, and LiDARs to help ‘detect, track and classify’ intrusion up to 150 m ahead of the perimeter.

Big Bang Boom Solutions
It is a Tamil Nadu-based startup founded by Praveen Dwarakanath and Shivaraman Ramaswamy in 2018. This startup has received a grant of ₹1.5 crores from the Defence Innovation Organisation. Mumbai Angels also invested $1 mn in it. It develops integrated intellectual properties for defence purposes. Other products of the startups include T-Series Unmanned Tank Development, BN (boron nitrate) based Hybrid Personal Combat Armour, 360 Advanced Battle Interface, Flying Warden-drones for riot control, and smart fencing system, among others.

  • Y Combinator is an American seed money startup accelerator, which has been used to launch over 2,000 companies including Stripe, Airbnb, Cruise Automation, DoorDash, Coinbase, Instacart, Dropbox, Twitch, and Reddit. The combined valuation of the top YC companies was over $155 billion as of October 2019.
  • Asteria Aerospace is a robotics and artificial intelligence company that develops drone-based solutions to provide actionable intelligence from aerial data. Reliance Industries in 2019, acquired over 51% in Asteria Aerospace for Rs 23.12 crore.
  • 3 new startups launch globally every second, making up for 11,000 per hour, or 259,200 per day! In the U.S. alone, that number is much lower and usually averages at 3 per minute

Tech Used In Global Space Startups

Tech Used In Global Space Startups

With SpaceX’s Dragon becoming the first private spacecraft to take humans to the space station earlier this year, there is an increased awareness among newer space tech startups. Increasing access to capital is enabling them to take risks like never before. Let’s get to know some of the most intriguing ones around the world.

Crux of the Matter

SpacePharma’s MiniLabs
It is a pharmaceutical company that allows other companies to test in space, by renting one of their autonomous minilabs for up to 6 months of orbital research at a nominal cost.

In 2018, they successfully got their unmanned mini-lab to the ISS (International Space Station) and back with samples. The lab is generally housed inside a milk carton-sized box and the research trials are conducted via a remotely controlled, Wi-Fi-connected app.

Potential Of Microgravity
An environment of microgravity research can teach us more about our genes and the chemicals we use every day on Earth. In space, proteins crystallize differently, molecules take on different shapes, and bacteria grow faster without the force of gravity weighing it down. So scientists can concentrate and work with fundamental equations without worrying about the logistics.

Eg: Scientists sent flatworms up to test the regenerative properties of their tissues, some surprisingly grew back two heads instead of one and their offspring also grew extra heads.

Kymeta’s Metamaterial Antennas
It is a satellite communication company that develops space technology using metamaterial-based satellite antennas amongst other products.

Metamaterials are synthetic materials that are engineered to have electromagnetic properties that are not found naturally. Other uses – radar absorbers used in military aircrafts and optical superlenses for imaging.

Traditional v/s Metamaterial
In case the signal is not clear with regular antennas designed for radiowaves, a technician has to go to the installation site and reconfigure it physically. Metamaterial-based antennas are meant to respond to visible light of tiny wavelengths (400 – 700 nm wherein 1cm = 10 million nm) and their beams are electrically steered towards the satellite.

The lack of moving parts allows this lightweight antenna to be easily mounted on land vehicles, aircraft, & maritime vessels to provide them with global seamless connectivity.

Accion System’s Space Propulsion
This company has a flagship product called TILE (Tiled Ionic Liquid Electrospray) which is a unique in-space propulsion system, based on a postage-stamp-sized thruster chip.

The chip is scalable from nanosatellites to larger satellites and helps them perform mission-critical orbital maneuvers, by replacing it’s heavier and less efficient counterpart, cold gas propulsion system.

What Do The Chips Do Together?
Each chip relies on capillary action to help liquids flow inside them, which forces liquids to flow through narrow pipes, similar to drawing water up in trees. The electric fields help draw ions from the propellant and funnel them into beams out of microscopic nozzles.

This allows tiny satellites the means to propel themselves and correctly position within their orbits around Earth. It was one of the 14 famous companies selected to work within NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Skyroot Aerospace’s 3D Printed Injector
This Hyderabad-based startup became the first Indian private company last month, to successfully test-fire a homegrown rocket engine named ‘Raman‘ as a tribute to the noble laureate C.V. Raman. Fitted with a 3D printed injector, a device for injecting liquid fuel in the engine, it has the ability to place multiple satellites into orbit.

Compared to traditional manufacturing this reduced the overall mass by 50% and lead time by 80%, while using lesser number of components. The Raman engine is meant to be the final stage of the four-stage rocket Vikram I, currently tested with a liquid-fuelled engine.

  • Wadi Rum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a valley cut into the sandstone and granite rock in Jordan. The area has been used as a background setting in a number of films. Filmmakers are particularly drawn to it for science fiction films set on Mars.
  • Due to no erosion by wind or water on the moon, scientists speculate that footprints on the surface of the moon can last for hundreds of years unless an external force like a meteorite may destroy it.
  • Blue Origin Federation, is an American privately-funded aerospace manufacturer and sub-orbital spaceflight services company founded in 2000 by Jeff Bezos. It is developing technologies to enable private human access to space with the goal to dramatically lower costs and increase reliability. The company motto is Gradatim Ferociter, Latin for “Step by Step, Ferociously”.

Fashiontech Startups In India

Fashiontech Startups In India

In times of Covid-19, as companies try to adapt to the new normal, some are adopting new technologies. Companies in the fashion industry are adapting Augmented Reality-Virtual Reality like tech to facilitate consumers. Let’s have a look at how some fashiontech startups are changing the landscape of the industry.

Crux of the Matter

Market Outlook
Experts say that Indian fashiontech startups have a very promising future in upcoming times. But currently, the Indian fashion industry is unstructured and facing problems like less interaction between domestic and international markets, slowdown among the designer community, and designing scope limited to traditional styles only.

Fashion startups are trying rental and pre-owned fashion business, e-commerce, AI and Virtual Reality support, etc. to bring innovation. Experts say the merger of technology and fashion will enhance sales, digital merchandising, retail, and customer experience.

Lenskart is a Delhi-based startup founded in 2010 by Peyush Bansal, Amit Chaudhary and Sumeet Kapahi. Lenskart has introduced 3D technology TRY ON to give reality experience to customers. It is the first fashion eyewear brand for men, women, and kids on an internet platform. As of Sept ‘19, it was operating more than 500 stores in 70 cities in India. It also provides at-home eye-testing, frame trials, fitting services, etc.

The company registered 60% of total revenue from offline stores in FY2017. Prominent figures like Rata Tata, Azim Premji, S Gopalakrishnan, etc have invested money in this startup.

Bigthinx is a Bangalore-based startup, founded by Shivang Desai and Chandralika Hazarika in 2015. It is a B2B2C SaaS startup in fashion. So far it has received total funding of $5 million. It has developed two apps namely Lyfsize and Lyflike. Lyfsize is a 3D body scanning app that can take 30 different body measurements accurately using only 2 photos. Lyflike app creates realistic walkabout 3D avatars to give reality-like experience in the online cloth buying experience.

Caratlane is a Chennai based startup, founded in 2008 by Avnish Anand, Gurukeerthi Gurunathan, Mithun Sacheti, Srinivasa Gopalan. It has received total funding of $58 mn to date. Tiger Global Management is one of the leading investors in this startup. Caratlane is India’s first-to-start online jewelry business. In July 2016, Titan acquired a 69.47% stake in it for ₹357 crores. Caratlane offers an online customization tool for jewelry design.

Styledotme is a Gurugram-based startup Founded by Akhil Tolani and Meghna Saraogi in 2014. Currently, operating in 9 states and 16 cities in India, it has received total funding worth ₹35 million to date. Survam Partners is a prominent investor in this startup. Styledotme is a startup working in Augmented Reality SaaS. It launched MirrAR platform, a real-time AR software for Jewellers. MirrAR instantly positions digitised versions of jewelry on the customer in real-time. It is currently being used by jewelry retailers including Tanishq, Kalyan Jewellers, Amrapali, and Senco.

Also Read: Fashiontech, The Changed Shopping Experience In Times Of Covid-19

  • Tata’s Titan Eye+ is one of India’s top optical retail chains. Titan first forayed into the fashion accessories industry with the launch of sunglasses in 2007.
  • Amancio Ortega Gaona is the founder and former chairman of the Inditex fashion group, best known for Zara. He was the world’s richest person at one point in time.
  • Forever 21 is an American fast fashion retailer, known for its fashionable and trendy offerings and low pricing. In September 2019, the company filed for bankruptcy protection. The company announced that it was ceasing operations in 40 countries and closing most of its international and 178 of its US stores.

Indian Edtech Startups Booming In Times Of Covid-19

Indian Edtech Startups Booming In Times Of Covid-19

India’s Education-Technology startup Byju’s became world’s most valued EdTech startup in recent and India’s second most valued startup. Such startups are blooming with education moving online, and incentives like free courses being given to expand the reach. Let’s see how Indian EdTech startups have emerged during Coronavirus.

Crux of the Matter

In the last five years, ~4,450 EdTech startups have launched in India. With a $10.5 bn valuation, BYJU’s is the only Unicorn (and Decacorn) EdTech startup in India. Moreover, these platforms are likely to create at least 3,000 new jobs over the next year. Experts say that the education sector may spend $6 bn annually on augmented and virtual reality technologies by 2023.

To date, Byju’s has raised $1.5 billion and saw 6 million new students accessing free lessons on its platform. Whereas Unacademy has raised nearly $200 million and recorded 1.4 billion watch minutes. Toppr has also raised approximately $112 million, with 100% growth in paid users as well as a 100% increase in free user engagement. Let us have a look at some of these startups.

Byjus was founded in 2011 by Byju Raveendran. During the lockdown, it added 7.5 million new users. In the month of March, it added 6 million new students, and the time spent on the app increased to 91 mins from 70 mins. Moreover, it has introduced ‘Live Classes’ on its app. In the month of April, the startup registered revenue of ₹350 crores. Byju’s is now the world’s most valued EdTech startup with a valuation of ~$10.5 billion, and India’s second most valued startup after Paytm.

Whitehat Jr.
Whitehat Jr. is a Mumbai-based startup founded in December 2018 by Karan Bajaj. This startup offers courses on topics like data structure, app and game development, machine learning, space technology, etc. It is unique as it has 1 to 1 online teaching platform for children (age 6 to 18). In 2019 WhiteHat Jr. had conducted 10,000 classes per day with 150,000 students and 3000 teachers. ~700,000 students are registered on the portal as of now. Recently Byju’s acquired it for $300 mn.

Roman Saini, Hemesh Singh, and Gaurav Munjal founded Unacademy. The recorded revenue in April was higher than revenue in 2017, 2018, and the first half of 2019 combined. In 2019, the startup had $36 million ARR (Annual Recurring Revenue = Total amount of yearly subscription + Total amount gained from expansion – Total amount due to cancellation of subscriptions). In 2019 it also launched a subscription product for the test-prep market. During the lockdown, in March 1.4 bn watch minutes were recorded on the platform. It’s ARR has grown 3x to $100 mn in 2020.

Vedantu is a Bengaluru-based startup founded in 2014 by Pulkit Jain, Anand Prakash & Vamsi Krishna. In April 2020 it raised $6.8 mn from South Korea-based KB Global Platform Firm and $12.56 mn from the China-based Legend Capital. Vedantu offers personalised teaching models, which are refined using artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and big data.

Toppr is a Mumbai-based startup founded in 2013 by Zishaan Hayath, Hemanth Goteti. It offers study material like questions, solutions, concepts, practice tests, and videos for exams like JEE, NEET, etc. In March 2020 it witnessed 100% growth in paid users on a monthly basis, and 100% growth in free user engagement. The startup has announced free access to live classes and video classes for classes 5-12.

Classplus was founded in 2018. It is a B2B EdTech startup founded by Bhaswat Agarwal and Mukul Rustagi. Currently, it has a user base of 3,500 coaching centers across over 70 cities and towns in India. In May 2020 it raised $9 mn in Series A round led by RTP Global. It offers a single platform solution via its app for content distribution, payments, communication, and online assessments to educational institutions.

  • In 2019, BYJU’s won the sponsorship rights for the Indian cricket team jersey, replacing Oppo. And the company also acquired Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan as its brand Ambassador.
  • A virtual world is a computer-simulated environment which may be populated by many users who can create a personal avatar, and simultaneously and independently explore the virtual world, participate in its activities and communicate with others. Among the earliest virtual worlds implemented by computers were virtual reality simulators.
  • Meritnation is India’s 1st online learning platform for school students across different boards. It is a part of the AESL group (Aakash Educational Services Limited), a leading educational institution in India that provides comprehensive test preparatory services.