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The Tale Of Drone And Dhandha

They are now providing enterprise drone solutions under the banner of IG Drones, with a remarkable business model directed by the motto ‘Every Home, One Drone!’ And as if that was not enough, their ‘big aim’ is to upskill one million Indian youth with the latest drone tech.

A typical drone has three important components: frame, motors, and microcontroller. Our country has a mature carbon fibre or composite material industry, hence replicating frames is not a problem. Brushless direct current motor (BLDC) manufacturing is also blooming in India and, with some R&D, we will be able to replicate the drone motor building soon. The challenge is the brain of the drone, that is, the control board based on a microcontroller. “We are indigenously developing our flight controller, with our own software,” says Bodhisattwa Sanghapriya, founder and CEO of IG Drones.

The electrical and electronics engineers and the founders of Invent Grid (IG) Pvt Ltd, Bodhisattva and Om Prakash, endeavored with Project VSLV (VSSUT Satellite Launching Vehicle), which was India’s first multipurpose student rocketry mission. After the Prime Minister Modi’s recognition, ISRO took over the project. But the boys had found their way. They had gained crucial experience in building that rocket while gathering, processing, and analysing geospatial data. They realised that “the data is the game.”

Though they started as a software company, soon after the import ban on Chinese drones in 2020, they ventured out for hardware production amid its acute shortage in the market. Aimed at being a pan-India venture ever since the beginning, the founders faced the common stereotype, that people in the hardcore coding domain often lack business acumen.

“We took it as a challenge and even before getting our company registered, we got our first order from Aditya Birla Group. We believe in the concept of selling first and then building,” says Sanghapriya. He points out that their business model helped them sustain and even multiply during the pandemic.

On being asked why they chose Gujarat instead of the common Bengaluru for their tech startup, Sanghapriya says, “Everyone goes to Bangalore to try their luck, but we wanted to learn the ‘Dhandha’ the traditional way. Since Gujarat has a strong history of entrepreneurship and adorns a mature startup ecosystem with a proactive and welcoming government, we started with our community-building approach and innovation network there.” He adds, “We were able to run the business for the last four and a half years while being bootstrapped because we learned the art of doing the business, doing the Dhandha.”

According to Sanghapriya, Dhandha and entrepreneurship are very different things. “We operate as a startup. Our vision, our tech, and our culture are all Bangalore-type, but our economics and our finance are like the traditional Dhandha.” The Dhandha mindset was clear when we got to know that the company’s R&D team works in Bengaluru. “Where else to find better tech resources?” asks Sanghapriya.

The IG Drones team exhibiting their enterprise drone solutions
The IG Drones team exhibiting their enterprise drone solutions

IG Drones is also working on the ‘uberisation’ of the entire model on a single software platform—IG One—which is a gamut of 100+ software under one umbrella. The entire drone operation, manpower, and finance will be managed with that software, which is currently undergoing internal testing.

Busting another stereotype, that only aeronautical engineers can fly drones, they have established 60 drone Centres of Excellence (CoE) across India in collaboration with different government and private universities, government bodies like NSDC, industry bodies like FICCI, and industrial conglomerates like Adani and J.K. group. At these centres, people from varied backgrounds are upskilled with drones, simulators, operating procedures, and software.

Such an initiative has equipped IG Drones with multiple partners in the form of micro-entrepreneurs all around the country. It also helped the company to achieve the marvellous feat to mobilize its team within 48 hours, across geographies in India. Going forward, they aspire to upskill, free of cost, one million Indians with drone technology.

IG Drones aims to develop the ‘brain’ of drones here in India. Why? “Let’s take the case of the F-16 that Pakistan purchased from the USA. Any day, the Pentagon can switch off the engine because they own the technology and the control board. Therefore, India needs to become truly atmanirbhar in drones by controlling the core tech, and not just suffice with building and colouring beautiful frames,” Sanghapriya responds.

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