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This is an incredible opportunity to create supply chain infrastructure within India: CynLr

make in india

CynLr or Cybernetics Laboratory is enabling robots to see, understand, and learn to grasp and manipulate any object even from clutter! It is a visual object intelligence platform that enables industrial robotic arms to see, understand and manipulate any object in random unstructured manner. You can easily ‘manipulate’ any object without costly hardware customizations.

Nikhil Ramaswamy, Founder, CynLr, tells us more. Excerpts from an interview:

DQ: What is your offering for the local and global markets?

Nikhil Ramaswamy: Today, even the simple task of putting a screw into a screw hole without slipping a thread remains non-automatable across the globe. Imagine what it would take for a robot to assemble a smartphone or a car by putting together 1,000s of parts of varied shapes and weights presented in random orientations. Touted as the Holy Grail of Robotics, enabling robots to perform picking, orienting and placing of objects straight from a container has been a long-standing unsolved problem.

We, at CynLr, are solving this via our work that adds the visual intelligence capability to robotic arms. This makes them object aware and allows them to manipulate with superior agility – adapting to the varying shapes, orientations and weights of the object. We envision that this could simplify and standardize large, customized factory lines into LEGO blocks of micro-factories. We offer this intelligent solution to manufacturing and warehouses businesses across the globe.

DQ: As the funding slows down, how can startups building for India keep pace?

Nikhil Ramaswamy: As a deeptech, hardware company, availability of cash has always been a big barrier for us. Especially because there are no venture capitalists or funds that are solely focused on hardware startups. Further, as an Indian company building hard, infrastructural tech for the world, we anyway suffer from the India discount.

I see most VC funds have raised money from their investors and LPs but they are not deploying it. This is probably because of the exhaustion in the spaces that would traditionally attract capital – SaaS, fintech, Internet apps, services and other consumer companies. The infrastructure available to build service companies has been mined already. Most avenues to be explored have already seen numerous players come and fight for the same set of customers with incremental offerings (from a 30-minute pizza to a 10-minute groceries)!

The next wave of true innovation and non-linear opportunities for the VCs will come when the new infrastructure starts getting in place. You can only build a toll booth for a highway that is already operational. If there is no highway, there is no case for toll companies!

Staying with the toll gate example, if you want to expand the revenue of the toll gate, the only way to do so is by putting in more toll gates. But then, you need to have at least as many roads as there are toll gates! So first, you need to build the infrastructure – something that we are working on.

In the 2000s, there was a lot of work done on creating and commercially launching hardware infrastructure like the mobile devices, Android as an open OS, Internet pipes, 3G, 4G, 5G and more. These infrastructural innovations allowed consumer and service companies to take birth. So, the 2000s, 2010s and recent years exploited the opportunities provided by this infrastructure from decades ago. These opportunities, and even the infrastructure has now been exhausted.

The VCs coming on the back of the past decade of boom are looking for the next avenue to invest into and they would increasingly look at the infrastructure first where the next set of fundamental technologies could be built. They’ll start looking more at hard technology (infrastructural tech, and not service tech) and more stronger validations. The level of
deployment will reduce and it will probably get back to the pace that was there in the beginning of 2010. But, it will not stop!

Funding is not really slowing down but shifting, and getting redistributed. A larger proportion of capital is now available for hardware and infrastructural technology startups. While SaaS companies may feel the slowdown, hardware companies may not! From our point of view, we finally will have a larger proportion of capital available for hardware tech. Since the pace of development in infrastructural tech is slow, the venture capitalists will get more patient and will start taking a longer view of things. So the dispersion of funds will start getting slower even more!

I believe that availability of cash is not a challenge, but, the dispersion could be!

DQ: With global supply chain hindrance and Make in India still taking off, how should one manage semiconductors shortage, raw material shortage and hardware shortage?

Nikhil Ramaswamy: Personally, from a startup point of view, these shortages devalue cash available to us. If the supply chain is not managed well, I can not use the cash in the bank to buy raw material and ship the same to my facility, it is rendered useless. The value is neither created, nor rendered to its optimal potential.

The only obvious solution is to get the demand planning right and start stocking. While a
substantial chunk of cash gets blocked with these pre-orders, in the face of imminent shortage, this is the only way out for a business to survive.

So, the companies that are able to successfully manage the cash flow and the stock will have an undue advantage in capturing their respective markets. This, in turn, will give them the ability to deliver and in a market rife with shortages, this ability to deliver will start carrying more importance than meeting the quality.

As these disruptions become more commonplace, startups need to learn to balance the cash flow differently. One way to do so could be to get into long-term engagement with vendors. There is merit in even investing partially in the vendors. This will ensure you get priority delivery from them and a larger chunk of their mindspace.

From a holistic perspective, this is an incredible opportunity to create supply chain infrastructure within India. This will further enable more hardware startups to be born out of our country. This could also help solve the India Discount that hardware companies from India face on an ongoing basis.

Sitting in India and building for a global market, we are unfairly disadvantaged in comparison to startups from other geographies where they have privileged access to the ecosystem of supply chain and resources. When we raise capital, we do so with an India discount. It is wrongly assumed that our expenses are all local. While it is true for, say, a SaaS company where a disproportionate expense is made on people, for a hardware, infrastructural startup like us, this is a challenge. We still have to buy components from international suppliers, at international prices, pay for freight and duties and for the time as we wait for the material to come to us.

When we are out in the market to raise funds, this India discount limits our ability. This short-sighted perspective needs to change and we are seeing early signs of that happening.

Pradeep Chakraborty: