Genrobotics: Scaling up while cleaning up


A Bandicoot robot is deployed to clean up a manhole in Thiruvananthapuram

13th Oct, 2022

Genrobotics, which began with machines to clean sewers, is growing in size and scope while doing social good. Here is a story on the Kerala-based robotics startup which appeared in Forbes India that outlines the company's start and growth.

It started with designing for the college project a first-generation powered exoskeleton, a wearable mobile machine called the Iron Man suit, that could lift weights and facilitate military supplies in remote areas; a fine-tuned version the following year was put together to help amputees walk, and a paper on it won the best concept award at the International Conference on Mechatronics and Manufacturing held in Singapore.

The quartet’s foray into robotics ended briefly once they completed their course and took up corporate jobs. But they resumed soon after when, in 2016, they met then IT secretary M Sivasankar, and were introduced to the problem of manual scavenging. In June 2017, Genrobotics was born, and Bandicoot was the first product that rolled out of its stable, with the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) as its maiden client. 


Of its 200-odd staff, up from the nine they started with, Genrobotics has deployed about one-fifth towards R&D, a function that has impressed Zoho, which recently invested Rs 20 crore in the company.


CEO and co-founder Sridhar Vembu told Forbes India in an email:


 “It is important to have technological knowhow and capabilities if we have to make India globally competitive. We ourselves have built our technology through relentless focus on R&D over the past 26 years. We see that in Genrobotics as well. Besides, one of our core values is to serve the underserved; we share that with Genrobotics as they are on a mission to eradicate manual scavenging.”

For Genrobotics, solving the problem isn’t only limited to their products but going the whole hog, like enforcing a cultural change for sewage cleaners, who are conditioned to go into manholes, despite alternatives. “Because it’s something they have been doing for years, across generations,” says Arun. The company has established the not-for-profit Genrobotics Foundation to address those problems, create awareness and facilitate a seamless migration from manual to robotic scavenging.  

“Our vision is to build products for people who work in extreme and unsafe conditions, and give them dignity,” says Vimal. “And we want to build a brand for the long term. We want to be to robotics what Apple and Samsung are to mobile phones.” 

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