Why did i start my Robotics Startup from a Rural Village of India ?

Hi all
In this post , our Founder  Lentin Joseph is sharing his personal experience during the building of his first Startup, Qbotics Labs !!!

Read and share if you like the story !!!

Starting a robotics rtartup from a rural village of India !!! seems like a dumb idea right !!! But for me it was not  !!!

Let me introduce myself first, I am Lentin Joseph, Founder of Qbotics Labs, a Robotics & Image Processing Startup mainly focussing on Autonomous Mobile Robotics and Robotics in Education. The company is situated in a village which is part of the Ernakulam district in Kerala (one of the southern states of India).

Given below is the google map coordinates of the office !!

(10.178690, 76.329475)

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My passion in Robotics and its related technologies started during my Engineering itself.  I have Started building robots for academic projects and got good response from students and faculties. This inspired me to think seriously into robotics and taking it as a career.

After completing  my B.Tech graduation in Electronics and Communication from Federal Institute of Science and Technology in 2011, i have joined in a company called Energid Technologies , which was  functioning from Kochi/India and working as a subsidiary branch of a  U.S Robotics company called Energid. After completing one year at Energid, the same team formed a new company called ASIMOV Robotics and i have worked for 3 years in these two companies. This industrial experience gave me more insight about robotics and its applications.

After working for three years, i have planned to quit and doing something different. The decision was taken to decide whether i have to do higher studies or some other things. Had also some family issues at that time and i was in  a state of  taking a break from the Job, because i couldn’t focus on my works.

Take a break

Really had no idea what to do next. May be i can go for M.S in Robotics in U.S.A or do M.Tech  here itself. Or i can join in some other firm or start my own business.  I don’t like to go abroad and settle there and also lost interest in working a company. So only thing i can do is, start my own business.

Started doing freelancing robotics project from some freelancing website and i think i earned almost same amount as my previous job. I spent almost 4 months by doing freelancing jobs. At that time, I have talked in some tech conferences too. After four months, i got an invitation mail from PACKT  U.K for writing a book in Robotics. They are impressed by seeing my portfolio and slides of the talks in the conference.

I know I was not very good in writing, but i have taken it as a challenge :). I didn’t know  the difficulties of writing a book, without knowing anything about these difficulties, I just committed  the work and started writing the book.

Along with writing the book, i also have been doing some service projects. At that time i got a service project for building an autonomous mobile robot for an Australian based company. The first step was to build a prototype of it. I just committed it and start doing along with the writing of the book. After some weeks in working in this robotics, i thought  what about doing a documentation of this work. What i did was i started  documenting the building procedure of this robot into the book.

I was writing this book and building robot prototype from home only. At that time my parents suggested me that, instead of working from home why can’t you start an office. I like that concepts and started looking for an office space.  When I started looking in buisness incubators and nearer cities, the rent and running cost were very high also I need to travel a lot to reach there. I don’t have enough budget for it.  When i discussed with my parents, they suggested me to start a company office in my village itself, so that i can stay with them too.

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Office space !!!

Starting a company office in a rural village !!! Is it seems like bad idea? but I will say it was a good decision for me till now. Let’s look at the good things first.

Pros

  1. Large Office Space with Low Rent  and running cost
  2. Walkable distance to office, no travelling time
  3. Healthy food from Home :)
  4. Low cost High speed Rural Internet plans
  5. Good working environment

Yes, there are some cons too.

Cons

  1. Lack of visibility for the company : Company may be more visible if it is in Tech park or buisness incubators.
  2. In India, people are giving more importance to place of work. If it is in some tech parks, cities people are happy and will not questions us, othervice they will shoot lot of questions.
  3. Local people don’t understand what I am doing, they are thinking like I am running a computer repair shop :)
  4. Local People and relatives were not very happy with my decision because I left a high paid robotics job  and started a business in a rural village. In their perspective, it was a stupid decision.

Eventhough i have these issues, my parents supported me. The main reason for their support was i already proved that, i could do something in this field and can earn money.

I have registered company as Pvt Ltd. with director as my Dad,  and managing director as myself. Started functioning and recruited 3 interns for getting a start.  I guided them and they helped me to build the autonomous robot hardware prototype. While building hardware,  I was documenting each procedure into the book.

I started the company as a service provider in Robotics, Image Processing and Embedded System and planned to release the book as the first research product of the company. Company registered in Jan 29th 2014, and start functioning from February-2014.

I will say first year of running the company was the most difficult year in my life. Being a Solo founder, I have to manage my company, interns, book writing, clients etc. In the mean time i had some personal issues also. So totally it was a stressful condition. Somehow I managed it, and after 8 months of running, i finished up with the internship and promoted interns to some other firms.

The company was not yet making huge amount money for feeding  full time employees. I was getting small amount by writing  book and also from the service projects, but that was not enough to feed the employess, also i got really busy with writing the book so i couldn’t even guide the interns, that’s why i redirected them to some other companies.

Now I am alone in my office,  I like loneliness :) , because it give me more focus than ever. At the end of 2014,  people started asking me about the nature of buisness  that i am doing with my company.  I said that its a software IT firm and I have clients from outside. Some people even don’t know what a software is :)  anyway somehow i explained to them in very simple manner. The hilarious part was, people came  to my  office thinking that it is real LAB for testing blood.  😀 :D.

I didn’t have any  bad feelings, Be + , leave it and move forward. In the beginning of 2015, I was getting good result for my works. I could demonstrated my robot in several exhibitions, did some workshops, and one of the greatest milestone was, i have reached in finals of  an Internationational robotic challenge conducting as a part of ICRA, which is the top conference in robotics. Just imagine, a rural village Startup reached in the peak of robotics. I was really happy and blessed. We were a team of two, my team memeber could goto USA, Seattle and attend the challenge and the conference, i couldn’t go there because of VISA issues. At the same time my book got released and  i could launch book at ICRA. So two great milestones in a single event.

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Finalist of ICRA 2015 Robotics Challenge

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In Indian Express !!

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Launched book in ICRA 2015 !!!

Book Poster

Book details

My book, Learning Robotics using Python,  teaches to build an autonomous mobile robots using ROS, OpenCV and Python. I have taken almost one and half year to complete this book. I took this much of time because this book is mainly hardware oriented. So i need to build the hardware in parallel with the writing. There are only few books in PACKT which is based on hardware. The book got featured in ROS blog, Robohub etc and started selling in peak now.

Now i am mainly doing the marketting of this book and doing some workshops related this book. This is the story of my company till now. The important Lessons that i learned from my startup Journey till now are follows

  1. The location is not a big criteria for an internet startup. The important thing is the value provided to customers and our online presence. Shift your office space only if it make big changes in your business.
  2. It will be good if the startup founder should have some industrial experience.
  3. Solo Founders can only sustain if they have strong  tech and business foundation and more importantly a good attitude. Look for good co-founders or experienced employees when the company start to grow.
  4. You may can start building prototype from the home itself. May be after raising fund, you can think about office space.
  5. Doing services are not bad. You can do service only if you have strong foundation in software and hardware engineering. Most importantly you must have  good client relation and management skills
  6. Startup can switch to service based companies, if their product fails. 90 % of products can fail. Don’t forget, most of the Indians companies are service based.
  7. We can raise fund from not only investors but also by doing services.
  8. Bootstrapping is better than seeking investment, but it is difficult
  9. Avoid multitasking,  if you do multitasking, serialize your work, parallel tasking will fail.
  10. Focus and concentration are important for a startup, limit social media usage and instead of wasting time with other activities, use it for marketting your brand . Remember, social medias are the powerful branding utilties.
  11. Work hard for startup and make money ,  but more than these things,  maintain your health properly. Take proper sleep, do YOGA, add vegitables to food. Try to take homely food rather than fast food
  12. Take your food at time, even you are working hard, remember that it is for you and your family. Without your health, you can’t do anything.
  13. Allocate time for social medias, be update with current technologies
  14. Do P.R only when you really require. Lot of P.R may have negative impacts too.
  15. Lot of companies just fails  because founders are thinking like getting PR and becoming famous is everything. But you know P.R can last only for few days, after that, reality again kick you
  16. In India, most of the  boys are marrying at the age between 26 – 32, and girls is in between  22 – 29. Remember, if you are planning to follow this custom, you should be alert and make good savings before get married. After marriage, we can’t predict how your life changes.
  17. I know some founder who left the companies after their marriage, it is because of their personal preferences. They don’t like to get stressed after marriage, they want to enjoy their life and lead a peaceful life. So remember, life of a young entrepreneur may change after marriage.
  18. After marriage, if your companies is not making much money and if it kick with problems, do a rethinking. May be an experienced founder may get good job with good salary.
  19. Ultimately what matters is, we need to live peacefully and joyfully, also lead your family in the same way. So if your company is a hindrance for your joy and peace, better is leaving the company.
  20. Fund raising indicate that your company is valued by another person called investor and he is ready to invest some money in your company by taking some shares. If the company is bootstrapped and self sufficient, the company may not need to take any funding. Take funding only when it is necessary. In some cases, company need funding for building some hardware product, then look for a good investor. If the investor is in your same age  group, it will be good. Talk to him personally and understand his attitude. Note: picking a co-founder and investor is like marrying that person :) .
  21. Don’t be too greedy for money, money will follow you if you have quality in your works
  22. Spend money on traveling if it is really required. Attend conference if it is really  useful to you. Show-offs will only helps to empty your pockets.
  23. Company is not a medium for publicity and shows-off, don’t chase for publicity, but if you deliver qulality in your work, these things will follow you.
  24. Comparison can kill you: Don’t compare with other  companies. Focus on your goal instead of competiting with others. Give more importance to your goal and try to finish it.
  25. Make a good contacts in social medias and share your works. It can help you to get good leads.
  26. Learn to write good mails, articles etc. Writing is an important skill required for a entrepreneur
  27. Try to speak English in British/Americal accent, and take workshops, give talks to improve your speaking abilities. Note: We are thinking of global market, not only Indian market, so communication will be an essential skill.
  28. Be friendly with everyone, nobody is greater or less than you. Instead of show-offs, friendly behaviour helps you to get good connections
  29. Talk to everyone by thinking that person can give  you a buisness lead
  30. Spend money wisely. Even you get 1MN$ funding, it can perish easily if your company is not making any money.
  31. Work hard, Stay healthy , Keep smiling , Maintain Good attitude

Thanks Everyone for your time

Regards

Lentin Joseph

CEO/Founder of Qbotics Labs

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Conducted #Python #Raspberry Pi 2 #Robotics Workshop

Qbotics Labs has conducted a series of workshops in Robotics, Python and Raspberry Pi 2

Here are the list of workshop we have conducted in July -2015

1 . Getting Started with Robotics at Albertian Institute of Science and Technology Kerala/India

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2 . Advanced Python Workshop at Mar Athanasius Collegeof Engineering Kerala /India

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3. Raspberry Pi 2,  Python and Linux Workshop at Adi Shankara Institute of Technology Kerala/India

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Kinova JACO

ICRA 2015 Robot Gallery !!!

Hi

We  have selected as one of the finalist of ICRA 2015 Robotics Challenge called HRATC 2015  which was happened between May 26th – 2015 to May 30th- 2015. One of our team member could go and visit this top Robotic Conference and took photos of latest Robots . Photos are  given below

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From SmokieRobotics

Nao Robot ICRA2015

Nao Robot

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Nao Robot

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Amazon Picking Challenge 2015

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DENSO Robot

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HRATC 2015 Live streaming !!

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HRATC 2015 Live streaming !!

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HRATC 2015 Live streaming !!

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Amazon Picking Challenge !!!

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Amazon Picking Challenge !!!

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Amazon Picking Challenge !!!

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Amazon Picking Challenge !!!

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Amazon Picking Challenge !!!

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Amazon Picking Challenge !!!

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Barret WAM Arm !!!

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Roomba !!!

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Seekur by Mobile Robotics !!!

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Pioneer 3DX With Cyton Arm !!!

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Robots using HEBI Smart Actuators !!

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Dynamixel Actuators !!!

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SCHUNK ARM

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DARWIN-OP

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Kinova-JACO !!!

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Universal Robot Arm with Robotiq gripper !!!

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KUKA youBot !!!

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Fetch Robotics new Product !!!!

Big day for US !!! Our book and Company got featured in ROS official Blog

Hi all

This day(Jun – 3 – 2015)  is very special to us. The reason is, we got featured in  ROS blog  which is one of the main robotic framework that we are using for Robot programming. Getting featured on ROS website is actually a great milestone in our journey. The ROS blog article describe about the book content and the technologies used in this book. final_cover-01

Please have a look on the ROS blog link to check the article

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Book  Listed in ROS Wiki

Buy book

Our first research product launched !!! And its a book

Qbotics Labs started as a research firm which is mainly into Robotics, Machine Vision and Embedded Systems. The aim of the company was to achieve or build something in these field within the first year itself. There was no plans to build commercial product but doing some research and development in robotics for identifying the commercial market. The Founder of Company named Lentin Joseph, who has acadamic and professional experience in Robotics for 5 years. He started writing a book called “Learning Robotics using Python” which aims to build an interactive autonomous mobile robots which can be used for serving food/beaverages and he named the robot as Chefbot.

The company is serving some clients at the same time in autonomous navigation in mobile robots domain. Lentin documented this experience of  autonomous navigation using Robot Operating System(ROS) and added additional functionalities such as human interaction by speech, added capabilities such as vision, some kind of AI etc.

The book describe the building  of autonomous mobile robot and discussing its designing, simulation, hardware designing, sensor interfacing, speech recognition, artificial Intelligence, and complete integration using ROS, and navigation stack. The robot is controlling using a GUI which can be used by an ordinary user who don’t need to know the underlying tech. In the last chapter we are testing and calibrating the robot for deployment.

The book is suitable for beginner level to Intermediate users and they  eed some sort of knowledge in Python. The entire coding is done using Python. The entire software tools we are using here are open source.

The book release in May 29th- 2015 and could launch the book as a part of ICRA2015(International Conference on Robotics and Automation)  which is the top conference in Robotics and Automation. As a Robotics Startup, we are very happy to hit our next milestone.

The book can be purchase from the following link

Purchase from PACKT

Purchase from Amazon

Given below images of the cover page of book and launching of book in ICRA

Cover page

Book Cover Page

Book Poster

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Book Launching in ICRA 2015 by Lino Marques

Book Launching in ICRA 2015 by Lino Marques http://lse.isr.uc.pt/people/lino-marques

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Baxter Robot with Book Page

Baxter Robot by rethink robotics promoting book

 

Keynote speaker at ICRA 2015  http://nethope.org/about/team/gisli-olafsson

Keynote speaker at ICRA 2015
http://nethope.org/about/team/gisli-olafsson

Thanks and Keep promote the book !!!

 

QUT Introduction to robotics MOOC Certificate of participation

Learning is a continuous process, as a robotics startup we are learning by building robots and building strong foundation in Robotics theory aspects by reading  various books and online MOOC .

Recently our Founder Lentin Joseph has successfully completed a Massive open online course(MOOC) conducted by Queensland university in Australia and taught by Professor Peter Corke, he  authored a famous book in Robotics called Robotics, Vision and control.

The course consist of video lectures from very basic of Robotics to advanced concepts like Mobile robot navigation, Robot arm Navigation, Forward and Inverse Kinematics calculation and many more. The course ends with wide variety of application in robotics and the Job opportunites in this field. Peter Corke is an excellent lecturer, his  tutorials can understand even for a beginner in Robotics. The course length was almost 2 months. The projects and excercises are done using MATLAB and Robotic Toolbox. The screenshot of the certificate is shown below

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Finalist of HRATC 2015 Challenge conducted by IEEE Robotics & Automation Society as part of ICRA 2015, the biggest conference in Robotics and Automation field

 

Update (10-05-2015) : We have featured in Malayala Manorama

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Update (04-05-2015): We have featured in Startup Village Blog
Update (04-05-2015)  : 
We have featured in Indian Express

challenge
We are happy to announce that, we have reached our first milestone in our start up journey. We have been selected as a finalist in an international robotic challenge called HRATC 2015 conducted by IEEE Robotics and Automation Society as a part of ICRA 2015  which is the biggest conference in the world for robotics and automation.

About the challenge:

The aim of the challenge was to inspect mine from a random area using the robot called Husky. The robot should perform autonomous navigation, detect mines and report to the judges. 

There are 5 finalist for this challenge including National university of Singapore, University of Texas, University of Nebraska. We are in the second position among these five teams.

We have been mainly focusing on autonomous navigation in mobile robots, so this challenge will be an important milestone in our career too. More details about team members and the story till now is given below

About the team :

Our team name is Zephyr and there are 2 members. One is the CEO/Founder of Qbotics Labs . Mr : Lentin Joseph and other member is a student from College of Engineering Munnar, his name is Kamil Kafoor He is doing his Mechanical engineering there. He registered and started this challenge and successfully completed the first phase called Algorithm phase. In this phase, we need to submit an algorithm that we are going to do in this challenge. He was selected in this phase and the next two levels are called Simulation phase and testing phase.

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In both these stages, we have to use Robot Operating system(ROS) and also simulator called Gazebo. He was not proficient in ROS , so he contacted Qbotics Labs for implementing the upcoming stages.

We were really impressed in this challenge and we formed a team called Zephyr and completed the simulation phase in ROS and also updated the algorithm for navigation. It was very challenging for us, but we got cleared this stage.

Next stage was testing phase, we have to remove the simulator section and deploy our code in real hardware. We also successfully did that and reached in the finals.

About the competition:

Started in November-2014 , and final result came in April 16th 2015

Video

We are demonstrating the abstract of each phase of the challenge through a video. Watch and share with your friends !!!

 

Thank You !!!