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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 !!
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.
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.
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.
- Large Office Space with Low Rent and running cost
- Walkable distance to office, no travelling time
- Healthy food from Home
- Low cost High speed Rural Internet plans
- Good working environment
Yes, there are some cons too.
- Lack of visibility for the company : Company may be more visible if it is in Tech park or buisness incubators.
- 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.
- Local people don’t understand what I am doing, they are thinking like I am running a computer repair shop
- 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.
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
- 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.
- It will be good if the startup founder should have some industrial experience.
- 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.
- You may can start building prototype from the home itself. May be after raising fund, you can think about office space.
- 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
- 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.
- We can raise fund from not only investors but also by doing services.
- Bootstrapping is better than seeking investment, but it is difficult
- Avoid multitasking, if you do multitasking, serialize your work, parallel tasking will fail.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Allocate time for social medias, be update with current technologies
- Do P.R only when you really require. Lot of P.R may have negative impacts too.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 .
- Don’t be too greedy for money, money will follow you if you have quality in your works
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Make a good contacts in social medias and share your works. It can help you to get good leads.
- Learn to write good mails, articles etc. Writing is an important skill required for a entrepreneur
- 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.
- Be friendly with everyone, nobody is greater or less than you. Instead of show-offs, friendly behaviour helps you to get good connections
- Talk to everyone by thinking that person can give you a buisness lead
- Spend money wisely. Even you get 1MN$ funding, it can perish easily if your company is not making any money.
- Work hard, Stay healthy , Keep smiling , Maintain Good attitude
Thanks Everyone for your time
CEO/Founder of Qbotics Labs