Robotics, which has for long been the territory for German and Japanese companies, has got a mega local push with a Tata subsidiary making waves in this niche space with its Made-in-India robots.
This could bring a transformation in the country’s micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) segment.
The Tata Motors subsidiary commercially launched its first locally made robot in April last year and bagged orders for 250 from various companies across the country. It has already supplied over 75 robots. And, in what could be an indication of its quality, the company has been getting various repeat orders.
As robotics involve high precision in a hi-tech platform, the idea to make robots for manufacturing cars in India struck the company in the 1990s.
TAL Manufacturing Solutions chief operations officer (robotics) Amit Bhingurde said the idea to use robots came in 1995-98 during the making of Tata Indica. At that time, over 100 robots were installed for select functions during car making and the results were very good as productivity as well as quality improved.
But as the company had to source various components for the car from small suppliers, there used to be some quality defects. At that time, it was realised that there should be some robots, which can be used by MSMEs but as Tata Motors focus was manufacturing vehicles, the idea did not take off.
“Tata Motors’ focus was vehicle manufacturing and not making components. When we separated from Tata Motors in 2000, TAL got the opportunity to venture into different products. That’s when we thought of creating something for the MSME sector,” Bhingurde told Business Standard.
Almost 8-10 years were gone into learning about robotics.
However, a lot of products were available in India and the market was already full. So, venturing into the same market was a challenge for the company. “Their (global robotics firms) focus was mainly on original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) but we thought if we want to enter the market or create a market for ourselves, than we should go into the MSME sector,” Bhingurde said.
So, in 2014, a team of four people started to work on the robots and in 2015, the first prototype of the robot was showcased in the Make-in-India project in Mumbai. The robot was indigenous and 90-95 per cent of the components of the product were also made locally. By 2016, the company started deputing robots at MSMEs and in April 2017, launched the product commercially.
The robot named Brabo, with a payload capacity of 10 kg, was introduced as the first India-made robot. The development cost of the robot was Rs 100 million.
While the design and styling was done in-house at TAL and Tata Elxsi, respectively, Tata Capital provided the finance. The manufacturing of some parts was done at Tata AutoComp.
The robots manufactured by TAL are 35 per cent cheaper than the ones made by global companies. The lower price was because locally made components and different technology were used.
“When we compare with similar 10 kg payload capacity robots of global firms, we saw that the price of our robots is 35 per cent cheaper. But the technology we are using is completely different. We are not as fast as other robots and they are more accurate. It’s like a smartphone versus a feature phone. We created our robot as a feature phone which can do basic work for MSMEs,” Bhingurde said.
“About 6,000 robots will be required in India by next year and in the next 5-10 years, more than 25,000 robots would be needed. And, we want to grab 20 per cent of this market share,” he added.