BITS Pilani Goa Students Launch a Startup to Provide End-To-End Solutions To Enterprises Using Drones For Increasing Productivity And Process Capabilities

Cofounders of Drone Nation

We are publishing an interview of Mr. Chetan Reddy, Founder & Head of Innovations of Drone Nation.

Drone Nation Logo

What is the problem you are trying to solve? Can you share with us any insights that led you to believe that this is a big enough problem? 
Problems we are solving are
1) Inefficiency
2) Project delays
3) Low Profits

We had noticed that it is almost impossible to make fast, informed decisions without consistent site visibility. Because of this 80% of the projects are late and over budget.

Then we realized why can’t we use better technology to solve this. Why can’t we use drones to collect critical data, analyze and provide specific adaptable solutions. These insights led us to come up with a one stop drone solution providing authentic business intelligence in a turnkey, affordable manner to increase productivity and process capabilities.

Please let us know about the founders of Drone Nation:
We are 3 Co-founders.

  • Chetan Reddy – The Hustler
  • Vichar Shroff– The Visionary
  • Vaibhav Agarwal– The Analyzer.

Cofounders of Drone Nation

As the titles say, I, Chetan Reddy take care of Operations, Business Development and Marketing related to the company. While, Vichar Shroff as The Visionary is responsible for sketching out plans and coming up with innovative technical plans regarding customization of our Drones for different applications in various sectors according to clients requirements and Vaibhav Agarwal takes care of our Analytics platform for generating different kinds of models from the Aerial Data captured and thus producing the final output.

Drone Nation started mainly because of me and Vichar. We are final year students from BITS Pilani Goa campus doing our Chemical Engineering and Electronics & Instrumentation engineering respectively. Our solid exposure to the Indian startup Eco system because of various internships we had pursued and also because of our continuous exposure to this commercial drone industry which we have gained through various projects we had done during initial college days. We had seen a great potential in this Industry and we couldn’t have just ignored this market opportunity which is too large and also our natural instinct of doing something for the betterment of society led us to Drone Nation. Then we designed our entire business plan circled around our intent to do projects for better society by investing a part of our revenue in this vertical by generating from our other verticals which deal with providing aerial solutions in various sectors. Later Vaibhav joined us to pursue his passion and thus we three became the Co-founders.

Give us a brief background of what founders were doing before starting the venture.
Three of us are in our final year now. Before the venture our routine includes engaging with the startup world in every possible way and thus gaining the knowledge required to have a better ground to take off and also projects with Lockheed Martin, NDRF etc which did contribute in helping us understand the significance of this industry.

List all the names of the core team members, along with their skill-sets, specific domain expertise & designated roles. How do you see them evolving over time? 
Nikhil Khedekar- Core Team Member of Drone NationWe have only one core member now. Nikhil Khedekar is our tech head as well. In our case tech includes the hardware domain and also the coding to some extent. Our core member is in to everything starting from playing guitar, gaming, to building amazing drones like Micro Drone, Qswarm group etc. He takes care of our entire tech division. His and Vichar’s work go hand in hand. So they both assist each other and ensure that product is perfect according to our clients requirements.

Over time I would want him to hire few people for himself and head the entire laboratory which we are going to build soon enough once the funds are sorted.

What challenges did you face when you were starting out?
Our initial challenges included getting initial capital for building our hardware and also rules and regulations related to Drone usage in the country. But later we sorted out the second issue by taking few projects from government and thus acquired a special permission to test our drones.

How did you get the initial capital? 
Our initial capital we received through my brother, Manish Reddy. who had invested 1 lakh INR expecting no return. Then later with in two months we were successful in breaking even and all the profit we are generating is being put in to R & D which we are generating by providing aerial solutions in various sectors.

Please tell us about the Product / Solution. Explain how you went about the Product-Market Fit Process. 
Drone Nation provides complete & cost effective end to end solutions using drones. Our services include Aerial photography, Aerial survey and mapping, data analysis for Real Estate and Precision Agriculture and inspection & monitoring for industrial purposes such as Wind & Solar farms, Oil & Gas pipelines etc. Our expertise involves integrating custom built drone hardware and software to provide adaptable solution architecture that can meet ever evolving customer needs. We are a one stop drone solution providing authentic business intelligence in a turnkey, affordable manner to enterprises so as to increase productivity and process capabilities.

Initially, when we went in to the market we had faced various issues like not able to fulfill our clients requirements.We had always missed out on few things. Later we had realized that instead of providing individual modular solutions we would provide end to end solutions so that client can customize the modules and tell us whatever he wants and thus ensuring his satisfaction. This is how figured out the Product-Market Fit.

What were your assumptions when you entered the market, learning that you have? 
Our initial assumptions in Aerial Photography sector turned out to be wrong once we entered the market. We chose the wrong target segment when we were targeting event management companies and owners of the firms/events/weddings. Then we had learnt that photographers are our actual target market and that’s when we started generating revenue in this sector which still serves as one of our major revenue sources.

What is the insight that you have about this market, which no one else has? Uniqueness about your Startup. 
In India, end to end solutions using drones is a relatively untapped market and we plan to carve our own niche in that. Like the internet and GPS before them, drones are evolving beyond their military origin to become powerful business tools. They’ve already made the leap to the consumer market and now they’re being put to work by Drone Nation in commercial and civil government applications from firefighting to farming. This is what makes us unique that we are the only one who provide end to end aerial solutions to our clients in all sectors.

Drone Nation Team after workshop in a school

What is the strength of the startup and the scale of operations? Who do You Perceive as Your Competition? 
Since we have not graduated from our college yet, we are facing problems related to operations because of managing our academics and business at the same time. But this hasn’t affected much since college is being very supportive and hoping that it will continue to be so. Talking about competition, I think time is the only factor that might give an edge to our competitors. But our technology and expertise will definitely give us a better edge in grabbing in this opportunity and soon we will overcome the time issue as well.

What is the revenue model? What is the logic behind it?  
Our revenue model isn’t innovative as such since ours is a service based model. We charge clients according to the customization and the end solution we provide. We invest a part of it in to our R&D such that it helps us carry out projects for better society like surveying disaster affected areas, providing medical supplies etc.

Who are the consumers that you are targeting? How is this going to affect them? 
Our consumers are mainly businesses. It is a B2B model currently. We take requirements from the client and customize our hardware and combine it with our software to produce final output. It is going to affect them in a way that since all of them are looking to optimize the labor cost, time and more accurate data they are going to be benefited big time.

How did you get your first customer? 
We got our first customer through a community called Rotary club where they had asked us to shoot the off road SUV racing event which they were doing for generating funds for social cause.

Now, we have 20+ clients including all our sectors which isn’t bad for a 4 month old company.

What is the big picture of your startup? Is this Product leading to something bigger? If so, how? 
Yes, this is leading to something bigger definitely. Considering the 10 billion industry the amount of contribution by Drone Nation is surely going to create value in the market and once the regulations become more clearer then tie up with companies like flipkart and other logistics companies for delivery through drones is going to create a new wide range of opportunities for new entrants as well. In order to compete with e-commerce leaders like Amazon, Indian e-commerce are definitely going to look for better technology and Drone Nation would definitely want to be highlighted.

Since inception, give us a sense of the value of business done by your venture? 
After the initial investment of 1.5k USD and successful business over past 3 and half months our turn over is estimated to be around 4.5k USD and with the next quarter coming up we are predicting it to go till 10k USD by the end of Q1 2017.

What would be your goal to accomplish in the next six months? 
In next 6 months, we would be concentrating mainly on acquiring atleast 10 clients per sector and thus having enough revenue to utilize for projects for better society and completing atleast two projects under this umbrella along with one in entertainment sector which we have been working on called Dancing with Drones.

What message do you want to convey to fellow entrepreneurs? 
I would like to say that all you need is will to create impact and gain motivation to work and thus contribute in building the Nation in every possible manner.

More details about Drone Nation:
Location: BITS Pilani Goa