Zomato Is All Set to Fly Higher With Drones, But Is India Ready For It?
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Food delivery via drones might sound crazy, but they will soon fly high in India. Online food ordering and delivery startup Zomato has acquired TechEagle Innovations, a Lucknow-based startup that works exclusively on drones. The startup will help Zomato carve a path toward drone-based food delivery in India, creating a hub to hub delivery network powered by hybrid multi-rotor drones.
The startup was founded in 2015 by Vikram Singh Meena when he was a student at IIT-Kanpur. Since then, his young startup has been actively involved in the development of unmanned aerial vehicles, with prime focus on custom-made drones capable of carrying up to 5 kg payload.
Commenting on the development, Deepinder Goyal, Founder & CEO, Zomato, said, “We are currently at the early stage of aerial innovations and are taking baby steps towards building a tomorrow wherein users can expect a drone to deliver the food they ordered online. We are thrilled to have Vikram and his team join us towards accomplishing this mission. Our first 'delivery job' currently is to design multi-rotor drones that can pick up a payload under 5 kg and set up drone delivery circuits for reducing the last mile delivery leg. We believe that robots powering the last mile delivery is an inevitable part of the future and hence is going to be a significant area of investment for us.”
Tracing The History
Until November, flying drones in India were prohibited by the government. However, from December 1, companies and individuals are able to use and operate drones. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s new policy called Drone Regulations 1.0 brings provides guidelines for how unmanned aircraft will be allowed to operate within the country. Within the policy, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has started the registration process for companies and individuals who want to operate drones in all areas, except few due to security reasons.
Drone 2.0, the second part of the civil aviation ministry's drone policy, could allow commercial use as taxis and delivery vehicles. The policy is reportedly set to take effect by March 2019.
Drone deliveries in India haven’t had the greatest of starts, with many technical and regulatory hurdles. A Mumbai-based pizza outlet got in trouble for using an unmanned drone for food delivery. According to the Police, the concept of drone delivery in a crowded city like Mumbai posed a security risk. That also brings concerns beyond regulatory and safety issues.
Now it would be interesting to see whether Zomato will be able to pull this concept off. The food tech giant has been on a roll lately, expanding its online ordering and food delivery business to 100 cities in India and launching its premium subscription program, Zomato Gold, in Jakarta and Manila. Similarly, Zomato's HyperPure has had a favourable reception so far and is slated to open its next centre in the NCR in a couple of weeks. Through HyperPure, Zomato has already delivered over 15,000 orders, moved 1500 metric tons of fresh produce and has orders booked for over $6 M per month.