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Deep-tech Startup Genrobotics Raises INR 20 Cr From Zoho Corp Genrobotics aims to deploy over 100,000 Bandicoot robots across the country and expand their product portfolio to the healthcare sector

By Soumya Duggal

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Kerala-based Genrobotics, a home-grown deep-tech startup using robotics to end manual scavenging, has secured INR 20 crores from technology company Zoho Corp. The latest investment will assist Genrobotics in its mission to eradicate manual scavenging in India and to provide safety and dignity to workers in the sanitation and oil and gas industries, said a statement.

"In order to end manual scavenging in India, more than 100,000 robots will be required. As we scale to fill the need gap, we estimate the creation of nearly 500,000 jobs across the country. The investment from Zoho will help us to expand our advanced research and development infrastructure, build large-scale production facilities, hire more talent, increase our exports to ASEAN markets and expand our global footprints," said Vimal Govind MK, CEO and co-founder, Genrobotics.

"Through our #MissionRobohole, which aims to turn manholes into roboholes, we have rehabilitated hundreds of people who were working as manual scavengers by training them to be robot operators," added Govind.

Manual scavenging is a hazardous occupation due to unsanitary working conditions and safety risks such as asphyxiation due to poisonous gas. The caste-based practice is banned in India under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013. It was first prohibited in 1993 but activists allege that it continues clandestinely and overtly. The government distinguishes between manual scavenging, a caste-based practice of people cleaning human excreta by hand, and the practice of cleaning sewers and septic tanks, though experts point out that the latter is a mere extension of the now-banned practice. In August last year, the Union government told Parliament that 941 workers had died while cleaning sewers and septic tanks in the last three decades.

Genrobotics' primary offering is the Bandicoot robot, which helps clean confined spaces such as sewer manholes, sewer wells, storm water manholes, oily water sewers and storm water sewers in refineries. The robots are designed to mimic human movements with the help of artificial intelligence (AI): they use their legs, various sensors and cameras to enter manholes, move around and gain stability in different terrains; the multipurpose robotic arm can perform actions such as shoveling, grabbing, picking and water-jet positioning necessary for various types of cleaning. It is equipped with a sensor to detect poisonous gasses and specially-designed four-IP68 night vision cameras that provide visuals of the confined space through the user interface located safely above the manhole, enabling sanitation workers to do their jobs safely and efficiently.

"Nurturing a thriving deep-tech ecosystem in India is one of Zoho's priorities, and the investment in Genrobotics is a continuation of that commitment. Building such technological competencies and critical know-how locally can help foster sustainable growth across key sectors, such as industrial manufacturing, healthcare and energy, in turn making the country economically stronger and self-reliant. Making this a reality requires focused, long-term investments that support home-grown deep-tech startups through intensive research and development and engineering phases and enable them to bring their ideas to the market. Looking at how far they have come already in this journey, Genrobotics' vision resonates with us at Zoho and we are happy to fast-track their efforts and support them in their mission to end manual scavenging," said Sridhar Vembu, CEO and co-founder, Zoho Corp.

Founded in 2017, Genrobotics aims to use robotics and AI to provide better and safer methods to the people working in extreme and unsafe environments. The startup claims to have developed the world's first robotic scavenger, Bandicoot, and a robot-assisted gait training solution, G Gaiter, for the faster rehabilitation of paraplegic patients. Other than India, the company also serves countries like the UK, Malaysia, UAE and South Korea.

Soumya Duggal

Former Feature Writer

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