Mukesh Ambani is Set to Revolutionize India's Mobility Sector with Personal Rapid Transit System. Are Indian Startups Ready?

Ambani picked a 12.7 per cent stake in SkyTran Inc, which has partnered with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the US and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to develop the required technology, late last year.
Entrepreneur Staff
Former Associate Editor, Entrepreneur India
4 min read

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SkyTran, the Personal Rapid Transit system concept originally funded as a research project through the Department of Transportation, is prepping to launch itself first for the most complex and dynamic country in the world.

Its India entry is being smoothened by the venture capital and private office company’s partnership with Reliance Industrial Investments and Holdings Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Limited.

Ambani picked a 12.7 per cent stake in SkyTran Inc, which has partnered with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the US and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to develop the required technology, late last year. As part of the deal, Reliance would supply communication equipment and a prototype would be built in India.

SkyTran has gone on to raise investment from some of the world’s top tier investors, including Innovation Endeavors, Draper Associates and Reliance Industries.

SkyTran’s computer-controlled vehicles, capable of speeds up to 300 kilometers per hour, may soon be a reality in India. While speaking to Entrepreneur India on how SkyTran is developing the revolutionary transportation pods and how they are going to be launched in India first and what makes India so unique, John Cole CEO of SkyTran said that,” India is a very complex place; bureaucracy is crushing, it’s very difficult for a foreign company to start and what changed for the company is Mukesh Ambani.

“He is a visionary business man (Mukesh Ambani is the Chairman of Reliance Industries Limited- India’s most valuable company by market cap) and in fact my very first meeting with him, he instantly got the whole concept of the physical package product system that is an abstraction, very few can get it and they got it immediately. Very few people get it; these people are so smart they got it instantly, they saw what this could do well in India and now we are in the middle of working out a plan to roll this throughout India. First with a small scale demonstration system on one of their captive projects probably in Mumbai,” Cole revealed.

Gameplan

Cole finds India the perfect launch pad for SkyTran’s transit pads due to the country’s scale.

“The primary strategy of India may be different than what was thought of. We are seeing that the inner city core are very difficult places to work, there are a lot of controls and the bureaucracy permits are very difficult. India is different; the inside of the city is completely non-functional nothing moves so in India the deployment strategy may be a bit different, we don’t know yet,” Cole said.

He senses the first phase of SkyTran’s pods could will be actually inside the city for India.

Competition to Startups

Would the SkyTran’s skypods give India’s startups namely Ola and Uber India a tough competition is a point of ponder upon.

Cole however finds his company’s products the greatest blessing to India’s startups.

“It’s going to be the best thing for their business ever – SkyTran can take you to the last destination but not all the way, a car can,” Cole said. 

SkyTran intends to partner with Indian companies – they want a lot more riders, more trips and less waste of time and we see that they (mobility startups) will move to automated vehicles which then can be seamlessly integrated with Skytran.

When you pick up your phone and want to go to a certain location, an automated Uber lift will pick you up, take you to the SkyTran location, when you get off another SkyTran, it will pick you up again explained Cole.

While Cole isn’t certain about which partnership the company will with an Indian startup, he clarified it’ll be Reliance’s call.

“Reliance is SkyTran India.”

Entrepreneur India’s staff met John Cole and other members of SkyTran as a part of their visit to Israel for the OurCrowd Global Investor Summit.

 

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