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Indian robotics industry bullish on growth prospects [November 2012]

Despite having numerous challenges, the robotics industry in India is confident of higher growth with States like Gujarat, Haryana and Maharashtra are attracting more investments from the automotive industry, said Anish Soneja, CEO & Founder, Menzel Vision & Robotics
Could you brief us on the current status of robotics industry in India highlighting the demand-supply scenario?A good way to illustrate the state of robotics in India would be – we are today where China was 4 years ago and Europe approximately 10 years ago. The use of robotics in developed countries has grown even in the domain of autonomous robots and service robots but in India even industrial robots are still to really come of age.
With the growth in China getting somewhat into cruise mode from speed mode, lot of robot manufacturers are looking for sales into India, Russia and Brazil which are the so called emerging markets.
What are the major growth drivers for this sector?As we see more of MNC’s – more world-class contracted and subcontracted manufacturing companies moving into India, there will be a rise on the emphasis on automation with robotics at the top of the helm. Subsequently, there shall be increased pressure on established Indian manufacturers to ramp up production volumes and also quality which would entail more investment on robotics. The slowly but surely rising labour costs and the increasing attraction for unskilled, semi-skilled labours to retail industry and the skilled workers to BPO’s shall also force manufacturers to start thinking seriously about both streamlining and modernising manufacturing processes which should see more robots on the Indian factory floors.
Where does the Indian robotics industry stand in comparison with global market?The Indian robotic industry barring one or two players comprises mostly subsidiaries or integrators of the big MNC robotic manufacturers. The served market is quite small as of now which means more of good players and limited customers.
There are good efforts in our IIT’s and other engineering colleges being funded and supported by Dept of Science and Technology to work on robotic related projects which shall provide the spark for home grown entrepreneurs.
How do you see the availability of technology and skills as far as Indian market for robotics is concerned?We have access to the state-of-the-art latest machines and technology at the disposal of the Indian industry. With the world becoming a global village the customers are becoming well educated and wish to adopt only the latest technology. 
In terms of skill sets the Indian robotic industry is quite strong but less exposure to more applications has made it not so conducive to having the desired level of application engineering.
India has several skills essential to robotics then also we could not achieve much in this spectrum, could you highlight the bottlenecks which are obstructing the growth of robotics sector?First and foremost is the relatively less cost of labour (so far) which has created a mindset averse to bigger investment in automation and robotics. The weak rupee, high custom duties and big shipping costs also act as a deterrent. Unlike Europe, we do not have a used robots market in India which would have made it interesting for customers to try a pre-owned robot at a lower price therefore gaining more confidence after getting the return on investment.
There is also a lack of good integrators in our country and the customers are not yet so mature in understanding of robotics that they would have their own team of in‑house qualified engineers to handle design‑programming and installation of production lines that employ robotics.
Tell us about your robotics business and commitments to the Indian market.We have been a leading imaging solution provider since 1996 providing world-class industrial inspection and machine vision solutions to the Indian industry. “Innovate or Perish”- is what the competitive business is all about so we thought that we shall add robotics to our offerings.
Currently our focus is on vision guided robotics and robots assisted machine vision. Most of these have been implemented in automotive industry which so far is the biggest robots user as well as in packaging and pharma industry. We wish to explore working on autonomous robots that could find a good role in the homeland security, defence and also social civic application areas.
We are also in the process of setting up a Vision Academy to be soon followed up by a Robotics Academy. The pursuit of technical excellence and knowledge distribution has always been more precious than mere profitability in business to us at MVR.
Where do you wish to see the Indian robotics market five years down the line?The future looks only promising. With States like Gujarat, Haryana and Maharashtra leaving no stones unturned to attract more investments from the automotive industry, we are only bullish on the growth prospects for the robotics industry in India. In order to compete with global players, more and more of the industry houses are having both sizeable funds and dedicated teams being allocated for plant modernisation with grand plans that promise a remarkable inclusive growth path for automation in general and robotics in specific terms.
The biggest testimony to this fact is the 3 year and ongoing programme at Bajaj Auto to produce in-house 4 axes and 6 axes robots for various assembly, manufacturing applications and also the autonomous robots for dispensing unfinished components and collecting finished components from the production line. It’s an ambitious and so far very successful programme at Bajaj Auto. It’s all a matter of some more time.

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