'Automation will play a bigger role in India's supply chain'

'Automation will play a bigger role in India's supply chain'


Akash Gupta – co-founder and chief technology officer, GreyOrange – joined BITS Pilani to study mechanical engineering but his focus soon shifted to robotics.
From there to dominating the warehousing and logistics space in India has been an exciting and fulfilling journey. “We started interacting with upcoming e-commerce companies given that their supply-chain needs were very different from traditional warehousing,” Gupta recalled.
GreyOrange has since helped transition conventional supply chains, with separate e-commerce and brick-and-mortar operations, to an omni-channel system (where everything is in a single warehouse). And with consumers now expecting same-day delivery, Gupta believes automation will play a bigger role in India’s supply chain. This startup is working with around 30 companies globally, and has a robust presence in East Asia (Japan, South Korea), US and Europe.
That early spark
Till 4th standard, I was in a town called Dibiyapur, near Kanpur, and from 5th standard I moved to Kanpur. Most of the kids of that time started by having a PC, and playing games on PCs. After a couple of months, they get tired of playing games, and try to figure out something else. I was lucky enough to have my mom and dad get me a PC at home, in 6th standard. I spent a bunch of time on the PC, starting with basic programming and going on to 3D animation. When I got over with 12th standard, I had a fair understanding of ‘kid’ programming!
Preparing the ground
At the end of my second year in BITS Pilani, we (Gupta, and co-founder and fellow alumni Samay Kohli) got a lot of requests for doing robotics workshops. So, while a project like AcYut (a humanoid robotics program) needed a lot of money, the first thought was to form a company, do these workshops and run our projects, because even at that point of time, you needed Rs. 15-Rs. 20 lakhs a year to run a humanoid project. So, we were trying to see how we could fund it ourselves rather than going to alumni, who were really helpful. The first workshop was in IIT Bombay, after which we got interest from other colleges, and we started doing it as more of a business. Our thought process was, ‘How do we do something impactful?’ Of course, we also wanted to generate money for AcYut, because both Samay and I were very, very close to the project. All this led to GreyOrange.
Crying out for cutting-edge
One of the reasons for choosing warehousing and logistics as our industry was because very limited tech disruption had happened in the last 10-15 years, at that point in time. There weren’t any big changes or advances in technology in that industry, and we saw that as a great opportunity. Also, consumer behaviour was changing, and would lead to the point where the supply chain will have to evolve. But, all the technologies we were seeing, none of them was like a paradigm shift. Growth was very incremental in terms of technology and supply chain – you started with conveyors and went to ASRS (automatic storage and retrieval system), but there was nothing that was ‘next stage’.
Keeping up with the ‘run rate’
I remember we had a drive called IPL, which was like an installation premier league, because we had to install, like, 40 (sortation) systems in three months. We made four teams, they were doing one installation every six days. Our earlier installations used to take a good 20-25 days, and we had to bring that down to six days, because that’s the only way you can do it with four teams. So, a bunch of innovation went into installing systems very quickly, into manufacturing and packing the systems so that when they’re shipped, you’re not completely disassembling them. And that became our strength.
The Japan challenge
Japan is a very, very hard market to get into, the expectations for quality, stability and customer service are extreme. Japan taught us a lot about finishing the product, getting all the rough edges smoothed. We learned a lot from that; it helped us get the product right, and accelerated product maturity by at least 2x.





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