Manhole-cleaning robot Bandicoot struggles to find foot here, in demand elsewhere

In Kerala, the KWA has undertaken sewage cleaning.

Published: 21st February 2019 05:07 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st February 2019 05:07 AM   |  A+A-

Manhole-cleaning robot Bandicoot.

Express News Service

KOCHI: Manhole-cleaning robot Bandicoot, developed by Thiruvananthapuram-based Genrobotics, is getting orders from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana, besides purchase queries from the UAE and Malaysia, but the startup has not made any headway in its home market despite the state government’s promise in January last year, due to the bureaucratic rigmarole.

“When the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) had announced it would use Bandicoot in the entire Thiruvananthapuram Municipality, the understanding was it would buy 15-20 robots. They had bought one in January last year, but any more,” said Genrobotics co-founder Rashid K.

In Kerala, the KWA has undertaken sewage cleaning.“The KWA had told us it would proceed and buy the remaining robots after three months. Later, the issue got delayed due to the floods in August,” said Rashid.Worsening matters for Genrobotics was the change at the helm of KWA and water resources ministry. 

Change of officers affects Bandicoot’s plans

“After A Shainamol and Mathew T Thomas were removed as the KWA MD and water resources minister respectively, we had to start the talks all over again,” Rashid said, adding the company faces a similar situation in other states too when the IAS officer, who is leading the talks to have the Bandicoot robot, is suddenly shifted to some other department.

In Kerala, Genrobotics is asked to implement a project model. “The aim is to eliminate manual scavenging by 2020. We’re implementing a step-by-step model here. The project in Kerala is implemented through KWA as it’s controlling the sewage and sanitation works in all the municipalities  and corporations, “ Rashid explained. 

Meanwhile, Genrobotics, which received funding from the Kerala Startup Mission, Unicorn India Ventures and Google India MD Rajan Anandan, is getting a steady flow of orders to implement Bandicoot in other parts of the country, and even outside India. “We’ve installed 10 robots in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana towards the end of this month,” said Rashid, pointing out that manholes are more in other states compared to Kerala. “Recently we met the Delhi Government’s social justice minister. They also want to do away with manual scavenging by 2019. There’ll be another meeting with the Delhi Chief Minister soon,” he said.

At the Kinfra facility in Thiruvananthapuram, Genrobotics has started its own production lab, where it could manufacture 10 Bandicoot robots per month.Outside India, Genrobotics is in talks with Dubai and Sharjah municipalities to implement robotic scavenging.

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