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Business News/ Companies / A one-stop shop for robotics equipment
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A one-stop shop for robotics equipment

Besides selling equipment, Robokraft, an online outlet run by Prathik Pai and his team, also holds workshops on robotics

Prathik Pai says his team is planning to get the start-up incorporated soon, but has no plans to invite funds from private investors at the moment. Photo: Hemant Mishra/MintPremium
Prathik Pai says his team is planning to get the start-up incorporated soon, but has no plans to invite funds from private investors at the moment. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Bengaluru: From fiddling with electronics in high school and playing computer games all night, moving to life dealing with robotics was clearly a natural progression for Prathik Pai, 20, a third-year computer science engineering student at the National Institute of Engineering (NIE) in Mysore.

Now, Pai and his team of eight NIE students and 12 interns run Robokraft Inc., an e-commerce start-up that sells robotics components and conducts training workshops on robotics. The start-up was launched in January 2014.

Robokraft sources electronics material from across the world which are sold online.

Within India, the bulk of its suppliers are from Mumbai and Bengaluru. Apart from its online platform, Robokraft also has two physical stores at Puttur and Mysore in Karnataka.

The company’s website aims to be a one-stop shop for all engineers—including mechanical and computer science— looking for parts.

It is also a platform where Pai and his team sell their innovations such as game engines. An augmented reality version of laser tag was one of the first projects the team launched.

Animus V1 is another game engine which can host 2-20 players at a time. Says Pai, “Basically, I’m a gamer. I play the whole night. I am into this gaming world. So, I just want to make it a reality."

The team also sells customizable home automation devices and pollution control and security systems.

Besides, Pai and his Robokraft colleague Anup H.N. conduct training workshops. Participants are given robotics kits and projects to work on as part of the 10-day session, which emphasizes self-learning, although teaching forms part of it as well.

“It is from the basics. You need not be an engineer. You can be an eighth standard kid. Even he or she can do that," says Pai, while describing the nature of the course, which has only one prerequisite for joining—an interest in robotics. Participants in the workshop are generally students, although some corporates join as well. Workshop charges range from 5,000 to 13,000.

“It’s our hobby. We love to guide people. We love to share our knowledge. Nowadays, people don’t share knowledge, they just keep it to themselves", said Pai, speaking about his passion for learning and teaching.

Pai felt the need for workshops after a disappointing experience at a similar coding-related workshop he once attended. He found it too simple and direct. “It shouldn’t be like spoon-feeding. We don’t encourage that," he says.

Pai, who personally designed the Robokraft website, is a big believer in the importance of learning things by oneself. Though he initially knew nothing about web design, he taught himself HTML, CSS and PHP in 15-20 days. Today, it is one of the many things he teaches at his workshops.

“I didn’t know website designing. And I was not in a state to ask someone—ego issues. I can’t say that I don’t know, I’m a computer science engineer," he explains. “No one teaches me. No mentors." Where does he learn from, then? “Google. I call it Google bro," he laughs.

Like many aspiring engineers, Pai always had an interest in science and building things. His various projects during high school included a laser security system, a robotic hand and a model ship. “In ninth standard, I made a model ship. It was my first. I messed up my whole house for it," he smiles sheepishly.

A job at a local shop repairing computers for three years earned him around 1,00,000 which he would later invest, along with his savings, to start Robokraft. The motivation came from his father, who is a businessman, and helped provide Pai with some of the initial investment.

The start-up, which is planning to get incorporated soon, has no plans to invite funds from private investors at the moment. “We are not into this theoretical entrepreneurship," says Pai frankly, in an answer to a question on investments by venture capitalists.

Pai handles the business and marketing side of Robokraft himself, although he has no training in either. “We are not actually guys who read a lot of things about entrepreneurship and all. We actually experienced everything," he says.

The Tata First Dot Awards, where Robokraft won the jury’s choice award, were a good learning experience in this regard.

“I just wanted to know the basic framework of a start-up. I just wanted to know some of the key points such as marketing, investing in advertisement, etc. Because of Tata First Dot, we got to know about a lot of marketing," said Pai.

Managing time is an issue Pai seems to worry about, since balancing college with a start-up can be tricky. Plans to expand the team to include people with some experience or background in marketing are also in the works.

After finishing his undergraduate degree, Pai plans to get a Master of Science qualification, and perhaps start another venture, focused on simplifying the process of building electronic structures for architects and artists.

Mint has a strategic partnership with National Entrepreneurship Network, which hosts the Tata First Dot awards.

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Published: 23 Feb 2015, 12:27 AM IST
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