RC Hobbytech Solutions: Pioneering drone technology for Assam's development

Priyanka Chakrabarty

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Guwahati: RC Hobbytech Solutions, founded by Ritesh Kanu, Debajit Deka and Biswajit Dey emerged on the scene during the COVID-19 lockdown when it helped the state government curb the spread of the disease. Incubated by IIM Calcutta Innovation Park and recognized by Assam Start Up, their drone technology has since expanded to support the Assam government's Mission Basundhara, defense operations, and training initiatives. The company's association with the nationwide Drone Didi Scheme also holds significance for India's drone technology landscape.

In an exclusive interview with Business North East, they discuss their journey and the impact of their idea on Assam's destiny. Below are the excerpts:

BNE: Tell us about your drone services.

RC Hobbytech Solutions:  Hi, this is Ritesh. Myself, Biswajit, and Debajit are cofounders of RC Hobbytech Solutions Private Limited. We have two brands, Drone Tech Lab and Edurade. We are among the pioneers in the Indian drone Industry and the largest drone company in East and Northeast India. Through our brand Drones Tech Lab, we manufacture drones and provide drone absed services. Through a parallel brand - EduRade - we upskill people by providing them DGCA certified Drone Pilot Certificate that has a validity of 10 years to fly drones.

BNE: What inspired you to open this type of institute and this kind of solution?

RCHS: Our company started in 2014 as a separate company, offering training in various institutions. By 2015, we had trained 6,000 students in India, leading them to venture into the drone business. The third co-founder, Biswajit, an aeronautical engineer with experience in the Indian army, introduced the idea of manufacturing drones to address the concerns faced by the Indian army.

BNE: What was your initial investment?

RCHS: Three founders invested around Rs 6 lakh in the company, which received loans from the government and institutions. IIM Calcutta Innovation Park provided linkages to bank officials, making loan acquisition easier.

BNE: Please tell us about the incubation facilities you have received from IIM. Do you have other experience of that sort?

RCHS: In 2016, the start-up in Assam was incubated at the IIM Calcutta Innovation Park, which provided numerous opportunities, mentorship, and business connections. The Assam Startup - The Nest also helped expand the organization. The startup scene in Assam is inspiring, with some going to Shark Tank. The booming start-up scene is a positive development.

BNE: How can new entrepreneurs use drone technology?

RCHS: Drones, initially used for surveillance, have evolved to monitor river embankments, erosions, and land analysis. With multiple facilities and senses, they now capture and process data, transforming manual labor into artificial intelligence for accurate results.

BNE: Can you tell us about your clients?

RCHS: Prior to introduction of drone rules, drone market in India was chaotic and unregulated. However, after policy changes, departments like Assam Forest, Brahmaputra Board, public health, and police began using drones. The state government provided mentorship and networking opportunities, and the Assam Startup, led by Chinmoy Phukan, has helped boost usage.

BNE: What kind of assistance did you get from the state government?

RCHS: After Assam Startup came into existence, we were invited to many discussions. We were also connected to a lot of networks. I would like to mention Chinmoy Phukan who is currently heading the Assam Startup - he has been very instrumental in the journey as he has been helping us in various initiatives and I hope this goes on.

BNE: What is the eligibility for a person to get admission to this school? Can a layperson come and say that I want to learn this? Will he be able to learn it or will she be able to get admission in this school? 

RCHS: The government has been very progressive in this regard. Earlier, there was a requirement for a passport. That was one of the major issues where you know a lot of people were not getting the advantage or could not avail of the facility. Right now, things are very simple. You need to have passed Class 10, have an Aadhar card, and a medical fitness certificate.

BNE: What are the fees? 

RCHS: The average cost of training for drone pilots in India is between Rs 30,000 and 60,000, depending on the training class. The training is available to various groups, including government organizations and those from lower backgrounds. The drone training is divided into different categories such as micro, small and medium class. The Prime Minister of India mandated this training to include women in technological sectors, particularly from lower strata. Self-help groups can access training in DGCA-certified schools, and those inducted into self-help groups can be absorbed into organizations that need agricultural drone pilots. This scheme benefits all types of people, including those from agriculture and industry. The starting price is Rs 20,000-25,000.

BNE: How can farmers benefit from drones?

RCHS: The drone policy introduced in India has led to increased usage in various sectors, including agriculture and defense. RCHS approached different agricultural institutes including ICAR Institutions to supply drones and provide training. The training provided by RCHS is top-notch leading to increased demand and people from Central India visits the institute for the training. Farmers can now benefit from using drones by efficiently monitoring crops, detecting pest infestations, assessing crop health, and optimizing irrigation and fertilization strategies.

BNE: Can you tell us about your association with IIT Guwahati? What is happening there? 

RCHS: IIT-Guwahati has launched India's largest drone pilot training school, addressing the high demand for drone pilots. The school, in partnership with IIT Guwahati, will teach over 60-70 students in groups, with more architects in line.

BNE: Can you tell us about your association with the Assam government's 'Mission Basundhara'?

RCHS:  Mission Basundhara is a scheme under the Assam government to distribute land records and documents in villages. The first phase involved a tendering process for mapping 70% of Dibrugarh and 30% of Tinsukia districts. Drones were used for large-scale mapping, as one square kilometer of an area would take seven days to complete. The project was spearheaded by Tripathi Tripathi and Santanabhi Gautamare, who completed 34,000 square kilometers in four months. The remaining tasks include departmental scope, circle offices, and digitization. Once ground verification is completed, the maps are digitized and handed over to the department.

BNE: How much have you earned as revenue? 

RCHS: Our startup has been cash-positive since its inception, a rare occurrence for a hardware startup in India. Despite facing challenges, the startup is experiencing 100% growth, a positive sign for its growth phase.

BNE: What were your challenges and opportunities till now? 

RCHS: Drones initially lacked a market beyond defense, but the company recognized their potential early on. However, funding was challenging due to the new technology's impact on people, employment, and funding. Balmer Lawrie & Company Limited provided seed capital, which led to the company receiving around Rs 1.5 crore in funding, enabling the start-up to focus on the research and development of drones.

BNE: What are your plans with your organization, institute, and manufacturing unit? 

RCHS: The company plans to upgrade its solutions and launch new ventures in the next three years, collaborating with various departments to improve services. They are also focusing on upgrading agricultural solutions and increasing daily task rates to improve efficiency in the drone industry.

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Priyanka Chakrabarty