An Indian robotics startup wants to beat Amazon at warehouse automation

Robots set to rule.
Robots set to rule.
Image: GreyOrange.
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At the turn of the decade, two Indians engineering students founded GreyOrange to see if they could develop their college obsession with robotics into a full-blown venture.

Seven years later, the homegrown startup is all set to enter the US to test its robots against the biggest names in the business, including Kiva Systems, a pioneer in warehouse automation which was acquired by Amazon in 2012.

GreyOrange currently has two major offerings, Butler and Sorter. The former lifts heavy shelves and moves them around warehouses. The latter is a conveyor belt that sorts and arranges parcels by weight, size, and delivery location.

There are already at least 1,000 of these robots operating at 50 sites across the world.

Now, after creating a footprint in significant geographies like India, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, and Germany, GreyOrange is betting on deploying some 20,000 more robots in the US alone over the next three years.

The US dream

GreyOrange is setting up its US headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. The company is also opening a research and development centre at Boston in Massachusetts. However, the assembling will be done mostly in India.

“The US is huge. The base size of the sites is pretty big in the US. It starts with 300-400 robots per site. It will be good scale,” Akash Gupta, chief technology officer of GreyOrange, told Quartz in an interview on Aug. 28.

The company has received a lot of interest there in the last two years and it would form a large part of its business in the next three years, Gupta said.

Road ahead

Singapore-headquartered GreyOrange was founded by Gupta and his college mate Samay Kohli in 2011.

Since then, the venture has become one of the success stories in the startup ecosystem. Among the world’s top 50 robotics companies, GreyOrange has been voted for two straight years as the one to watch out for by trade publication Robotics Business Review.

Last year, it raised at least $38 million from a clutch of investors including Tiger Global and Blume Ventures.

Although Gupta insists that the company’s expansion is not dependent on funding, the founders may consider various options over the next six months. “The amount we may raise depends largely on the kind of investors we meet and what kind of possibilities they see in the automation business,” he said.

GreyOrange also plans to roll out a new automation product that’ll work in tandem with Butler and Sorter. “We are now trying to automate the picking from the shelves which are a key part of complete automation. We are developing a product that can pick automatically from the mobile storage unit,” Gupta explained.

The company’s already testing this product and some clients have received prototypes, too. It is now creating an omnichannel warehouse to avoid duplication in inventory. “In terms of product development, we want to reach the stage of the automated flexible warehouse. That’s the focus of the R&D team.”