We caught up with Vaibhav Boricha (Volley) Founder of Vikaso as part of ‘Product | People | Potential’. Vikaso are developing Collaborative Robots for the purpose of accelerating automation for manufacturers across multiple industries.
The purpose of article series ‘Product | People | Potential’ is to feature and showcase the very best UK start-ups with great potential, truly inspiring businesses that are shaking up their sector. We capture and share the stories behind the name. We collate authentic peer to peer real-talk, while celebrating the growth and success this far and gather a glimpse of what’s ahead.
Volley: My name is Volley, and we started up Vikaso in 2019, so we have been trading for one year. We are very new. The main target of starting Vikaso is to be the middle ground between end users and technology providers. For example, the robot is a platform like an iPhone or Android, and what you do with it is where the value lies for the end user. The end users would not normally prefer to buy an iOS platform that they do not know how to use, but what makes it useful is the applications available to the user such as Maps or WhatsApp. Similarly, we design and develop applications around the robot and provide the full solution to the end user, where the real benefit lies. We are a team of 4 people and we have started to work with clients such as BMW, Mini and Rolls Royce, so our customer-base is relatively small, but after one year I don’t think this is a bad customer-base to have!
Volley: So, I used to work at BMW for about 5 years; my job there from 2014-19 was Process Planning. We were the middle ground between the teams in Munich and the production teams in Oxford, so we had to plan all the equipment, all the tools, and all the robots that are going to come into the production department. It was in that job that I started the initiative of using collaborative robots for a few years and we saw this opportunity to expand this idea around the rest of the world and the industry. There was a genuine need for someone to provide this as a full package, someone to provide the robot, the sensor etc. for the end user to use immediately. Some companies will specialise in automation solutions and have been doing so for many years, but they may lack the experience of actually using the machine in a production environment. That experience that we have at Vikaso gave it a huge boost, because we knew what challenges to target and what issues to address.
Volley: The biggest hurdle right now is Covid! This is something that completely changed the game. We launched in February this year and then Covid-19 hit in March, so it has been a bumpy start. A real challenge is to get the end users to commit to spending on this. The industry is convinced that automation is the way to go, but they need to find the cash for it, which this year is difficult as they have lost a lot of revenue. If manufacturing organisations can make money, we will be able to generate revenue and scale-up!
Volley: So, what we have done is primarily try to use LinkedIn. The traditional platform for our product would be trade shows, which have been stopped this year. Considering this huge change because of Covid, we have been evaluating what it means to exhibit at trade shows now because “are people going to attend”? For example, our first product is the world’s first sheet-feeding collaborative robot. Nothing like this exists already. This is a huge thing from a marketing standpoint, so we are trying to promote this through articles, social media posts and target our audience ourselves as we know who we are trying to target.
Volley: I would say one of the main challenges is to keep up with developing new products. For example, we have this new sheet feeding robot which we need to scale-up, make a plan for ‘how to implement it’ etc. While we do this, we also need to develop the next thing and I think resources-wise this is a challenge, because we are only 4 people. I’m trying to jump between everything which is a challenge. Developing new products has a cost attached to it too. We have to do a lot of trials, proof of concepts and stuff like that and we need to hire more people as well, so it’s like a vicious circle – but we do have a few other projects in mind in the background, so next year we can be ahead of the game.
Volley: The only investment that we have had is the money I have put into the business; we are 100% privately owned and have no external investors. The reason we had to do this was because in our industry it is quite hard to make the proposal exciting enough for investors, without having a physical product. Without this it’s hard to communicate the proposal to potential investors. We had to raise money from friends and family and myself when we started a year ago, so I think the only piece of advice I can give would be about the management of money. Absolute discipline about where and how you spend your money will save your business. As an Engineer and a Founder you get excited about spending money. You want to buy equipment because you’re already thinking about where you will be in the next 10 years, you want to scale-up, and you want to jump and you want to run. When you’re in that zone, if you don’t keep a tight eye on cash, you will go bust. As a start-up, your first step is to survive and then the second step will be to do whatever you like! If you do not survive, whatever you have in your mind is kind of useless.
Thank you for taking the time to introduce your company!