August 13, 2015      

GreyOrange Pte. Ltd., which provides automated logistics systems, has received $30 million from Tiger Global Management, a hedge fund that has been investing heavily in India. GreyOrange is reportedly the first Indian robotics and artificial intelligence company to get international funding.

GreyOrange was founded in 2011 and has offices in India and Singapore. Its Profiler is a high-speed dynamic dimension and weighing system. The company also sells the mobile Butler platform and high-speed Sorter picker. GreyOrange’s warehouse robots are intended to work alongside humans and accelerate e-commerce through faster deliveries with fewer errors.

“Same-day delivery is something e-commerce will aspire for, and the logistics business will have to become efficient enough to be able to answer that need,” said Samay Kohli, co-founder and CEO of GreyOrange. “Such a service is not possible until the large number of warehouse processes are automated and aligned with each other. It will be an outcome of a conscious effort to adopt automation.”

The promise of India

Warehouse automation can reduce staffing by 60 to 80 percent, according to James Chan, international vice president at GreyOrange. The number of items that can be handled is 400 to 800 items per hour, double of manual processes, he said. This does raise the question of how robots will fulfill Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” campaign to create jobs.

The company claims that its systems use proprietary machine learning and swarm intelligence algorithms to be more flexible and scalable. On a related note, Perpetuuiti TechnoSoft Inc., TCS (Tata Consultancy Services Ltd.), Wipro (Western India Products Ltd.), and Notion Ink are all pursuing AI research and services in India.

GreyOrange also claims to have 90 percent of India’s nascent warehouse automation market, with customers obtaining a full return on investment within a year. Falcon AutoTech, Cognizant, and Robosoft Systemz are among its competitors, even as e-commerce companies get squeezed on the stock market.

GreyOrange has 300 employees, including about 200 engineers, and its AcYut was the first humanoid robot developed in India. “The company is currently looking for talent across R&D functions such as mechanical, embedded, software, electronics, [and] also for people with experience in product and program management,” Kohli said in a statement.

The research and development team plans to move into “Project Taj Mahal,” a new campus with state-of-the-art labs and prototyping areas. GreyOrange is looking for marketing partners in China, Japan, and Southeast Asia, as well as Dubai and Germany.

Investors stockpile automation funding

New York-based Tiger Global raised $2.5 billion last year. It was among the investors that gave $400 million to OlaCabs, or ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd., which is an India-based online travel app rival to Uber. Tiger Global has also invested in India-based e-commerce company and GreyOrange customer Flipkart, as well as Facebook and AirBnB.

In addition, Tiger Global and Blume Ventures raised money for GreyOrange last year. Despite manufacturing slowdowns, large global players have turned their sights to e-commerce efficiencies through industrial automation. For instance, Google has recently acquired robotics companies such as Boston Dynamics, and GreyOrange’s competitors include Fetch Robotics, Swisslog, and Amazon Robotics (formerly Kiva Systems).

“We believe that, in recent quarters, companies are giving greater attention to redesigning their processes and investing in warehouse automation equipment in order to keep up with the exponential increase in e-commerce orders,” said Karthik Reddy, managing partner at Blume Ventures.