As robotics and automation become more accessible, one slowly-developing country could leverage RPA for a big leap forward.

According to the World Robotics 2020 Industrial Robots report, global sales of robots hit 373,000 units in 2019. It was a healthy year-on-year increase of 12% over 2018 sales, and a record till that point in time.

Notably, the most-populated and not-so-developed Asia region was the strongest market for industrial robots. In that year, the operational stock for the region’s largest adopter, China, rose by 21% and reached about 783,000 units, and Japan followed suit with around 355,000 units (+12%).

India was also a contender, with a national record of 26,300 units (+15%). In about five years, the country had doubled the number of industrial robots in its factories. According to one expert—Dr Christopher Müller, Director, Statistical Department, IFR, Germany: “(Compared to China and Japan) India is on a rather low level. If we compare the population, India is similar to China, but has only a small fraction of robot installations. This shows us how much potential India still has.”

Following along that line of thought, interviewed the representative of one of the handful of listed robotic companies on the BSE (formerly, Bombay Stock Exchange)—Affordable Robotic & Automation Ltd. Here is what transpired in a conversation with its CEO and MD, Milind Padole…

Milind Padole, CEO and Managing Director, Affordable Robotic & Automation Ltd

DigiconAsia: Could you share your views on the evolution of robotics in India over the past two decades? 

Milind Padole (MP): We have come a long way since the early 2000s. Initially, when we started our entrepreneurial journey in the sector, it was hard to find people who had expertise in this domain. Also, there were very few buyers, as the cost of robotic equipment and machinery was outrageous.

Over the said period, the cost of imported items had become lower and the affordability of robots had increased. Robots have actually become a large part of our daily lives. But we still have to catch up a lot when compared to China or the United States. For instance, China—with similar demographics like India’s —employs almost 15 times more robots than us.

DigiconAsia: How are technologies like AI, automation, IoT, Machine Learning (ML), Natural Language Processing (NLP), and neural networks contributing to the robotics evolution?

MP: These technologies and natural navigation are making robotic machines more intelligent; diverse jobs can be performed by new-generation robots leveraging these new technologies. Decision-making capabilities are being incorporated in robots.

The way we are carrying out many jobs has drastically changed over time. IoT is facilitating interconnection of various machines in real-time. ML is helping in learning user behavior and subsequent course correction; NLP is helping to bridge communication between humans and machines; natural-navigation tech is helping robots roam more intelligently. All these technologies are a form of AI.

DigiconAsia: How much of a role will robotics and automation play in realizing our vision of a ‘digital India’ soon? 

MP: Robotics and automation form a core part of digital India. With more digital devices such as smart phones/laptops being used and hence, manufactured locally in India, robots will become an integral part of the process. These devices are manufactured in bulk and with high precision. Also, they have a lot of minute parts to be assembled.

In this scenario, robots and automation are the only solutions to manufacture these items with precision and simplify day-to-day life.

DigiconAsia: What are the contemporary automation trends in the Asia Pacific region? Which sectors are benefiting from industrial automation, and how?

MP: AI, cloud and autonomous robots are setting up the most disruptive trends. Most industries are benefiting from this development. Predictive maintenance and one-size-fits-all are no more the norm (design your solutions).

Because of automation solutions, delivery and fulfilment of orders; execution of monotonous/hazardous jobs; virtual offices; online meetings and many more things, are undergoing drastic changes.

DigiconAsia: Tell us how the cybersecurity risks of connected robotics are being managed in the country? 

MP: The important aspect in security is that more and more companies have started making digital twins today.

One of the twins is always hidden behind several firewalls. With this methodology, the cybersecurity threats have been minimized, if not completely nullified.

DigiconAsia thanks Milind Padole for sharing his insights with us.