Arnab Barman, founder of Defense and Space Robotics Laboratory (DSRL) Credit: Facebook

Technology and innovation are two sides of a coin. Together, they represent an ever-growing industry, and are responsible for revolutionising the way we do things and view the world. Technology has influenced cultures and lifestyles in no small measure. Even societal processes and the business world have felt the impact of its wand. Today, it has become the backbone of every sector about human existence. Several innovators and founders have taken up the baton to lead the change and pioneer the revolution we see in this technological age.

Riding on this new reality, 26-year-old tech enthusiast, Arnab Barman founded the Defense and Space Robotics Laboratory (DSRL). Barman and his team of engineers are leaders in the field of robotics and automation. With several game-changing ideas and innovations, Barman has been able to raise the bar in areas like space robotics, robots in defence, robots in healthcare, service robots, agricultural automation, and robots for disaster reasons and crisis management.

He began his startup with a clear aim; to alleviate suffering and improve the standard of living using technology, and ever since its inception, the startup has done just that, contributing immensely to the achievement of the goals and objectives of it numerous clients. Barman puts it plainly, “We are a deep-tech startup working to push the boundaries of robotics and automation. Our vision is to produce the most advanced robots on the planet, which will drastically heal and liberate humanity from its sufferings and create a new order to tune with nature’s grand design. We always take up social problems and take a technological approach to solve them. As a startup in robotics, it’s our responsibility that we protect people from the ill effects of automation.”

Legged robotics

Reminiscing on the days of his humble beginnings, Barman says, “I found my passion at an early age. Since before I turned 11 years, I started making basic robots, I kept pursuing my passion, and it was in the holidays after the tenth boards that I made a robot and participated at Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati (IIT-G), where I went as far as the finals and after that I kept participating in various robotics championships nationwide. It was finally in 2018 while I was working in the field of legged robotics to aid the armed forces in various missions that I caught my break. It is a life saving device as these robots can be sent in the frontline rather than the soldier going directly. It can also be used in disaster response, law & regulation, etc.”

That break would go on to change the course of his life, empowering him to set up and build a magnificent team. “We previously were engaged with collaborative work earlier as researchers which later got converted into a startup”, he says. “My professors also recommended a few of my teammates. We now have an amazing team of researchers, inventors, engineers, and so many other professionals from different fields and interests but with our goals aligned. Currently we’re an incubatee at IIM Calcutta,” he adds.

Barman sharing his journey, at Assam Startup’s award ceremony in presence of Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal, Dept. of Industry and commerce minister Chandra Mohan Patowary and other distinguished guests

Speaking on some of his current plans, Barman says the team is launching a few products related to health, which are set to be released this December. “This will be our first line of products. This will help cinema halls, factories, stadiums to reopen post-pandemic. Another device we’re working on will help every household to get protected from the spread of viruses”, he says.

With the advent of more standard robotics startups all across India, there’s bound to be repetition and a lack of fresh ideas. Barman’s startup has managed to stick out from the herd and showcase its uniqueness. He attributes the ability to stand out to several reasons, especially as a team of young people pushing the boundaries and not afraid to break new grounds. “Deep passion for work has brought us together, and most importantly, we love solving hard problems. We also support and celebrate Women in Tech, and I am glad to let you know that the girls in our team have made it to the AWE program”. The AWE program is a White House-led initiative for women entrepreneurs.

As a firm passionate about gender equity, almost 50% of those in important positions are women. “During the lockdown period, we locked ourselves in a lab at Gauhati University and worked day and night and came up with many exciting inventions to fight the pandemic and help people deal with the post-pandemic era. This is an example as to the extent our team can go to solve problems and contribute to mankind,” he says.

Ever since he began, there have been several challenges both in the technological aspect and the entrepreneurial aspect of his startup, especially through the period of the pandemic. Sustainability has been a difficult topic for many other businesses. For Barman and his team, they are taking a different approach. “We love challenges, and the pandemic has given us a real taste of what challenges could be like. To develop solutions when all the paths to get resources were blocked, we needed to strategise and think really deep to get alternative solutions, the Indian way “juggad” (makeshifter). It has prepared us for even bigger challenges in the future. Now we got some knowledge of how automation will alter the dynamics of society, as such, we should start preparing for such a future,” he muses.

In the time to come, Barman hopes to take the technology culture to even greater heights by “creating more advanced robots that celebrate scientific mindset and technology”. But more importantly, for this great innovator, it is about solving problems and touching lives.

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