6 Pro-tips for B2B Drone Startups in India

A highly skilled engineer with excellent industry experience in unmanned systems and topnotch business leader helping the development of fervent craftsmanship in aerospace engineering.

The Unmanned Aerial System sector in India is well on its way to becoming a USD 5B+ industry. Right from the big private players, government agencies and defence sector, to smaller enterprises and startups, drones are becoming mainstream from aerial surveys and surveillance, to scanning crops and spraying pesticides, to rural and urban planning. And more and more use cases are discovered every day. The rapidly evolving technology ecosystem and a progressive policy framework have undoubtedly catalyzed the era of drones in India.

If you’re planning your foray into the drone sector, here are 6 protips to start a B2B drone company:

Find the right market fit
The future of drones will be shaped by commercial applications. There’s no doubt that the liberalized drone policy has unlocked many business opportunities. Drone technology substantially improves data collection efficiency and accuracy. It requires only minimal human intervention, which translates to lower time and cost. Powerful data analytics and AI, combined with the use cases for drones are enabling new business models across industries. In agriculture, for example, next generation drones that fly over fields, will not only spray chemicals or analyze conditions, but also identify areas where more fertiliser or pesticides might be needed to enhance crop yields. With many such opportunities for optimization, it’s up to you to find the right market fit for your drone startup. Ask yourself what information drones can collect and what are the potential use cases for this information, where real pain points can be solved. Identify opportunities to drive efficiencies, save cost and strive to provide real value across the business.

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Think through your Go-to-Market Strategy
The value chain of the drone sector comprises hardware (drone manufacturer), software, and service delivery. Services that operate and manage drones for companies will generate most of the value. End-user organizations will need services that operate drones, manage drone data, and manage maintenance. Drone makers and service providers are already ramping up their offerings and stepping up hiring to meet a spurt in demand. Your new drone business will need a robust go-to-market strategy, involving different channels and partners. I always try to break it down to the lowest level possible what will be your story during first contact with a prospect? How do you get prospects’ buy-in? What more do they need to know so that they can be your ambassadors and open doors? What will be the key takeaways after the drones simulation? And more

A robust financial plan
Even today, most end user organizations are still looking to understand the financial and strategic payoff of having inhouse drone capabilities vs a service provider. When you’re venturing into such a space, you have to be crystal clear on the competitive advantages that you can offer. Keep in mind that the target market may not be willing to pay high prices. Your market penetration pricing strategy needs to be planned well in advance and should account for market expectation, labour cost, maintenance, equipment costs, R&D, and IT infrastructure cost.

Be Scalable by Design
Operating drones and managing drone data for end user companies generate the most value in the sector. Set up your team and company to be nimble and scalable. This is all about having sound processes and a certain mindset. Keep your ears to the ground and keep up with the drone regulations in India, through channels like the Drone Federation of India. From my experience, I can tell you that when you contribute to the think tank, you will automatically begin to see more and more opportunities where you can make an impact. And if you’re scalable by design, you have everything in place to pivot or extend your business model to capitalize on the opportunities.

Build the right team
Who you hire in the early stages will most likely dictate the success or failure of your venture. My rule of thumb is to bring on board people who share my broad vision and resonate with the same value system. When your team doesn’t need an external source of motivation to make an impact, you know you have the right people.

Create growth opportunities for everyone
A lot of entrepreneurs forget that the success of any business model revolves around creating opportunities for your entire value chain. Spend time to evaluate if the solution and the business model that you have in mind adds value to the people around you and not just the investors. When you arrive at a way to provide holistic growth opportunities be it whatever form or shape for every stakeholder including your team, your investors, your end-users, the economy around your business, and the environment you have a sure shot way to hack success.

The Centre's new drone policy is already providing the impetus. The Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme and the recently announced 'Drone Shakti' programme is a shot in the arm for entrepreneurs investors as well as corporations. One of the largest land records digitization schemes anywhere in the world the ‘SVAMITVA Initiative’ from the Ministry of Panchayati Raj puts drone technology at the front and centre of creating accurate land records for the empowerment and inclusion of the rural population in the mainstream financial ecosystem. So if you’re thinking about venturing into the drone space in India, there hasn’t been a more exciting time!