The journey of GreyOrange

The world’s tech leader in $10Bn e-commerce robots is not from the US, Japan or Germany, but India’s 6,000 Cr dark horse GreyOrange

India is assumed to be the last place for deep-tech innovation. Few know about e-commerce robots, let alone GreyOrange. Giants like Mitsubishi/Siemens appear best placed to win. Startups like Geek+/Berkshire Grey raised $3Bn. GO looks set to be technically obliterated, not a leader.

But looking inside the box reveals a quiet, global $1B company being created

Akash Gupta and Samay Kohli met at BITS Pilani in 2007. Through their passion, they pursued robotics at BITS’ CRIS. They built Acyut, India’s first humanoid. Winning gold at World’s Robo Olympics, the young engineers were onto something

In 2011, before people knew the internet, the two invested 5 lakhs to start GreyOrange

While India was creating apps, the two were signing up for an epic struggle. There was no startup ecosystem, let alone a hardware ecosystem. Finding mentors was impossible. Customers were like Indian unicorns – non-existent. Not knowing whom to sell, an upcoming bookstore would change GO

In 2012, a visit to Flipkart’s warehouse showed the path

Given their deep technical background, the complex warehousing problem needed an elegant solution. The duo would find a mentor not in India, but German technologist Wolfgang Hoeltgen. Hearing about Flipkart, Wolfgang liquidated his savings, moving lock, stock and barrel to India

Flipkart would bet 35 lakhs on the trio to give GreyOrange its first order

GreyOrange would develop a Butler Robot system to move around items in a warehouse. Soon onboarding DTDC, a science project had crazily become a business. Flipkart would report a 4x increase in item picking, and an 80% drop in shipment time

Flying, the company would raise 54 Cr in its first big round

By 2016, the promise of 1 day deliveries and labor shortages were big issues. Amazon acquired Kiva for $800M to set the trend. India’s GST ruling would unlock GreyOrange. Moving to central warehousing made GO lucrative

The company was staring at a $125B opportunity over the next decade

In 2017, Home Logistics in Japan picked GO, putting it on the map. By 2018, GO would grow 300%. GO would raise an incredible $140M. By 2019, it would reach $100M of revenue, astonishing for a deep-tech Indian company

2020’s pandemic would transform robots from good to have to must-haves

E-commerce would explode as people locked down. Labor availability would collapse. GO would move up fast. By 2022, they would raise $110M, worth $600M. But a rough year would shelve IPO plans. Management would be reorganized

2023 would start strongly with $150M of revenue

GO would end up top for mobile autonomous robots. They would scale the team to 1,000 people globally. Regional CEOs would be hired. A decade later, a robotic ambition from India became a global company