Vishnu Engineering’s Robot helps improve customer service for a range of service industries and has already demonstrated its success in banks and airports
“Hello, I am Lakshmi, how can I help you?” greets the robot as one walks into City Union Bank, T. Nagar Branch, Chennai. On entering the account number, it provides a range of personal banking solutions.
Developed by Vishnu Engineering (VISE), a Coimbatore-based engineering solutions company, the humanoid robot built with artificial intelligence can walk, talk, grasp, answer queries, quiz, in addition to dealing with specific customer requests.
Explains founder & CEO, and the brain behind the robot, Vijay Shah, “The service industry can benefit immensely from this humanoid robot which can effectively enhance customer service and help human resources focus on core tasks.”
Passion and Skills
“I have been into engineering for the last 15 years, and robots are my passion. Robots too need electronics and mechanical engineering skills and so it was easy to experiment and move into this field,” explains Shah. Noticing the lack of satisfactory services at banks and airports, the long queues and the overworked employees, Shah wondered why not employ robots to perform key, yet repetitive, basic tasks.
“Robots do not replace humans, as is wrongly perceived, but work with humans to improve services,” he adds. The robot has a separate cabin where people can walk in and share their account number confidentially to receive personal banking services.
The company has a team of 25 mechatronics engineers and a total team of 45 across the board.
The First Sale and Thereafter
The first sale of Now Robot – the name given by VISE – was for educational purposes to PSG Tech, a leading engineering institute in Coimbatore. “Though robots are part of the course in most engineering colleges, they create mostly the shell but it seldom works. We plan to work closely with institutions in helping students understand how a robot works, the sensors that are needed and provide them with working models,” says Shah. One of the benefits of using robots in the educational context is a robots use of multiple engineering fields. One needs to understand mechanical engineering, electrical and electronics and of course, computer science. Machine learning, artificial intelligence and computer vision also come into the mix.
For Vishnu Engineering, after educational institutions, the idea was to explore use cases at banks. But the initial reaction (from banks) was one of shock and scepticism, till City Union Bank decided to try it out. “It took us six months after that to make the actual sale, as the bank wanted several features and we customised it to meet their requirements,” he recollects. Considering its success, the bank – which named it Lakshmi – went for two more, and 50 more will be purchased in a phased manner, says Shah. Canara Bank is the next client to have placed orders, and discussions are on with several other banks.
The company is also in talks with airports and the first trial robot has been successfully working in the Coimbatore airport, making the lives of passengers easy by providing information on their flight on entering the PNR number, as well as the services they can avail at the airport in case of unexpected delays.
The company currently has 100-150 installations across schools, colleges, banks, an IT company and corporates. It hopes to close this year with 500-600 as there is a huge potential in service-oriented industries, government offices, hospitals, airports and railways.
It currently outsources the development of the body of the robot, but will soon start a unit in Coimbatore to manufacture as per its requirements.
Vishnu Engineering employs 25 mechatronics engineers who’re a critical part of the process of building customized robots. One of its most popular installations is at City Union Bank’s branch office in T. Nagar, Chennai.
VISE has been working with an American partner to introduce flying robots in the country. “This will have tremendous scope in defence and homeland security as well as ports,” according to Shah. The company is in the last stages of launching this product, and is now putting together its marketing mix.
The next product, triggered by a request from a parent, is a tracking and monitoring system to ensure safety of women and children. The company is in discussions with an NGO in Bihar about the features and prospects.
The company will also be developing robots to do chores at home such as wet mopping that can be controlled with a remote, rechargeable batteries and cut-off sensors to protect in case of voltage fluctuations.
Robot – The Future
Over the longer term, Shah hopes to make VISE the top robotic company in India. The company is currently growing at around 30 percent, and Shah has set himself a revenue of target of INR 500 crore over the next few years. The company also believes its tooling itself to serve global markets. It is already in negotiations with clients in Sri Lanka. Eventually, the goal is to become a major supplier in Europe and American markets as well.
Mundane, repetitive tasks can certainly be outsourced to robots. There is also the novelty factor in certain use cases, like those in banks
Robotic technology has progressed given the advancement in machine learning, computer vision and mechatronics. Vishnu Engineering has leveraged its engineering expertise to deliver robots to educational institutions, banks and airports
The New Support Staff
In an aim to improve the service offered by banks, airports, corporates and similar service oriented industries, Vishnu Engineering has developed a robot – ‘Now Robot’ – that can handle the core functions and aid service staff. Started as a traditional engineering machines company, VISE has extended its mechatronics skills and experience to develop the sensors and works closely with customers to provide customised solutions. The next in line are a flying robot for the defence and ports, tracking robots to ensure safety of women and children and domestic robots. The company currently has more than 100 installations of its Now Robot and expects to have 500 before the end of this year.
Snapshot: Vishnu Engineering
Founder: Vijay Shah
Founded in: 2002
Focus: Engineering machines, robots